Indigo is an ancient color, a natural dye extracted from a plant of the same name, and the only true blue dye in nature. It's been found in ancient Egyptian mummy wrappings and was so valued by the Romans as a luxury product, the story goes, that the only people who knew how to dye with indigo were hidden away in the forest.
|indigo the plant|
|Winter indigo plants in Sapa.|
Who knew that such a weedy looking plant could profuse such beautiful blue dyes.
|man made ladder stairs from a solid tree trunk and bamboo water pipes|
|wooden shingled roof|
|corn drying from the house ceiling|
|interiors are cold and dark|
But when you see the beautiful work that these ladies do, hanging from outside the houses, it is just gorgeous.
|The patterns are painted before the dyeing with bees wax. The wax is removed after the dyeing process to reveal the original background color.|
|an artist happy at her work|
|The initial color, when removed from the dye vat is teal but the fabric turns to classic indigo as it dries in the air. I suggest that you boil the fabric with white vinegar to "set" the color. Do not wash which light colors.|
Now for a bit of a science lesson: In order for indigo to release its dye molecule, and attach itself to fibers and bond, excess oxygen must be removed from the molecule; this particular vat uses the chemical reaction between a mineral alkali and a natural reducing agent to do so (a process called reduction). Based on recipes used in Morocco, India, and Provence, and Northern Vietnam, this vat recipe uses natural agents such as dried and fresh fruits, minerals, and flavonoids (the natural pigments in plants).
|a pot of Indigo dye|
So if you can't make it to SAPA and you want to try this at home, here is a a great recepi that I picked up from www.gardenista.com
DIY Indigo Dye
- 1 part natural indigo in powder form (100 grams of Organic Indigo is $19.50 from Botanical Colors)
- 2 parts calcium hydroxide, also known as pickling lime, cal, calx. (250 grams of Calcium Hydroxide is $7 from Botanical Colors)
- 3 parts fructose crystals (250 grams of Fruit Sugar Fructose Powder is $8 from Botanical Colors)
- 2-quart Mason jar or heat safe container (or larger if you are making a larger vat)
- A non-reactive cooking pot for your vat
- Natural fabric (wool, silk, cotton, etc. work best)
- Rubber bands OR bees wax for your designs.