nankeen n : a durable fabric formerly loomed by hand in China from natural cotton having a yellowish color
- a type of cotton cloth originally from Nanking in China.
- He put on over his shirt his wife's wadded nankeen jacket, and over that he put his own cloth coat. — Leo Tolstoy, What Men Live By and Other Tales, translated by L. and A. Maude
Nankeen, also called Nankeen cloth or Blue Nankeen, refers to a particular type of cotton cloth, manufacturing of which originated in Nanking region of China. More specifically, the term "blue nankeen" describes hand-printed fabric of artistic refinement and primitive simplicity, which originated on the Silk Road over three thousand years ago.
Hand-carved stencils, originally made from wood but now from heavy paper, are prepared and a mix of soya bean flour and slaked lime is applied through the openings of the stencil onto the 100% cotton fabric. When dry, the fabric is then dipped numerous times into the large tubs containing the indigo dye. After the right color is achieved and the fabric has dried, the paste is scraped off, revealing the white patterns on the blue cloth. The fabric is then washed, dried, and ironed before fabrication into the Nankeen collection. Such fabric represents a fast-disappearing historic art form which embodies ancient Chinese culture and traditions.