Home » Indigo dyeing session

Indigo dyeing session

Inspired by the results of Kathrina’s indigo dyeing during the summer, Colleen very kindly agreed to host a dyeing session at her house recently.  Indigo is one of the oldest dyes to be used in textile dyeing and it is found in the leaves of several species of plant grown in India, Vietnam and other tropical climates.

IMG_2670The dye is prepared with warm water and soda ash in a vat or bin with a lid. The easiest way to get the correct quantities and ingredients is to purchase an indigo kit online which will provide clear instructions and take the guess work out of it.  There are great websites and YouTube videos giving instructions, so there is no mystery to it.   The dye looks greenish/yellow and somewhat murky when it is ready to use and the fabrics are green, not blue when they come out of the dye.  Don’t panic because, as the air hits the dye, the colour changes to blue before your eyes.

Colleen had the dye vat prepared when we arrived and the weather was lovely so we worked outdoors. It can be a bit of a messy process so we spread large plastic sheeting on the patio and wore aprons and plastic gloves (unless you don’t mind having blue hands!).  We experimented with a selection of fabrics – cotton, muslin, calico and silk –  and each absorbed dye differently giving varying depths of colour.

DSC02115 (2)It is recommended that you wash or scour the fabric beforehand to remove any finishes or treatments that might have been used on the cloths – obviously don’t boil your silk!  The three calico pieces in the foreground of this photo were not washed beforehand and the result is a bit hit and miss and some would say a disaster. In reality they will look lovely patched together to make some trendy cushion covers for a teenager’s room!

We had researched different methods of binding, stitching, folding and compressing the cloth to create patterns so we came armed with elastic bands, clamps, clothes pegs, small wood blocks, twine and thread   Shibori is the Japanese term for these methods of creating patterns and the earliest known example of cloth dyed with these techniques dates back to the 8th century.  I am not sure we were as disciplined as the Japanese method might require so the results were unique to say the least!

IMG_2663We wrapped some pieces of muslin cloth around a stick or pipe and twisted thread or cord around the length of it to create the pattern and hold the fabric in place.  The fabric is then pushed down the stick or pipe to squash it together even further, which resulted in a variety of muted chevron designs or a more defined zig zag design.

DSC02116We folded some pieces of calico into rectangles and trapped them between two thin, flat piece of wood held in place with bull dog clips to create this interesting rectangular pattern.

It was very exciting opening up our fabric to see the results and, as a consequence, we didn’t re-dip many of our pieces to create a deeper, darker indigo colour.   We were pretty satisfied with the washed denim hues that resulted from our efforts and too impatient to see the results to wait any longer!

IMG_20150921_144602 (1)DSC_0811We also experimented with resists.  We put PVA glue on dry fabric to create a pattern and allowed it to dry. The fabric was then dipped and where the glue was in place, it resisted the dye.  The fabric was dried, the PVA washed off in warm water and the pattern was visible.  We also used some leaves coated in PVA glue and trapped in the folds to create a delicate resist leaf pattern.


IMG_2661 (2)

DSC02127Towards the end of the day we went a bit mad…. dip dying the top of a silk blouse and putting a vintage, lace edged sheet into the dye…. just to see what would happen…

Great fun day to organise with a small group of friends – we all went home with lots of lovely fabric samples to work on.





    • admin says:

      Hi Alison, so sorry but I am only seeing your comment now – it got caught up in the spam. I don’t know for sure where you would get it in Ireland – try Cork Art Supplies. We have purchased it online from Dharma Trading (www.dharmatrading.com/kits/starter/sets/indigo-dye-kit.html) or http://www.wildcolours.co.uk. good luck with your dying. Barbara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *