Indigo dye or indigo blue is considered the oldest textile dye in the world. It is a unique dark blue colour with greenish hues. The traditional art of creating this dye has been passed down through generations and is still in use. It is almost magical to see the green leaves of Indigofera give this brilliant indigo colour after fermentation. Indigo dye is a natural derivative and is an environmentally friendly alternative to the chemical substances used these days. Indigo dyed fabric has its own unique texture and appearance. The process of making indigo-dyed fabric involves handwork and this makes each piece unique and special. The material will be lightweight and has the raw element of nature in it. The unique charm of indigo dyed fabric would be very difficult for anyone to imitate and it has an everlasting charm. Making this unique blue dye is actually a lot more difficult than most people imagine but the end-result is worth the extra effort exerted to obtain it.
If you are not familiar with what indigo tie-dye is, do not despair. As you read through this article, you will learn enough to understand what natural tie-dye is. The process of tie-dye, as well as the charm of indigo blue, will fascinate you in a way that you will surely want to use in different ways like for decorative purposes in your house.
So what is the indigo dyed fabric?
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The fabric which is dyed using natural indigo dye is called indigo dyed fabric. Indigo dyed fabric comes in different shades of blue starting from the lightest to the darkest blue. It is widely used and available in a lot of different places around the world. The practice of indigo tie-dye is especially popular in Asian countries like India, Japan, China, Laos, Thailand and Korea.
This is because the practice of indigo plant cultivation has been carried out in these places for generations and they are experts in indigo dyeing. In Thailand, indigo-dyed fabrics can be abundantly found in the northeast region of Isan. In the Sakon Nakon province, indigo dye is used for dyeing cotton threads and these threads are then woven by hands to create indigo-dyed fabrics. Sometimes, MudMee silk is woven into the desired pattern before it is dyed.
Handwoven MudMee cloth is usually dyed in a shade of indigo that is unique to the local region. You can tell where the fabric was woven and dyed from the shade of blue. In recent years, new techniques have been mixed with the older practices to get more contemporary patterns or colours on the fabric. For instance, natural tie-dye may be mixed with the Batik wax dyeing technique.
The beginning of the indigo dyed fabric
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A lack of clear evidence prevents us from discovering when indigo-dyed fabric was first used in Thailand. However, one of the earliest users can be traced back to the Phu Tai tribe who produced the dye and used it on fabric. The locals of the Sakon Nakon province were the first to rekindle interest in this old practice of indigo dyeing and weaving. They developed a good standard that allowed them to bring their indigo-dyed fabric products from local markets to bigger markets where consumers are more environmentally conscious.
A lot of people have started paying attention to the impact of their choices on the environment and this is why there is a bigger market for products like indigo-dyed fabric which does not involve the use of any chemicals.
The practice of indigo dyeing in Ban Khok Phu, Phuphan District at Sakon Nakon province has been inherited from ancestors who had migrated to that region in search of a suitable place for cultivation. This is how various tribes like Tai Nyaw (ไทญ้อ), Tai Yo (ไทโย้ย), Phu Tai(ภูไท), Tai Kalerng (ไทกะเลิง), Tai So (ไทโซ่) , Tai Kah (ไทข่า) and Tai Lao (ไทลาว) settled down there. In the Esan or upper northeastern region, the locals have a cultural practice of wearing clothes that are mainly blue or black. Blue or black is used as a base for the fabrics and only the details differ for the clothing of each tribe. The fabrics are tied to get certain patterns after dyeing and this is called indigo dyeing.
Source of indigo dye
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Khraam (คราม) or Indigofera tinctoria is a pumice tree from which indigo dye is obtained. Chinese indigo or Persicaria tinctoria and Isatis tinctoria or woad are two other sources of this dye. Khraam is also called true indigo and was one of the first sources of indigo dye. This tree grows well under full sunlight and does not like too much water. This is why it should be planted around the end of April. It is trimmed once a week so the plant gets a lot of sunlight exposure and this deepens the indigo dye obtained from its leaves.
