Do you want to learn more about indigo dyeing and where it comes from? Here's a little insight into the magic of Indigo Dyeing and the art of Shibori...
What is indigo?
Indigo is a natural dye obtained from the leaves of the indigo plant: there are several varieties that produce this special hue. Indigo has been used all over the world from very ancient times, with the process of extracting the dye from the leaves varying between cultures. The colour obtained is a very pleasing deep blue that can be intensified by several dips into the indigo vat. We use indigo grown and extracted in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Indigo powder does not readily dissolve in water so it needs to be made up in a vat with the correct PH balance along with an anti oxidising agent in order to dye fabric. Natural vats may use composted leaves, fruits such as banana or pear, henna, ferrous sulphate and an agent such as soda ash or slaked lime. Vats need care and attention to maintain the correct levels for the indigo to adhere to the fabric.
Photo below shows our banana based vat ready for dyeing.
What is shibori?
Shibori is an ancient resist technique that originated in Japan and means to fold or compress the fabric. By manipulating the cloth with stitching, clamping and binding, this process creates natural resist areas so that when the fabric is dyed the hidden parts remains white while the exposed sections are dyed indigo, creating fabulous, dynamic patterns.
Shibori and Tie-dye - what's the difference?
Shibori is an ancient and precise Japanese technique that has inspired the Tie Dye method of making patterns on cloth that was so popular in the sixties and is now making a comeback.
It may have been based on Kumo Shibori or 'spider web' pattern which is a traditional Japanese bound technique using rows of thread tied closely together in a circular design. Tie dyeing is often done with multi colours while shibori is mostly created with indigo dye.
Types of shibori
Arashi is Japanese for 'storm' and the fabric produced through this technique shows some very dramatic effects reminiscent of diagonal rain. The fabric is bound onto a pole and compressed before dipping into the indigo vat.
Mokume fabric has a textured, wood grained effect after dyeing and is created by stitching the fabric by hand before pulling up the threads very tightly to create the resist. This technique has been perfected by the Japanese and artisans there create very intricate designs.
Itajime is a method of shibori that involves folding the fabric into a geometric shape using concertina folds in different directions. Using boards, clamps or ties to compress the fabric, beautiful, repetitive designs are created.
Shibori using indigo dye is traditionally made on natural fibres: cotton, wool, silk and hemp. Indigo has been used for centuries to help prolong the life of clothing.
How do I care for Indigo dyed fabrics
To keep indigo fabrics looking fresh it’s best to wash them with cool water and a mild laundry detergent; they are subject to some bleaching by the sun so drying in the shade is also a good idea. Although a little indigo will wash out initially, indigo dyeing that is done well on a good quality fabric has a long life with very little 'crocking' or rub off.
Learn Indigo and Shibori in the Tropics
Workshops in indigo dyeing and shibori are enjoyed in many countries and provide a fun and creative way to learn a new skill and unlock your creativity while absorbing some history and tradition of this ancient craft.
Our outdoor workshops in tropical north Qld are held in an organic environment and are fun, friendly and creative mornings. They are suitable for all levels of experience as we strive to inspire you.
We provide a relaxing space where you can feel comfortable, learn something new and share some fabric fun with a group of creatives.
It's a lovely way to bond with family and friends and can be a social or team building experience. There is time for discussion, questions, exploration and discovery. We also provide a delicious homemade morning tea to enjoy while you imbibe the Nature. You get to take home your hand dyed creations: i.e. tea towel, linen market bag and cotton or silk scarf.
For those who are keen to pursue the art of shibori and indigo dyeing further, we have advanced workshops introducing stitched shibori and other techniques for those who have completed the beginners workshop with Pallu Design.
You will find information and bookings for all our Indigo workshops here.
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See more of our Blog Posts about Indigo and Shibori and more about our Textile Travels and Traditional Fabrics Here