The Art of natural indigo blue textile dyeing

The Art of natural indigo blue textile dyeing

Indigo, (Indigofera tinctoria) also called true indigo,  Indigo comes from ancient Greek - “from India.” and its  harvesting is a cultural important tradition that takes place in India 3 times each year in which while farming people envisage their work as worship.

The colour is used widiley to represent many Hindu Gods . Kaali and Krishna are often portrayed in the colour blue as it symbolises the colour of the cosmos. In India Indigo is perceived as a Blue Goddess.

There are many great things about the traditional activities of harvesting and dyeing with natural indigo:

The entire process is totally zero waste: the indigo leaves that are sinked to get the dyes are later taken back to the fields for composting while water is used for irrigation that works as a great nitrogen fixer for the soil. 

Indigo was the reason why Mahatma Gandhi lead in 1917 the first non violent Satyagraha movement. He had to face a serious threat because Indian population was loosing identity, farmers and makers loosing their jobs and connection to the land because of British colonisation and industrialisation. Indigo was a big part of India’s identity and its farmers active in the agrarian culture. Ghandi decided to take the “indigo community of farmers and makers” to start his first march for Indian independence. 

The Indigofera plant was for many centuries the only known source to achieve long-lasting blue. It Is the know as the royal colour, its shades can vary from light blue to dark blue.   Now, lets closely look at the process of making natural Indigo colour bricks:

The sustainable way to dye in natural indigo starts with the process of getting leaves from Indigofera in the neighbourhood. The leaves must be picked just before their pink flowers bloom and the plants must be 10 cm high.  After being picked, the leaves are bundled up into bounty of leaves and later gathered together and immersed in a huge tank filled with water, where they allowed to ferment. After the fermentation, the leaves are removed, and the water is drained into another tank where the solution oxidises and sediment settles at the bottom of the tank hat shines with a greenish-blue hue. One of the last process to get indigo cakes is to  "alterate" the water, and it is made kicking the barrel in 4 for 4 hours (this process has now been mostly replaced by a machine). Later the excess water is removed and the powder dried and cut.

Natural indigo use and production drastically declined since the 19th century, with the industrial revolution with the discovery of cheaper and faster alternatives. Few Indigo plants remain and plantations have been replaced with rice. Fortunately there is a small group of artisans from India, Japan and few other places in the world that are not ready to give up on this important part of their culture and are returning to the craft of cultivating Indigo.

Deeply fascinated by this plant properties and the natural nuances that it can give to different textile, our collections are the result of many indigo dyes tries on different materials and with different manual techniques. Some examples are the constellation sarong, developed using a traditional block printing techniques called DABU, dept into natural indigo and embroidered with gold threads:

The Khadi cotton used to dyed our constellation collections cottons and develop pieces like the constellation dress (or the wrap constellation dress or simply the indigo shirt or wrap pants) were yarn dyed in natural indigo :

Khadi constellation dress


Back to blog