From The Archive: A Beginners Introduction to Indigo.
As you may or may not know, Prints By Nature is a company that thrives from it’s inspirations from nature. Both in design and creation. So I’ve been eyeing up some very traditional methods of using natural dyes to produce fabric that is very on trend as well as being environmentally focussed and friendly.
Let me introduce you to Indigo Dye.
Indigo Dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue colour, most popularly known for dying blue jeans. Historically, indigo is known as one of the oldest natural dying processes for textiles and originated centuries ago from many Asian countries including India, Japan and south-east Asia.
A variety of plants provided indigo throughout its history, most natural indigo was obtained from the genus Indigofera, Native to the tropics it’s no wonder the Greeks and Romans sought out this luxurious colouring.
It’s pretty straight forward – although very messy, so if you feel like doing this at home you’ll need a few things:
List of items needed
· 20g Indigo dye
· 150g reduction agent: soda ash and thiox or hydrosulphite
o I used Jaquards indigo dye kit from [huntthemoon.com], but if you’re wanting to do larger quantities they also sell the ingredients separately
· Water as well as washing and rinsing containers.
· Rinse solution; Bicarbonate soda and white vinegar
· Plastic vat or tub with a lit minimum of 5 gallon (I got mine from Home base for as little as £4)
· Some kind of wooden stirring devise long enough to reach the bottom of the vat -without submerging you hands-
· Plastic tupperwear or takeaway boxes for the ‘flower’
· Decent pair of gloves (the longer the better in my case)
· Washing and rinsing containers for the fabric once dyed
· Plastic sheeting or tarp to cover the floor space – or plenty of outside space (to which I have none)
· Clothes line or somewhere to dry the items once they have been dyed and washed.
· Fabric, yard, clothes for dying
· Rubber bands, wood blocks or other items for resistant dying.
Preparing the indigo bath.
1. Fill your 5 gallons Vat with 4 gallons lukewarm water.
2. Empty the indigo dye into the water and begin to stir in a circular motion.
3. While stirring combine the Soda Ash and reduction agent (thiox or hydrosulphite) in the water, remembering to stir gently.
4. Gently but thoroughly continues to stir the solution in a circular motion, making sure to reach to the bottom of the vat while dragging the stick along the outer edges of the bath. Once you feel the vat is well mixed begin to slow down and begin to stir the mixture in the opposite direction – remembering to drag the stick along the outer edge of the vat before removing it. Cover the vat with the lit and let rest for 15-30 minutes.
5. After the vat has settled, remove the lid. You’ll notice that the top of the solution is covered with a layer of foam, this is called the ‘flower’. Gently push aside the flower to check the solution is ready. It should be a clear yellow to yellow-green colour underneath. If not wait another 30 minutes and check again.
The dying process
1. Begin by folding, binding or tying the fabric to the desired pattern.
a. I decided to go for a mix of traditional Shibori folds as well as some simpler tie dying. If you’re looking for inspiration there’s some amazing ideas on pinterest
2. pre-soak the fabric to improve colour penetration *skip step 1 if you are wanting to dye the fabric a solid colour or for an ombre.
3. When you are ready to begin dying you can gently remove the ‘flower’ storing in the plastic tubberware for later. Now you can dip into the indigo bath. Make sure to squeeze out any unwanted air bubbles or pockets beforehand.
4. Whilst squeezing the fabric lower gently into the bath and allow to sit just bellow the surface of the water. At this point you will want to manipulate the fabric a little to increase the surface area the dye reacts to.
I decided to time each bath to experiment with ombre and depth of colour. You may notice at this point that the fabric is looking more like a yellow/green colour, don’t worry it’s working - the blue appears later.
5. Once you have left it in there for around 3-5 minutes at a time, begin to squeeze the fabric still under the surface of the dye to reduce excess dripping and further agitating the bath.
6. Leave to one side – still bound- to begin the chemical reaction, within a few minutes you will notice that the fabric will change from the green tones into a shade of blue.
If you wish for the fabric to a darker shade of blue then repeat steps 3 to 6. Remember the colour will lighten once the fabric is dry and it is usually recommended to bathe the fabric at least 3-5 times. Some traditionalists suggest even up to 20! – But by this point my back is getting sore and my bathroom looks like a smurf has been brutally murdered.
7. Once you are satisfied that the fabric the correct shade of indigo you can now unfold the hang the fabric to fully oxidise.
8. Whilst the fabric is resting you can begin to make the rinsing bath. Mix 1-part bicarbonate soda to 2-parts white vinegar in roughly 3 litres of warm water. Stir the rinse solution until the soda has fully dissolved. This will stop the dyes reaction whilst supposedly sealing in the colour, reducing the amount the colour will run in the future.
9. After 10-20 minutes depending on temperature or room conditions your fabric will be ready to rinse. Rinse thoroughly for at least 1-3 minutes. Now you are ready to do one final rinse in cold free running water to remove the last of the dye and rinsing solution.
10. Hang to dry fully, remembering that some blue drips may still occur in heavily dyed fabric so be sure to place the tarp or sheet underneath if working inside.
So there you have it; an excellent way to create something new and unique that will certainly be a creative way to spend you days.
Thanks for reading I hope this helps bring a little more insight in to my company as well as motivate you guys to do the same. I’m off to scrub the bathroom one last time before the partner comes home!
In the mean time head over to my store to buy yourself some lovely indigo products