Saturday, June 14, 2014

Indigo and Shibori Dyeing

A few friends, Rita, Mary and Roberta and myself, got together at Roberta's house for a day of playing. We made up a batch of indigo dye from a kit ordered from Dharma Trading. We dyed mostly cotton fabrics to use in quilting, but also dyed some silk and velvet ribbons, some lace and some eyelet fabric. Indigo will dye both animal and plant-based fibers, therefore, most natural fabrics can be indigo-dyed.

Indigo is easy to do, as it doesn't need to be boiled during the dyeing or heat-set to be permanent. The fabric is left in the vat only for a short time. If it dries too light, it is put back in the dye to darken. You do have to be careful not to introduce oxygen into the vat, so the indigo isn't oxidized. Once it is oxidized, the dye is exhausted and will no longer bind to the fibers.

We manipulated the fabric with different methods - knotting, folding, clamping, shibori using a plastic tube, marbles and rubber bands, and whatever other ways we could think of to manipulate the fabric. Many books are available with instructions for shibori dyeing and/or tie-dyeing. There are also many resources online.

Tools, like rubber bands, thread, needles, clamps, clothespins to manipulate the fabric, soy wax and tools (potato masher, wood chops, tjangs, paint brushes) for stamping the soy wax on the fabric, a book on Shibori methods, as well as, anything else we thought we might need or use today. 
Skimming off the bloom from the vat of indigo dye.
Ready for dyeing fabric.
Lynnita is stitching a circular pattern
to ready the fabric for dyeing.

Fabric is initially a neon green when first
pulled from the indigo dye.

As the fabric is exposed to air, the dye oxidizes
and turns the beautiful blue indigo.

                                            Rinsing the fabric under water. This fabric was dyed using a shibori
                                  technique (wrapping the fabric on the pole, then scrunching it together
                                 as much as possible. Fabric is held in place with rubber bands. 

Excess dye is rinsed away in cold water.

Fabric is wrapped around marbles and held in place
with rubber bands. This will create circular donuts
of the original color of the fabric. In this piece, the
marbles are placed randomly.

Roberta is pulling fabric from the dye vat and squeezing out excess dye. Mary
and Lynnita are unknotting, unclamping, unwrapping fabric to see the final results.
Fabric is set up on drying stand  until we are ready to wash with Synthrapol and dry.
Mary showing the her piece of shibori-dyed fabric.
Lynnita showing her piece of shibori-dyed
fabric. All 3 pieces were wrapped on the same
 tube and dyed together. Although similar, there
are definite differences in how they turned out. 
Mary showing off her knotted piece.
Beautiful circles resulted.
Lynnita's knotted piece. More beautiful circles. 

Marbles were placed in 2 rows, alternating with each other in this tone-
on-tone white fabric. The underlying pattern can be still be seen after dyeing.
The rubber bands  left a white donut where the marbles were placed.  

Rita took all the photos for our play date of indigo dyeing. We had a tremendous fun and created several pieces of indigo-dyed fabrics with various patterns. Many other pieces created are not shown. We also dyed silk ribbons in 4 mm and 7 mm widths, as well as 1/2" wide velvet ribbon, doilies, pearl cotton, and yards of lace, and eyelet fabric.  We had to quit, as we exhausted the indigo dye in our vat. When the dye is no longer a green color (is indigo-colored), there is no longer any dye available to bind with the fabric.

Next time, we plan to do more stitching to create patterns, as well as using soy wax to create patterns to resist the dye. We also want to dye wool and over-dye fabrics.

Thank you for joining us today. I hope this encourages you to try some indigo dyeing.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I love dyeing and painting fabric! A few friends and I want to experiment this summer with different techniques! Definitely more fun to "play" together. I also love the serendipity of it!