Nuosu Needlework Culture


Most Nuosu women make their own embroidery floss from regular thread.  Using spindles and whorls, they carefully twist lengths of thread into twined floss of the desired thickness.  They then either stitch the thread directly into the base cloth, or delicately couch the floss with tiny stitches.  With these techniques, the Nuosu are able to create scenes that evoke the landscape in which they live — magnificent mountains with herb- and flower-filled meadows dotted amongst the forests.

The Nuosu have also channeled their love of bright colors and their skill in stitchery to adapt modern materials into customary forms.  Alongside felted wool vests with all hand-twined and stitched embroidery, they have created velveteen jackets, with factory-made ribbons and trim gaily sewn using a treadle sewing machine.  Additionally, cooperatives have been established where young Nuosu women are encouraged to use their embroidery techniques to create purses, pillows, and other items that they decorate with modern interpretations of older Nuosu designs.

Below are some examples of embroidered textiles from Liangshan.

Both Nuosu men and women wear this style of cape. The cape featured here was made in Yangjuan village by a mother of a student at Yangjuan Primary School. It is a blend of locally produced black wool and store-bought black cloth. Although stitched on an old treadle sewing machine, cape embroidery is all done by hand. Because there is no embroidery floss available, women take thread and patiently twine it together until it is the desired thickness for their work.
Grey Cape 
Similar to the embroidered cape above but in a beautiful slate grey
Full-length Skirt 
From ceremonies to market trips, Nuosu women wear this style of full-length skirt everywhere. Bright colors (pinks, yellows, and greens) are reserved for younger women, while darker colors (blue and violet) are generally worn by older women.
Women’s Embroidered Vest 
This felted wool vest would be worn by an adult woman. It is lined with a cotton fabric sprinkled with hearts. All of the vivid blue and green embroidery is done by hand, as are the matching button loops down the front.
Women’s Vest  
Another example of a wool felt vest with cotton lining. The embroidery is all hand couched, and the button loops are hand rolled. The lime green buttons beautifully complement the colors in the embroidery.
Embroidered Pillowcases
Featured here are modern cotton pillowcases with a Nuosu design appliqué. They were created as part of a development project in Liangshan that promoted the use of local skills for manufacturing items for a broader market.

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