In Xinjiang, especially in the southern regions, the national minority
women like to wear patterned silk dresses of an 9rresting distinctiveness.
Some have a design like swirling rosy clouds, others are patterned in
contrasting black and white, while yet others are splashes of crimson
and green. The Uygur people call this kind of patterned silk "variegated
cuckoo's wing," which also means that, like the cuckoo, it heralds
the arrival of spring. Created by Xinjiang's Uygur nationality, this
romantic flowing silk is known as etles or "tiedyed" silk.
Ancient techniques of tie-dyeing are used in the manufacture of etles
silk. Dyeing is carried out on the warp threads which have been
. bound in such a way so as to produce the desired pattern. The actual
binding is a long, tedious, painstaking process as the overall com-position,
the pattern design and color matching must all be taken into consideration
by the skillful binder. Binding is followed by the dyeing, warping and
weaving stages. In the dyeing procedure, as the threads take up the
liquid dye, it runs over the bound outline of the design, forming a
natural halo of color, like the random and irregular effect one gets
with a dry brush, providing the rich variation that is so characteristic
of etles silk designs.
Etles silk is produced in two different regions and consequently today
there are two separate types. The tie-dyeing methods em-ployed in the
counties of Hotan and Lop aim to produce a strongly contrasting effect
with a bold and flowing design which stands out from the background.
The color combinations most commonly used are a black ground with a
white design, or vice versa, or chequered designs in red and yellow,
black and white, or blue and white. Although simple and widely spaced,
the design is interesting as it is very rare that any two pieces of
cloth have an identical pattern.
The etles silk of Kashi and Shache is well known for its bright, gay
colors. The design consists of close lengthwise stripes of unequal width
in dark green, sapphire, blue, pink, apricot, heliotrope, black and
white. The striped design and strongly contrasting colors create a profusion
of color while the apt arrangement of the colors gives an impression
of harmony and rhythm when viewed on a full length of silk.
At first sight the designs of etles silk seem intriguing and roman-tic,
but a closer inspection will reveal that they are taken from natural
and everyday objects. The most commonly seen designs are based on almond
blossom, wood grain and a comb-like pattern.
After 1949, Xinjiang forged ahead in developing her
silk filatures and weaving industry, and improved the local hand-weaving
tech-niques used to produce etles silk, so much admired by the national
minority peoples. New ideas were also applied to traditional designs
and colors. In recent years with the introduction of new technology
into silk weaving mills and workshops, and the advent of gold and silver
thread, a number of original new designs have been created, which have
further contributed to the variety of clothing available to the women
of all Xinjiang's national minorities.