Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Memory of Red

by Lin Hsin-Chen
Tradition is not a new word to me, but when it comes to the traditional sewing techniques in Taiwan, I find myself so unfamiliar with it. I have no idea how to explain the traditional techniques to you. I have to admit that I haven't been paying much attention to it. Thank you, Misik, for giving me the opportunity to think about the subject and to find out the tradition that I am not familiar with. Here is not the complete information, but I would like to share a few images with you.

First of all, I would like to introduce the “shoulang yam”. Shoulang yam is a very important plant to Taiwanese aborigines. It is a traditional dyestuff. Why is it so important? Fibers dyed with shoulang yam are believed to ward off negative situations. It is also being used as mosquito repellents and it helps to strengthen the toughness of fabrics. Most importantly, it’s a beautiful red color. For Taiwanese people, red symbolize joy. Everyone wants to live a joyful life!

Shoulang yam is traditionally much used by Taiwanese aborigines as natural dyes.
(Photo from: http://goo.gl/evjNd9)

The tubers of shoulang yam
(Photo from: http://goo.gl/GWzeV5)
Next, I would like to talk about traditional sewing techniques in Taiwan. Weaving has not been emphasized in the literature, but it’s a very common technique for Taiwanese aborigines. Lots of images of Taiwanese weaving works can be found in Google. Paper mulberry, ramie and banana tree string are 3 common natural fibers. They are weaved in red or its natural color to form very special patterns. It’s an irreplaceable traditional technique.

Atayal traditional groom costume
(Photo from: http://goo.gl/ibEvuZ)

The favorite color of Atayal culture is red.
(Photo from: http://goo.gl/ISOMgA)

There is also a very detailed technique for celebrations - the gorgeous embroidery. Embroidery has a long history in Taiwan, but not many people pay attention to it or learn it now. Though it is somewhat a sunset industry, I have always been fascinated by its gorgeousness.

Traditional Embroidery Art by Tainan Kuang Tsai Embroidery Shop

These are some rough information about the traditional techniques in Taiwan that I know. There are some other techniques that I need to do further research. Just share some of them with you. Thank you. Enjoy creating the 4th challenge!


  1. very interesting research Hsin-Chen, particularly about the red natural dye, which I didn't know about. Indigo has had such a popular identity for such a long time overshadowing other dyes.

  2. I’m happy to know that you find it interesting! Many histories of Taiwan are related to red color, because it’s the favorite color in our culture. As a fiber artist, I’m excited to introduce the red natural dye to you and maybe some other international artists.