Organic Indigo Dye Recipe and Process
Muezart, as you know, is an Eri silk studio which operates from the heart of Meghalaya, a state in the northeast corner of India. We are in the business of supporting the regeneration and expansion of a heritage cottage industry of our state, that of Eri Silkworm rearing and producing of Eri silk fiber.
We believe in everything natural. The cycle of Eri silk fiber – from silkworms – to cocoons – to fiber – to yarn are all a natural process, under the loving supervision of farmers who continue to follow the methods they have learnt from their parents and grandparents. Even for dyeing we use plants, flowers, roots etc. as material.
Today we want to share with you an organic Indigo dye recipe that we tried and saw it work. This was adapted from an indigo dyeing recipe of Michel Garcia.
Indigo Color – Loved By Many
The rich blue tones of Indigo dye are an eternal favorite of many the world over. Highly likely that you own an outfit, or a cushion cover dyed in indigo. Or maybe you know someone who does? Am I right? I guess you know that the original Indigo is a plant-based dye. Let me tell you about our experience with Indigo dyeing and share with you an organic indigo dye recipe.
Organic Indigo Dyeing Fun – Beautiful Colors – But Very Hard to Master
Indigo is probably the most fun dye to work with because it makes you feel like you are doing a science experiment, and partly because the color is breathtaking.
There is a big BUT to it. It is very hard to master organic indigo dyeing – at least that was our experience – especially when we are using an organic recipe – all plant-based. The Indigo dyeing process usually requires a complicated oxidation process to happen, which turns the green leaves into blue, or one could say it is the air that turns the dye blue. It is hard to find the right balance when using natural ingredients. We understand that those who do chemical based indigo dyeing can do it easily with the right chemicals.
Indigo belongs to a family of 140 leafy green plants, of which 4 are often used for dyeing.
For our experiment we used the Indigo cakes that we got from Tamil Nadu. You can use fresh Indigo leaves too, but that requires a different process, about which I will be sharing with you very soon.
Indigo loves the sun. Being a hilly region, our state Meghalaya does not have the right climate for growing Indigo plant. Nonetheless we wanted to try, and we did get some Indigo plants from Guwahati last year and tried growing them, but they died after 7 months.🙁
Indigo – Beneficial to the Skin
Besides it lending beautiful colors to textiles, Indigo is also known to have beneficial effects on the skin.
- Indigo specifically is said to have a sedative and calming effect on the skin
- Some Indian tribes are known to have used it to control bleeding
Fresh extracts of the plants are said to be effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis, coughs, and even chest pains.
The Japanese believed that Indigo keeps insects, snakes, and evil spirits away.
How to dye with Natural Indigo: Muezart's Experiments
Indigo has a valuable property that makes the fabrics last for ages. Indigo works by attaching its molecules to each string of the fabric and wraps around it like skin (it is referred to as a coating dye), protecting and shielding it for a long time.
As mentioned above, dyeing with natural indigo is not rocket science. All you need is a little bit of chemistry and you’re set.
Now we’re not going to get full blown chemistry class here but what you do need to know is that the indigo dye in itself is not soluble in water. Hence you require 2 things:
In chemistry terms, a base is something which is the opposite of an acid. In order to dissolve the indigo, the reducing agent requires a base. A perfect recommendation for a base is calx (calcium hydroxide) aka lime or picking lime.
A reducing agent lowers the oxidation of indigo and makes it soluble in water. Fructose rich fruits such as bananas is a perfect example of a reducing agent when it comes to dyeing with indigo.
Recently we did an experiment with organic Indigo dyeing. Below is a video of our first experiment of Indigo dyeing using this organic recipe. Please take a look.
What you see in the video is our third attempt in this first experiment at indigo dyeing – the first two times we had to do some trial and error work by adjusting the quantity of banana, lime etc. It was thrilling when we got the vat to be the way it should be.
- Banana – 100g
- Lime (calx)/ Calcium hydroxide – 50g
- Indigo powder – 25g
- Water – 7.5L
- Yarn – we dyed 20 skeins of 100g using our 20/2 yarn
The Indigo Yarn Dyeing Process:
- Crush the indigo powder, in case you have an Indigo cake.
- Mash the bananas and boil in water for a few minutes.
- Filter the juice from the cooked fruits and pour in the vat dye.
- Add the Indigo and lime and stir gently. Do not whip!
- After 15-20 minutes, you will see a bronze surface with blue bubbles. If you see this happen then, the dye is ready.
- Check the temperature frequently. If it is low, then heat the liquid until it reaches 50°.
- The vat will be ready once the liquid is turning greenish-yellow.
- Turn off the heat. Let the Indigo dye rest and cool down.
- Dip the yarn and soak it for 15-30 minutes.
- If you want a darker shade then re-dip the yarn twice or thrice.
- Rinse in cool water.
- Dry in shade.
- Your yarn is ready to be turned into something beautiful.
Hope this organic indigo dye recipe inspires you to try and check it out for yourself.
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