The most experience that I have with creating textiles is tie dying. It involves cloth, dye, and rubber bands or string. From what I have done in the past, a piece of cloth is tied up with rubber bands or string in a particular way according to the chosen pattern. Then sections are dipped into different colors of dye and it is left to soak. Lastly, it is rinsed with cold water (hot water will wash the dye out) and unravelled to dry. I only have experience with making very simple designs such as the spirals or polka dots. I have learned most of these patterns and techniques in summer camps and classes.
In addition to what I know already, there is some information that I am still unsure about. When I have tie dyed before, artificial dyes with chemicals and cotton cloth was used. In China, silk is a common material, so it is possible that it is also dyed. I am also interested in finding out if the people in Xizhou use resources from their environment to make their own dye, or if they have artificial dyes like the ones I have used before. It is important to me to learn about the whole process of making textiles - materials, dying, washing, drying, etc.
Some questions that I have include:
1. In Xizhou, are natural or artificial dyes used? (answered question - see phase three for details)
2. What type(s) of fabric is used?
3. How long does the entire process take?
4. What washing method is used (cold water, warm water, scrubbed, soaked, etc.)? (answered question - see phase three for details)
5. How many years of experience does one normally have before producing textiles for a living?
6. Where/how are materials acquired?
7. How many different patterns are produced? Are some more popular than others?
8. What resources are used to produce natural dye?
9. Why does natural dye appear to be clear in small amounts, but colored in large amounts? (answered question - see phase three for details)
10. How were the patterns used today developed?
I have also done some 'pre-research' online so that I am more prepared when I begin my research. I visited a few websites and printed out some articles about textiles in Dali and the surrounding area. One article mentions that the nearby Zhoucheng village is known as "The Hometown of National Embroidery and Dying," which is where we are going to observe textile production. Another website says that many steps are involved, including twisting and tying, soaking, dying, steam boiling, drying in the sun, untying, rinsing, etc (traditions.cultural-china.com). For an understanding of the overall process, I will have to observe each and every step.
Following the 'pre-research' that I have done, some new questions that I have include:
11. What is the composition of the yellow dye that is used to outline the pattern?
12. At what point is the dying of the cloth complete?
13. Does each design follow the same production process?
14. If a design requires two colors of dye, how is this accomplished?
The next step in my research process is to gather information at the Zhoucheng textile factory, and possibly return with specific questions at a later date.