Inside Indigo: After Workshop at NYC's Textile Arts Center

Photos by Sophia N. Ahmad

 

The Colorist turned 1 this month!  My first post went up in October 2015. If you've been here since the beginning, thank you. If you're just joining me, also thank you. I'm happy to have you!

To celebrate one year, I treated myself to a workshop on indigo dyeing at Manhattan's Textile Arts Center. I had no prior experience with hand dyeing, not even tie-dyeing in my backyard as a kid, so I really enjoyed this process.

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Ready to make our vat of dye. The indigo leaves a bluish patina on all the mixing spoons and measuring cups, which I find so pretty.

The ingredients needed for our recipe: organic indigo powder, fructose crystals and pickling lime. To make indigo soluble in water, it requires antioxidation and alkalinity. The fructose removes the oxygen, and the pickling lime serves as the alkaline agent. This is known as Michel Garcia's 1-2-3 method. You can learn more about it here

indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center

We were each given strips of silk and cotton muslin (both bleached and unbleached). Once the dye was ready, we dipped each strip in water, then into the vat. Inside the vat, we gently rubbed the fabric, allowing it to accept the dye. 

We observed the effect of the dye on each fabric and the impact of each individual dip.

indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center

Indigo appears lighter after drying. Here are my swatches, a mix of cotton and silk, after I dried and ironed them. The lighter ones were dipped once or twice. The darker ones I dipped up to five or six times. 

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Then, we moved on to shibori, an ancient Japanese dyeing technique. Here are a few samples our instructor shared with us. Each sample notes the type of dye used and number of dips, for the dyer's reference. These are much more exacting than the notes I took, but I would definitely do this for a bigger project. 

indigo-textile-arts-center

In shibori, various blocks, plates and clamps are used to manipulate the fabric and create patterns.

indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center
indigo-textile-arts-center

For the left, I placed a few marbles and buttons on silk, tying each one tightly with a rubber band. On the right, I folded the silk a few times into a rectangle, sandwiched it between two square discs, and secured it with two clamps. 

I didn't overthink my shibori--I was more curious to see what would happen. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. 

indigo-textile-arts-center

Of all the swatches, my favorites are the silks. Indigo just takes to silk beautifully.

Thanks to Textile Arts Center and my instructor, Clare Frost, who really knows her stuff. TAC offers classes that honor handmade techniques, like weaving, block printing and fabric marbling. Next on my list is Natural Dyeing 101, which teaches you how to extract color from natural materials.

Go here to learn more: textileartscenter.com