Fascinating story of Indigo & Fashion vis-à-vis it's India connection. Bonus wash care tips
(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
(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:
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
Indigo dyes are extensively used for dark blue Denim Jeans production
Besides lending beautiful colors to textiles, Indigo is also known to have a sedative and calming effect on the skin. It is used by some Indian tribes to control bleeding. Indigo extracts are considered to have antifungal and antibacterial properties and are effective in the treating atopic dermatitis, coughs, and chest pains.
Real vs Synthetic Indigo
Natural Indigo being plant based is sustainable and non-toxic. The synthetic Indigo, on the other hand, is made from Petrochemical waste and are toxic. The best way to identify between the two is to check the uniformity of color shade. While natural Indigo will have some interesting color variations, the synthetic variant will have uniform color throughout and will be shinier in appearance.
Indigo dyeing has gained renewed popularity as a part of the sustainable fashion movement. The use of natural dyes, including indigo, is seen as an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic dyes, as it reduces the environmental impact of textile production.
Indigo Dyed Outfits Wash & Care
Indigo dyed attires are delicate and require special care to maintain their beauty and longevity. Here are some care instructions for Indigo attires:
Washing: Preferably hand wash your Indigo attire in cold water with a mild detergent. Do not wring the saree or twist it while washing. Dry clean is another option.
Drying: After washing, hang the attire on a clothesline in a shaded area to dry. Avoid direct sunlight as it can cause the Indigo dye to fade.
Ironing: Iron the attire on a low heat setting while it is still slightly damp. Avoid using a high heat setting or ironing directly on the printed or dyed areas of the attire.
Storage: Store your Indigo attire in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Do not hang the saree as it can stretch the fabric. Instead, fold it neatly and store it in a Muslin bag or a Cotton cloth.
Stain Removal: In case of any stains on the attire, do not rub or scrub the fabric. Instead, soak the affected area in cold water and gently dab it with a soft cloth. If the stain persists, go for dry clean
By following these care instructions, you can keep your Indigo wardrobe looking beautiful for years to come.
Indigo & India
Indian fashion has long history in Indigo production and dyeing. For centuries finest Indigo from India was considered as one of the most valuable exports to many countries across the globe. In fact, the British era in 1850-60 is accounted with many rebellions starting in Nadia and Pabna districts in Bengal due to the forceful aggression of British rule on Indian farmers to grow only Indigo in their farms to cater to the global demands for Indigo dye.
This led to a mass movement in India and got support from Press, Media and Bengali intelligentsia and missionaries. Dinabandhu Mitra wrote a play called Nil Darpan that portrays the plight of the Indigo farmers at that time. Indigo rebellion eventually formed one of the milestones towards getting independence from Colonial rule.
“Do you know Indigo is the state flower of Bengal and Indigo tree is called “Tree of Sorrow” to symbolize the sufferings of Indigo peasants at the hands of the Colonial rule?”
In short, Indigo & India has a very deep rooted shared socio-economic history that has seen each other moving hands in hand under the waves of tough times and cultural shifts of India as a nation.
Indigo by The Loom Studio
In our latest summer collection, we have made a conscious effort to bring to you the choicest collection of Indigo Sarees and Kaftans. Our Indigo products are naturally dyed and uniquely crafted by skilled artisans and you cannot afford to miss one. Check out our latest collection of Indigo products to add a dash of Indigo: The Blue Gold to your summer classic wardrobe.
Check out the exquisite Indigo Mulmul Sarees & Kaftans from the Summer collection and much more from The Loom Studio.