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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Thread of continuity

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

10:52, December 28, 2011

Wei Taohua, 40, of the Shui ethnic group from Guizhou province, demonstrates her horsetail embroidery skills at an art exhibition of Guizhou handicrafts in Beijing. Photos by (Feng Yongbin / China Daily)

Wei Taohua, a 40-year-old villager of Guizhou province, sings a folk tune as she sews on a dark blue cotton batik mat. Curious visitors watch as she works. It takes just 30 minutes for the butterfly to take shape.

A closer inspection of the work shows the image has been stitched with horsetail hair, rather than cotton thread.

"I have been doing this all my life," Wei says. "There is no need to paint, draft or even think about the next image. It just comes to my mind as I hold the needle."

Wei is demonstrating her skills at an art exhibition of Guizhou province's handicrafts in Beijing. She and her family represent the handicraft known as "horsetail embroidery".

"This shoe-pad is so exquisite that I will not put it in my shoes," Li Huatian, who bought a pair from Wei during the exhibition on Saturday, says. "I will hang it in my home as a decoration."

Horsetail embroidery is a specialty of the Miao and Shui ethnic groups in Guizhou province. Zhang Yue reports.

Wei says, "I learned this from my mom when I was 13. So did my other five sisters. I did not know how the ideas came to my mothers' mind, but I watched her create many interesting images with a needle and horsetail threads, which was very appealing."

Scenes of nature viewed during childhood inspire Wei and her sisters to come up with images for their own embroidery works.

"We seldom repeat the images," Wei says. "They're a flexible combination of images showing our love of life and nature."

Horsetail embroidery requires three or four horsetail hairs bound together with white cotton, after which the image's shape is delineated. Then the images are filled with silk threads of different colors.

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