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“Slow stitching and slow living are the way to preserve cultural handcrafts”

This is a guest post by Yiran Duan, founder of Yi Crafts.

Hi, I am Yiran, founder of YICRAFTS and a member of Bai ethnic minority.

Born and raised in a little village in the southwestern Yunnan province of China called Dali (大理镇), I am an advocate for cultural craft preservation of the Bai people and other ethnic minorities’ cultural crafts. I work to share and inform others of different cultural handcrafts through workshops and handmade products.

Growing up, I was greatly immersed into my family’s business of traditional Bai architecture and indigo textiles, which built my interest in working with textiles and crafts. I came to London in 2015 to study costume and fashion design, but soon realized that the thousands of cultural ethnic traditions of China were seen as a singular culture and were very underrepresented in the Western eye.

This sparked my desire to share my traditional crafts in the UK, as I believe that intercultural sharing is vital, constant and often unconscious throughout our daily lives, and hand crafts are the physical embodiment of culture and cultural sharing. So, I started my company in September 2019, after graduating my undergraduate degree, to teach different workshops. The classes and workshops include stitch resist indigo tie-dye for beginners, known as ‘ZhaRan’ in Chinese and ‘Shibori’ in Japanese, and Sashiko workshops where participants can stitch together with me, to explore the beauty of slow stitching.

I learned all these crafts from my grandma, aunt and their friends in my hometown. My uncle is the one charge of indigo dyeing, and all the women just sit in the courtyard stitching together. This activity is always so calming and meditative; it also creates an environment for the local community to stitch together and sharing their feeling together, like a stitch circle. This is what I want to offer in London, so I started teaching online during the lockdown, to offer people a place to stitch and chat.

The opportunity to slow stitch together with knack's community is a dream come true for me, and it will be such a lovely time to virtually stitch together in this crazy time.

Yiran is the founder of Yi Crafts, where she uses her passions for crafts and textiles to promote cultural communication and learning between East and West, through workshops, craft kits and handmade products.

Find out more and purchase her products on her website, and follow her on Instagram to stay up to date.

Yiran is leading knack's July workshop to show our members the traditional Japanese embroidery technique of sashiko. If you missed out on this month's box, sign up to our mailing list to hear when post-event boxes are released.