Once the plant is about 4 months old, the leaves turn a dark green colour and pods are created. The tree can be pruned and used in making the dye around October. In the morning, you will notice some blue drops below the tree and this shows that the plant can be used for indigo dye now. The branches as well as the leaves of the plant can be cut early in the morning to get the richest hue of indigo. The leaves wither due to loss of water as the day passes and the natural chemicals of the indigo leaves will be dysfunctional when they are submerged in water. This will prevent the dye from dissolving in water and this affects the colour obtained from the plant.
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Tie-dyeing is an old practice of colouring fabric. The fabric is tied or clipped in places where the dye-r does not want the fabric to be dyed. For this, they use materials like rope, coins, plastic bags, straw, twigs or hemp rope. These are used to block the colour. They used methods like twining, winding, folding, sewing and crimping for producing different patterns while dyeing the fabric. Natural tie-dye involves the use of different design strategies and techniques to create patterns on fabrics.
The art of tie-dye has been passed down for a long time in countries like Thailand, India and Japan. In Central Asia, it is collectively known as “Plangi”. In India, it is called “Phantana (พันธนะ)”, which means to tie or tie. In Japan, it is called “Shibori”, which means a tie or knot.
“Plangi” is a tie-dye method that is used in handicrafts similar to the practice of Batik or Mudmee. The word originates from Malay and means multicoloured or polka dots on a coloured background. It involves tying, biding or sewing small dots on woven fabric with thread and then dyed in the desired colour. This then results in small circles of white or in the base colour of the fabric. This method is popular for making natural patterns like leaves and flowers while tie-dyeing fabric.
In Japan, the tie-dye method is called “Shibori” which means to tie or knot. Usually, silk or cotton is dyed with indigo dye. It involves various steps like tying, stitchin, rolling and folding before the cloth is dyed. The parts of the cloth that are tied will stay whiite and the rest turns indigo blue. The tiny dot pattern called “Kanoko Shibori” is one of the most popular tie-dye patterns in Japan. The fabric is bound with threads to obtain this pattern. The end of every small circle is left untied and this results in a small circle in the middle of the ring which is formed by tying. The method of binding as well as the number of rounds tied will determine how small or big the circle will be. Sewing and folding are also used for creating other patterns while using the shibori technique. The process is very neat and delicate. Embroidery techniques are often used for making the fabrics even more beautiful.
The charm of indigo tie-dyed fabric
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Indigo tie-dyed fabric has its own unique and distinctive appearance. This kind of fabric also has other special features that differentiate it, such as the light natural scent of indigo. The fabric is soft and comfortable and this makes it suitable for wear in all kinds of weather. In warm weather, this fabric is airy and keeps you cool. When the weather is cold, it keeps you warm. The smell of the indigo dye is also a natural repellant for mosquitos and this protects the wearer especially in tropical areas prone to mosquito bites. Another special feature of the indigo dyed fabric is that it has properties that protect the wearer from UV radiation.
Using indigo dye fabric for decor
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A lot of people are familiar with indigo-dyed clothes. However, not many know that indigo dyed fabric is also a great option for decorating your home. For instance, you can use the fabric for bedding like for your blanket, pillow or bed linen. Indigo is a cool tone colour and adds a sense of comfort to any room. Indigo dyed bedding will help you achieve more relaxed and undisturbed sleep. If you want to add a pop of colour to your living room, the sofa set can be upholstered in indigo fabric as well. It adds a sense of quirkiness and unique touch to the decor. Indigo dye fabric will make the sofa set look natural and raw but also relaxing. It looks inviting and lived-in without being too neat.
If you don’t want to make very big changes in your space, the indigo fabric can be used in smaller, more subtle ways. For instance, the indigo dyed fabric can be used as a table runner on your dining table. You can also use an apron made of this fabric. Using indigo tie-dye fabric in the dining area creates an atmosphere of dining by the sea and makes your meals more appetizing.
Credit : Beyond