While in China, we were able to visit the Nanjing Cloud Brocade Museum. I had heard about weaving looms with girls at the top, that select the pattern, but was thrilled to be able to actually see them weaving and working.
In the Chinese tradition of weaving Nanjing Yunjin brocade, two craftspeople operate the upper and lower parts of a large, complicated loom to produce textiles incorporating fine materials such as silk, gold and peacock feather yarn. The technique was once used to produce royal garments such as the dragon robe and crown costume; today, it is still used to make high-end attire and souvenirs. Preserved primarily in Jiangsu province in eastern China, the method comprises more than a hundred procedures, including manufacturing looms, drafting patterns, the creation of jacquard cards for programming weaving patterns, dressing the loom and the many stages of weaving itself. As they ‘pass the warp’ and ‘split the weft’, the weavers sing mnemonic ballads that remind them of the techniques they employ and enhance the cooperative, artistic atmosphere at the loom.
Nanjing brocade is regarded as one of the best forms of silk. It boasts a history of more than 1500 years and was originally formed by a merging of Northern and Southern Chinese technologies. It is famous for it’s cloud-like colors and intricate patterns.
It takes an entire day of labor to complete a 5cm (2 inch)- long piece of brocade.