7 Things you didn't know about Xiqin Embroidery

7 Things you didn't know about Xiqin Embroidery

Happy Chinese Lunar New Year! 2022 is the year of the Tiger! We think this is the perfect opportunity to introduce you to Xiqin embroidery (西秦刺绣), a Chinese folk embroidery, known for its festive designs, affordability, and embedded good wishes. Its most classic embroidery art form is the hand-embroidered 3D tiger with 5 toxic bugs! What’s the reason and story behind this unique design? We interviewed the master of Xiqin embroidery - Huilian Li and spent a whole week at her studio to look for the answer.

1. Ancient history from the north-west of China: this craft can be dated back to 3000 years ago, around Western Zhou dynasty. Its unique design and bright colors are closely related to its geographical location, Qianyang County, Baoji City, Shaanxi Province, the north-west part of China. Dry and windy weather dominates this area. China’s the third largest plateau - Loess Plateau (黄土高原) is surrounded mostly by dry yellow dirt with few green plants and flowers. That is why the locals here crave bright colors and designs.

2. Deep rooted cultural customs: due to its rich history and special geographical location, unique culture and customs are developed here, reflecting on the crafts they make. People from here love to sew the tiger series with 5 venoms for their children, which includes tiger dolls, tiger pillows, tiger shoes, tiger hats, tiger cape and so on. The "five venoms" are intended to ward off evil spirits and protect the children, which translates to "fighting toxin with toxin".

3. A time-consuming craft, especially the embroidered patterns on top. After the interview, I spent an entire week with the master - Huilian Li (李惠莲) to learn the craft hands-on. And we managed to make a cute donkey and tiger! It was really time-consuming but it was worthwhile! The embroidered flowers on top of the donkey alone took me 2 days to finish!

4. No knot is needed at the end of stitches: when we sew, we normally make a tight knot at the end. But for Xiqin embroidery, we can end the stitch by simply sewing some short stitches closely at the same spot multiple times!

5. Thimble plays an important role: I never used to use a thimble when I sewed before, but for Xiqin embroidery, it is a necessity. The fabric is too thick to poke through, thus a can help thimble push the needle through the materials without hurting your fingers.

6. Conveying good wishes and affection: this historical craft is still very popular till this day. People often give it to others on special occasions, such as celebrating a newborn’s 100 days, as well as birthdays. It was also customary for marriage proposals in the old days.

7. Important social impact: this is no longer simply a craft. Not only does it bring economical benefits, it also plays an influential role in the locals’ lives. Master Huilian Li founded the "Sunbird Embroidery Cooperative", training lots of housewives, elderlies, and disabled, making it possible for them to make a living despite their disadvantages. The studio is also a place for them to stay connected and motivated!

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