The Nankeen dyeing technique, dating back 3,000 years, is native to China’s Jiangsu province. Known also as Blue Calico, it’s still practiced traditionally today in a handful of small workshops. Using hand-cut paper screens, soybean paste thickened with lime, and natural indigo dye, artisans print contemporary versions of ancient patterns on locally-grown cottons and linens. Typical motifs convey good luck, prosperity and health; even the simplest print is full of symbolism. Historically, Nankeen cloth has played important roles in both daily life — clothing and bedding — and in ceremonial events at birth celebrations, marriages, and funerals. Though a staple cloth for thousands of years, few vintage samples remain; burning the clothing and bedding of the deceased was a customary in funeral ceremonies. Nankeen dyeing has recently become the first textile craft nominated to China’s renown Intangible Cultural Heritage list by the Ministry of Culture — a big honor for a humble tradition.
Homespun originated in the cotton-growing areas of eastern China in the 1920s, as a compliment to Nankeen dyeing. Cotton grown locally was yarn-dyed by hand with natural pigments including indigo, mulberry, madder, and chrysanthemum. Next, local people would weave the fabric by hand on narrow wooden looms in the home. Checkered, hatched, and striped motifs were most popular. Homespun fabrics were widely used as clothing, pillow cases, bedspreads, and often in tandem with Nankeen; a typical bedspread would have paired a Nankeen top and a homespun bottom. The homespuns we use in our collections are all vintage, woven during the Cultural Revolution.
We parlay our love of traditional Chinese design into fabrics printed by the yard. We work with Griswold Textile Print, a family owned and operated mill in Rhode Island, USA, founded in 1937. There, vat dyes are color-matched and mixed by hand, and lengths of fabric are screen printed by teams of two in a mill built in the late 1800s. The resulting cottons and linens are colorfast and durable, and well-suited for upholstery. To expand our traditional indigo offering, we’ve selected a range of colors and themes which draw on the ancient and contemporary, socialist and spiritual of China. We reimagine traditional Chinese fabrics for a contemporary way of living.