In The Studio: Indigo Fabric Dye

Washington, D.C.

 

 
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BLUE IS THE RAREST COLOR

 

 

From the brilliant deep hue of the sea to the pale atmospheric tones in the distance, blue is a color that has always mystified and inspired me.  I've been increasingly interested in using blue in my design process with natural fabric dye.  There are only a few ways to create blue dye naturally because blue pigment is the rarest color in nature.  Red, brown, green, and yellow pigments are abundantly found in the wild from all corners of the world. But, now imagine all the blue plants, rocks, animals, and food...  Blue is very rare indeed! 

Indigo dye is a natural process that can be used to achieve brilliant shades of blue.  A natural chemical called indican is first extracted from the leaves of the indigo plant. Although the manufacturing process may differ in areas around the world, the extracted indican goes through various processes of fermentation, mixing, and drying to create a deep blue powder.  Oxidation of the indigo is how rich blue tones are achieved.  For my indigo dye, I used a specially formulated Reduced Indigo Dye Kit from Pro Chem & Dye.   The reduced indigo kit allows you to use soda ash instead of harsh chemicals like lye in the dye vat, so it’s very easy to prepare at home. 

With my vat, I tested dip dying and also Shibori, a Japanese form of dyeing using binding and folding techniques to create various patterns and forms.  The entire dye process is striking, especially when the initial electric green fabric oxide into rich blues tones.  The images in this blog post document my indigo dye process.

 
 
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The final results

 

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Reduced Indigo Dye Kit from Pro Chem & Dye
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Indigo Vat ready to go

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Indigo dye pigment

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Presoaking my cotton gauze fabric in warm water

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Test swatches (3 dips, 1 dip, 2 dips)
Each dip accumulates more pigment and saturation of color on the fabric

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I tested my Shibori accordion fold first, two minutes in the vat

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First dip, the fabric is a bright green before it oxidizes in the air!

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I decided to create a gradient of saturated color with my fabric

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Final fabric drying

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Final result!  I can't wait to incorporate the blue into my next project. 
I hope I inspired and encouraged your own attempt at indigo dyeing! It's definitely worth a go!

Until Next time,

Alex

Links:

PRE-REDUCED INDIGO KIT: Pro Chem & Dye