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Did You Know Where Your Indigo Dyed Outfit Comes From?

Fascinating story of Indigo & Fashion vis-à-vis it's India connection. Bonus wash care tips

Indigo by The Loom Studio

(Image: The Loom Studio)

Indigo dyed outfits are a timeless classic in the world of Indian textiles. The delicate fabric, intricate designs, and mesmerizing shades of indigo make it an all-time favorite among women of all ages. These outfits are made from the finest quality cotton and are lightweight, airy, and comfortable to wear, making them perfect for Summer season.

Indigo is a natural dye that has been used for centuries in India. It is extracted from the leaves of the indigo plant and has a rich, deep blue color that is highly coveted in the world of textiles. Indigo dyeing is a time-consuming process that requires skill and precision. The cotton fabric is first washed and prepared, which helps the dye to adhere to the fabric. Then, it is dipped into a vat of indigo dye multiple times until the desired shade is achieved.

Do you know Indigo dye is insoluble in water in its natural form and so it does not stick to the fabric unless treated under lukewarm conditions? The dye molecules are big due to which the penetration into the fiber is less.

Cotton is one of the most preferred materials for Indigo dyeing due to its sheer nature and ability for Indigo dye intake. One of the unique features of Cotton dyed Indigo is the way the color develops over time. Natural indigo dye becomes more vibrant with each wash, giving the saree a beautiful patina that is unique to each piece. Additionally, Indigo dyeing is also widely popular in Silk and other natural fibers.

The Indigo Dyeing process

Stage 1: Dye Preparation:

  • Fresh Indigo leaves are fermented and left to sit with an enzyme called Indimuslin into a tank for several hours

  • The resulting liquid is stirred to allow aeration of the dye

  • The upper layer of the liquid is removed and the dye pigments are left behind as a sludge

  • The sludge is heated rapidly to avoid further fermentation. The leftover dried paste is the Indigo, but not the Indigo dye yet!

Next step is preparation of Fermentation Indigo Vat

Vat dyeing

(Indigo VAT dye process; Image: Sourced)

Preparation of Fermentation Indigo Vat:

  • Boiling water is taken in a container and soda ash is added to it. This is followed by cooling down the liquid by adding cold water to bring it down to room temperature.

  • Next Indigo paste is added without much movement of the paste into the treated water followed by measuring the pH of the solution (should be between 9 and 10)

  • Meanwhile the dyeing Vat is prepared and kept warm for use by covering with a lid. Once ready, Indigo solution is put into the Vat and temperature is maintained around 45 degrees and stirred carefully after every 30 minutes for couple of hours. The solution is protected from air while it is processed.

  • At the end, the color turns yellowish green with brownish bubbles on the surface of the liquid. The Indigo dye is ready now!

Do you know Indigo dye does not need a mordant for color fastness. It has a great affinity for natural fibers like Cotton, Silk & Wool

The Dyeing Process:

Indigo dyeing

Meanwhile the yarn or fabric for dyeing is made ready for the process by prior washing followed by laying flat for drying. This improves dye absorption

As soon as the dye is ready in the Vat, the yarn or fabric is dipped in the Vat. The number of dips depend on the intensity of end color desired.

Once the dyed fabric is hanged to dry, the blue color of the Indigo starts to intensify magically!

Voila, your Indigo fabric is ready for the beautiful creations!

(Indigo VAT dye process; Image: Sourced)

Do you know the technique of natural Indigo dyeing that exists today is pretty much the same as it was followed around 2000 B.C., when Indigo dyeing started

Some interesting facts about Indigo dyeing

  • Indigo dyeing is an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years. It originated in the Indus Valley civilization (present-day Pakistan and India) around 2000 B.C. and spread to various parts of the world.

  • Indigo dye is derived from the leaves of the indigo plant, scientifically known as Indigofera tinctoria. The plant contains a chemical compound called Indican, which is converted into indigo dye through a fermentation process.

  • In Japanese culture it was believed Indigo keeps insects, snakes & evil spirits away

  • The dyeing properties of Indigo make it a great ingredient for Shibori & Batik techniques