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Art of Indigo Dye

Mei Vintage

Posted on May 12 2015

April was the perfect month to take a trip  back to my motherland, Taiwan. It was low tourist season so it wasn't so crowded. The weather was in its  low 70s and a lot of my favorite tropical fruits like pineapple, star fruit, guava, dragon fruit, and papaya were all in its peak season! This trip took a bit of planning and I had a list of  things I must do and see while I'm there. One of the items on my list was to learn about the ancient art of indigo dying. I've heard about the indigo dying center through my mom's friend. This place was a hidden gem tucked away in a small historic town called Sanxia. It's a charming little town with small streets filled with shops selling nostalgic souvenirs, beautiful handcrafted ceramics and signature treats.


Sanxia was well known for its history as a dying center.  I spent a day there learning and testing natural tie dye techniques, which reflects the tradition of using indigo. To create the beautiful indigo blue dye, they extract  the color from local plant called goldfussia formosanus.

Sanxia dye center-1

In order for the indigo to release its dye molecule and attach itself to fibers and bond, excess oxygen must be removed from the molecule; this particular vat you see below used the chemical reaction between a mineral alkali and a natural reducing agent to do so (a process called reduction). The color inside the vat is more of a teal green than blue  and gives off a strong odor. The vat can be reused. However, every so often the vat needs to be rebalanced.

indigo vatTo get the deep shade of indigo, I had to squeeze out all of the water and dip the fabric and expose it to sunlight and air. Repeat this step process several times until the fabric turns deep blue. Let the pieces dry overnight before unwrapping the pieces. Below are some finish pieces using binding techniques (using pieces of wood and rubber bands) and pole wrapping techniques (scrunching and tightening all fabric). There are so many ways to experiment using these techniques and they are all unique and beautiful!
Indigo dye final pieces
I found few popular blogs from Design Spongefreepeople Blog, and Elle Fashion that have easy to follow instructions so you can experiment your own indigo dye project at the comfort of your own home, including easy Indigo Dye Kit you can purchase online. Enjoy and have fun! Have you tried indigo dyeing? If so,  please comment below and share some of your finished creation!



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