8 Things you didn't know about Gambiered silk

8 Things you didn't know about Gambiered silk

1. Ancient Chinese craft: Gambiered silk dates back to more than 1000 years. It is hand dyed using natural yam and river mud, with a unique pearl shine in the fabric.The fabric is breathable, lightweight and wrinkle-resistant. Therefore, the cloth is also known as "black pearl" internationally.

2. Located in the southern part of China: It is located in Shunde district, Foshan city, Guangdong province. It is part of Lingnan region, a region that contains all three essential ingredients of Gambiered silk- hot weather, large quantities of Shuliang yams, and river mud with rich minerals.

3. Weather dependent: Just like agriculture, this craft is weather dependent. The best months are from May to October. During this period, the weather is likely to be sunny and the temperature can reach as high as 35 degrees celsius. As for the color of the fabric, the deeper the red, the better the quality, and hotter weather promotes the color.
This is why I almost had a heat stroke when I visited the factory.The working conditions are really harsh, how can the workers survive under such hot weather?

4. Using yam as natural dye: The yam they use to make the silk is "Shu Liang" (薯莨). It gives a brick red or almost burgundy color to one side of the fabric, depending on the sun and the number of times you dye it with yam dye baths. Natural juice from Shuliang yams is extracted and mixed with water to make the dye bath. This kind of yam is prevalent in the Lingnan region.

5. River mud is the secret for the shine: the mud in local rivers is rich in iron, when reacting with the yam juice in the fabric, it creates a natural shine of blackish brown. This kind of river mud is greyish black - workers brush it on to the fabric with even force at the very end of the dyeing process. In contrast with dyeing using yam juices, this step needs to be done indoors at night or in the early morning to keep it from strong sunlight as the light will negatively affect the final result.

6. Repetitive dyeing process: The entire dyeing process is quite elaborate, with dip-dyeing repeated over 20 times, just to get the deep burgundy color! Between each round, the fabric also needs to be laid flat under the sun to dry thoroughly before immersing in dye baths again. This requires hot sunny weather.

7. Super expensive: Due to the amount of time, effort, and ingredients, the market price is really high. People often refer to it as “Solf Gold”, as its price can be as high as the cost of real gold!

8. Lost heritage: technically speaking, the real Gambiered silk is already lost since nobody knows how to make the traditional hand woven fabrics that were used traditionally. This kind of hand woven fabric has a unique pattern which you can’t find anywhere else.

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