Indigo Dyeing Workshop

I wanted to start my blog with a brilliant finished project, but I don’t have any (which is why the blog was started in the first place). So, here are some pictures of fabric from an indigo dyeing workshop held at the International Quilt Study Center in Nebraska. They had an exhibit of quilts made from indigo fabric and a special workshop where we saw samples and tried dyeing fabric ourselves.

Many of the examples were of shibori, a Japanese method of resist-dyeing (like a very fancy version of tie-dye). Actually, this post will mostly be about shibori instead of indigo. My favorite was the arashi shibori sample. It has the most wonderful feel, because it still has the texture from being folded and tied. Arashi shibori is made by wrapping the cloth on the bias around a pole, and then wrapping with thread and twisting it to create the pattern. As you can see from the sample, they are very precise about it.

Arashi shibori - sample

Arashi shibori – sample

My attempt, obviously, was not as precise. The idea is fairly simple, but it is an exercise in patience. This fabric is some kind of crepe I think, so it feels nice but is very slinky when working on the bias.

Arashi shibori - my attempt

Arashi shibori – my attempt

Another sample involved a sort of butterfly shape, created by folding then stitching the cloth. My attempt at this actually worked better than I expected, although certainly not as clean as the sample.

sample shibori

Folded and stitched sample – butterfly pattern


Butterfly pattern – my attempt

I did dye several other pieces, but I’m not very happy with them. The instructor explained that wetting the fabric would help to get sharper lines from the resists. I did wet all my pieces, but the lines from the resists are still a bit blurry, and the rest of the fabric is actually quite mottled. You have to agitate it gently in the dye, but carefully. You can’t stir up the sediment at the bottom of the vat, or introduce too much air into the vat (indigo is set by oxidation).

You’ll notice as well that my pieces are not very dark. There are a couple reasons for this. It is recommended that you put it in the dye several times to build up the color, which there wasn’t time for during the class. We also shared two vats (one indigo and one woad) among the whole class. Since I spent more time than most fussing with shibori techniques, by the time I got to the vat things were not dyeing as darkly as the first pieces to go in.

On the whole, it was really fun and we learned quite a bit. We got to see some very nice quilts, and lots of indigo fabric samples. I also found an indigo dye kit that I plan to play with a bit. Next time Mom and Lisa and I get together, we’ll give it a try again.


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