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PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 7:48 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble... the making of indigo dye


I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop on the making of indigo, at Patricia Cheesman's- from harvesting the plants to the final dyeing of fabric, and thought I'd share her process (as briefly as I can) with the Forum.

One starts with an indigo plantation, and a helpful cat (photo 03). (Notice that these are ‘Kram’ plants and not ‘hom’, which used to grow wild in Thailand. ‘Kram’ survives better in our tropical heat.) The plants are cut, but leaving some of the plant growing for a second harvest next year (photo 07). After two years, one starts again from seed.

The cut plants are then bundled to fit into large garbage cans for soaking (photo 010). Weighted down with large rocks, they are soaked in water overnight, and color begins to come out of the leaves (photo 012). The bundles are removed the next day (photo 013a), and then air-dried (013b) and later burned to create the ash for ash water, which will later be mixed with the dye paste. To get the dye to precipitate out of the water, powdered lime is added to the water (photo 015) and then the mixture is oxygenated by ‘beating’ (017a). The ‘beating’ process will change the color from yellowish green to dark blue (right to left in photo, and final in 018), and the dye will precipitate into a paste. The water is then filtered to retrieve the precipitate (021 & 023).

The dye vat is made by combining ash water (lye)(025) with the dye paste (027a), and even a bit of whiskey, to attain a desired PH level, which is then checked (027b). Dye vats can be used over and over, with the addition each time of a bit more of the paste/lye combination.

When “vat dyeing”, the fabric is first made wet, then carefully immersed in the dye (028a), with darker color requiring more immersions. Our final products dried in the sun, with the supervision of a canine friend (030). Note that some of the pieces have patterns made by tying the fabric before dyeing. Patricia’s book Lao-Tai Textiles has a more detailed description of the process on p.230. I was impressed with how ‘clean’ and ‘green’ (no pun intended) this whole process was; having heard of fermenting dye pots, I expected nasty odors from putrefying organic matter, but was very pleasantly surprised to find it all so aesthetically, as well as ecologically satisfying.


Attachments:
Mail-03-Plantation-helper-1.jpg
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Mail-04-Indigo-plants-1.jpg
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Mail-05-Indigo-plants-&-see.jpg
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Mail-07-Siripan-cutting-ind.jpg
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Mail-010-Bundling-the-indig.jpg
Mail-010-Bundling-the-indig.jpg [ 52.16 KiB | Viewed 6065 times ]

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Susan Stem

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 Post subject: Kinda Blue, part 2
PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 7:53 am 
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Here's the second part


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Mail-012-After-overnite-soa.jpg
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Mail-013a-Removing-soaked-b.jpg
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Mail-013b-Used-bundles-of-i.jpg
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Mail-015-Adding-lime-soluti.jpg
Mail-015-Adding-lime-soluti.jpg [ 46.85 KiB | Viewed 6056 times ]
Mail-017a-'Beating'-(oxygen.jpg
Mail-017a-'Beating'-(oxygen.jpg [ 52.93 KiB | Viewed 6056 times ]

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Susan Stem

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 Post subject: Kinda Blue part 3
PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 8:07 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
...more photos


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Mail-018-'Beaten'-indigo-so.jpg
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Mail-021-Filtering-precipit.jpg
Mail-021-Filtering-precipit.jpg [ 47.27 KiB | Viewed 6048 times ]
Mail-023-Indigo-paste-preci.jpg
Mail-023-Indigo-paste-preci.jpg [ 51.77 KiB | Viewed 6048 times ]
Mail-025-Soaking-ashes-for-.jpg
Mail-025-Soaking-ashes-for-.jpg [ 51.94 KiB | Viewed 6048 times ]
Mail-027a-Adding-paste-&-as.jpg
Mail-027a-Adding-paste-&-as.jpg [ 49.51 KiB | Viewed 6048 times ]

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Susan Stem

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 Post subject: Kinda Blue final photos
PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 8:12 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
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Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
...final photos


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Mail-028a-Susan-immersing-f.jpg
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Mail-030-Dyed-fabrics-dryin.jpg
Mail-030-Dyed-fabrics-dryin.jpg [ 50.08 KiB | Viewed 6042 times ]

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Susan Stem

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:46 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2004 12:27 am
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
Susan,

Thanks for the contribution. I wish I could have attended. Hopefully you can fill me in with even more details when we hopefully meet up in Chiang Mai next month. Thanks again for your plentiful contributions to this forum. They are mightily appreciated.

Bill


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 6:41 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1989
Location: Canterbury, UK
Susan

Very many thanks for the photos and stage by stage description.

See tenth row of thumbnails at http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Galleries/Long_Dong.htm for an indigo dyeing session in Guangxi in 2000 which I also have on video. The more one sees, reads, hears... the more it comes together. There is such a magic in the process of dyeing with indigo! What always amazes me is that the process was ever discovered in the first place!

I agree with Bill that I wish I could have attended the workshop with Patricia as well. Absolutely nothing like actually doing something yourself. Oh, and I like the aprons!

All the best,

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Pamela

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