Tie-dye artwork from Bai people

Bai people and their unique “Tie-dye” technique ( Folk Art in China)

The Tie Dye Heritage is originated from the Zhoucheng Village, Xizhouzhen in Dali, Yunnan. It is known as the “Bai Village of Tie-Dye”

Bai people are situated in Yunnan for more than 2000 years, founded on a complex culture that presents influences of Taoism, Buddhism, local deity worship, and Confucianism. The diverse characteristics influenced Bai people with a unique artistic vision and traditions. You will be amazed by the creativity of the Bai people have. They are really good at incorporating the beauty of nature and their creativity to their artwork, simple and pure.

Bai people are often inspired by observing their surroundings for their tie dye patterns. As generation and generation inherited the skills, the quintessence of Bai culture are still kept and can be seen on the modern Tie-dye textile from the Bai people. Creating the patterns requires a complex process, handed down from one generation to another. The method arises from the artisan’s construction and plan and also present the custodian of this priceless heritage.

Bai 16 steps of Tie-dye

1. Create the blue dye from plant

Isatis plant is the source of dark blue dye for Bai Tie-Dye product. Isatis root and soda ashes 5:1 in water, stirring every day and fermented for half a month,  drain the dye from the excess water


2. Drawing patterns

Draw patterns on the white paper, then depict them on the plastic board and pierce the patterns on the plastic mode paper.

3. Piercing holes on the lines of the patterns that you drew

Piercing the holes on the pattern for identifying the stitching area of the fabric.

4. Printing/ mapping

Put a white cloth under the plastic mode paper, brush the dye extracted from Isatis roots to print the colour on the cloth, you will immediately see the designed patterns on the white cloth.




5. Stitching/ Embroider

Stitch the pattern according to the colours printed on the cloth. There are different skills for stitching different patterns like butterflies, bees, different type of flowers and other patterns.

6. Scouring

Wash the cloth with warm water and bleach as the process is to remove any hidden waxes and oils in the fabric to allow better result from the dye.

7. Bleaching

Bleach the cloth to assure the colour and the penetration of the dye.

8. Preparing the dye

Calculate the perfect dosage of the Indigo according to the amount of the cloth that you are dying and find the best balance

9. Dying and oxidizing

Put the cloth into the dye for about 45 minutes and keep stirring. The colour will go deeper every time you re-dye your cloth. You can control how deep the colour blue you want on your cloth.

In between every 45 minutes dye, the cloth should be out of the dye solution and oxidize for at least 20 minutes.

Repeat the steps for about four times, then you can get the perfect blue dye on the cloth

or heat the dye with some salt and dye with different colour

10. Drying

Dry the beautiful fabric under the sun.

11. Taking out the stitches

This step require a delicate hand for taking out the stitches. If the fabric is ripped in the process, the whole artwork will be ruined.

12. Wash it

Wash off the excess dye colour on the fabric.

13. Bleach it

Bleach the fabric to obtain a whiter colour on the patterns and to make sure the patterns are clear and white.

14. Dry it again

Dry the fabric again.

15. Unwind the cloth/iron the cloth

Straighten the cloth.

16. Sew along the pattern (Bai tradition)

Sewing step was made by hand in the ancient time, but it was replaced by machine process as it is more effective for larger productions.

Tie-dye is an artistic expression that represents the Bai’s spirit, which led Bai people to adapt and protect their tradition to the modern life. They learned to sell their “Tie-Dye” products on the internet, spreading their Bai people culture and spirit to the world.

If you have a chance to visit the Zhoucheng Village in Yunnan, why not follow the footsteps of the Bai people and visit a Tie-Dye workshop. You buy the tie-dye products hand craft by from the villagers or even create your own tie-dye cloth and help to pass on this intangible cultural heritage from China.

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