caps of the Uighur people
Central Asia men, women and children wore caps as an integral
part of their traditional dress. This Object in focus
describes the design and manufacture of the cap worn by
the Uighur people of China's Xinjiang province.
Photo: Adrienne Cobby
Making Uighur caps
wearer's age, sex and profession are often indicated by
the style and design of their caps. The shape of the cap
is described as square rounded, and most caps are
designed to be folded flat for convenience. The outer layer
of the caps is made in two sections:
headband section. This piece joins together to form the
main body of the cap.
A variety of embroidery techniques are used to make these
colourful caps. Some examples are:
and silver filigree
a combination of these techniques.
Steps in cap making
Embroidery is worked on the two flat surface sections
of fabric. These are usually fused to plain cotton fabric
for stability while being embroidered.
The two sections are stitched together.
A red cotton lining is made separately from two pieces
of fabric quilted together. Strips of paper twisted
around a long needle are inserted between the parallel
rows of running stitch. This gives the lining of the
caps its subtle ridges.
The caps are shaped on a block and painted with starch
inside to give them body.
Finally they are edged in black velvet.
The designs are drawn mainly from nature. The motifs are
stylised images of the stars and the moon, flowers, fruits,
birds and insects. Some specific examples are shown below:
The designs of the caps vary greatly, but generally consist
of a motif repeated on all four sides. The caps can be divided
into four categories:
one or two motifs worked with another motif and a lace
motif. Usually worked in satin stitch with bead inlay.
The background is mainly dark.
small scattered motifs either linked by veins or separated
by lines. This is the design on the embroidered cap
in the table above.
the stone of the almond is the source of the motif's
shape. One end is rounded, the other is pointed. Motifs
are usually arranged top to tail in a circle. The embroidery
is usually black with white.
a cross at the central point with a series of symmetrical
motifs arranged within an asterisk or square. The composition
is compact and the colours rich.
As with other items of clothing, there are often regional
variations in cap design. The major variations are summarised
for its women's caps featuring a stitch similar to petit
point. They are colourful and geometric in design.
for men's almond cap designs.
for the arch-topped women's caps with bead inlay.
by the Han culture, with such motifs as waves, clouds,
waterlilies, plums and chrysanthemums.
agricultural abundance of the region is reflected in
the flowery nature of the designs.