Thursday, October 17, 2013

My First Indigo Vat

Natural indigo is one of the the world's most ancient and magical dyes. There are 4000 year old pieces of indigo-dyed hemp found in Egyptian tombs, and most denim is dyed with a synthetic chemical replica of natural indigo. It has been used by cultures around the globe, and is found naturally in equatorial countries all over the world. It's amazing that it was developed independently by all of these cultures because it is a very difficult process that is required to make dye out of the indigo plant, so much so that many cultures see it as a sacred practice that requires close communication between human and their indigo vat.

Indigo is super delicate because it reacts to oxygen, therefore you have to be super careful to not create any bubbles or commotion. To create an indigo vat, you must bring it to a certain temperature and then keep it at that temperature without putting it directly on a burner. To do this you have to insulate the vat with blankets and towels. Many people use electric blankets and indigo studios usually heated insulated vessels to hold their indigo vats.
Here you can see the light blue colour of the indigo vat, with dark blue swirls at the surface where it has reacted with oxygen from the air.

It was such a wonderful experience to dye with natural indigo that it made me re-think my ideas for the lingerie line that I'm working on. One really amazing thing about indigo is that it doesn't creep, which allows you to create resists on the surface of the fabric with thread, tying, clamping, (otherwise known as Japanese Shibori) and the indigo won't creep into the negative space. This allows you to create beautiful and striking motifs on the fabric with a fairly strict contrast. The more times you dip your fabric, the darker your shade of indigo and depending on the type of fibres used, you get a different type of blue.

I can't wait to work with it more and explore the possibilities of this culturally rich dye.

It's Friday tomorrow people! I think this will be a crafty weekend for me. Autumn does that.
Have a good one!

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