The Colour Project: October – Indigo

In October I worked with indigo and shibori techniques. Indigo is the colour named after the blue dye from the plant Indigofera tinctoria and related species. Indigo can’t easily be made into dye, oxygen must be removed from the vat by fermentation or reducing. The liquid becomes yellow-green with a deep blue metallic looking skin or flower. The colour blue returns after re-oxygenation in the air. Successive dips and aerations are made until the right shade of blue is achieved.

Indigo dyeing was somewhat of a mystery to me until I attended a workshop with the amazing expert dyer, Trudi Pollard. She had three well loved, long lived indigo vats for us to use. She took great care to keep them warm by the fire, told us how temperamental indigo can be and showed us how to very carefully slide fabric into the vat without disturbing the surface too much so as not to expose the liquid to the air.

With trepidation I prepared my own bath using Kraft Kolour synthetic Indigo powder. I was delighted with the success of the first attempt.

The dye vat

Above- A doughnut on cotton sheeting. This pattern is made by rolling fabric around a piece of thick rope and gathering the fabric together very tightly.

Also on cotton, this concertina folded fabric is then pegged along the folds.

Another really simple method – scrunched up silk habutai tied with elastic bands. The main aim of these pieces was to show that the dye bath worked, so I didn’t spend a lot of time on the resist techniques.

This piece uses plastic packaging disks of cheap sewing pins. The pins are terrible, but the disks make great resists. This piece is about 70cm wide, I only had 4 disks, more would create more distinct circles.Concertina folds with a resist of cassette tape winders.

Above plastic clips on silk organza, below polyester organza. Double layers of fabric show the depth of colour.Cotton single dip right, second dip on the left.

The second dyeing session was with friends Margaret, Liz and Julie. We used my synthetic dye vat from the previous week, I prepared a natural indigo vat and Julie bought along a previously mixed batch that had been exhausted…although it still produced a very pale colour. Above – Liz’s top and balls of perle cotton quickly changing colour from green to blue as air contacts the indigo.

In this second dye bath I decided to try some more labour intensive stitch resist techniques from Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice and Jane Barton.

Chevron Stripes maki-shibori

Japanese Larch karamatsu shibori


hira-nui stitching

Elastic bands

Half dip on silk wrapped around a sushi rolling mat

Pegs again

For the third dye bath, I stitched, gathered and tied samples and used a natural dye bath

komasu shibori

For the final dye bath, I decided to experiment with some silks I had previously dyed, some over 20 years ago!

Sewing pin disks

Scrunch dyed

Fold and clamp of bright pink silk

Purple fabric with sushi mat resist

A very small deep pink piece resisted with a large peg

This piece was found at the bottom of the pot when I tipped out the exhausted dye over a week later.

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