about indigo tie-dyeing

Indigo dyeing has a very long history, as evidenced by textiles dyed with indigo found among the treasures at the Shosoin treasure house, constructed in the mid-8th century in Nara, Japan's ancient capital. Indigo has been used as a common dye stuff in many parts of the world, used widely in China, Africa, India, and by Native Americans. Today, however, chemical indigo dye has replaced natural indigo, which as a result has become rare and precious. I am deeply attracted by the beauty of cloth dyed with natural indigo, and continue to dye practicing the traditional method. I yearn to see many people come to know the beauty of textiles dyed with indigo, which is also called "Japan Blue." The indigo pigment is contained in both leaves and stalks of the indigo plant, but the pigment for dyeing mostly comes from the leaves.

the process

The first cutting of the plants takes place at the end of July and the second cutting at the end of August. After cutting the plants, the stems with leaves should be spread out to dry in the sun. In September the leaves are picked and piled up as high as 30cm in a special house (kura). They are watered every 5 days to start the decomposing and fermentation process. It takes usually 100 days to complete fermentation. This forms the basis for the indigo dye which is called "sukumo."

Next, the sukumo is placed in a vat that has been dripped through wood ashes and calcium, forming an alkali solution. After a week the surface of the vat becomes blue and is ready for dyeing. In order to help further fermentation, thick cornstarch is added every five days. As it is a living organism, it needs to be stirred every day.

In order to get the deep indigo colour you repeat the following process several times--dyeing material with indigo, exposing it to the air, washing it in water, and dyeing the material with indigo again. After completing the dyeing, it has to be washed thoroughly and soaked in water for an hour or so and dried at room temperature. The most beautiful colour is obtained when you set aside the dyed material in a drawer for a year or so. You can wash the dyed fabric in water using detergent. Never dry it under the sun. [ARIMATSU SHIBORI, edited by BONNIE F. ABIKO]

  • indigo gradation
  • floewrplants (flower)
  • plants the plants
  • plants2after drying
  • sukumo"sukumo"
  • vatthe bat
  • materialdyeing material