day of indigo
October 30th was a wonderful day of learning about the many ways to work with indigo at Rebecca Burgess‘s class at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas. We started the day in the yurt classroom with a talk and slideshow describing a number of ways to work with indigo, and then we moved into the greenhouse for the hands-on learning. As Rebecca pointed out, when we grow and use natural indigo, we are returning to the ways that our ancestors dyed fabrics for hundreds of years, instead of depending on the highly toxic petroleum and heavy-metal based blue dyes that have been used for just over 100 years.
Traditional Fermentation Vat
Rebecca talked first about creating a fermented indigo vat, which takes a few weeks to prepare, but can be used indefinitely by adding the ingredients again as needed and allowing the fermentation to continue. In some cultures the indigo vats that were started over 100 years ago are still in use. Rebecca brought two vats that she has been using for several years to the class.
So far I have only worked with fresh leaves to create a vat that only lasts for a day (see my previous post about that), but this recipe uses a ground indigo precipitate, which I look forward to trying. Here’s a good tutorial using the method that Rebecca discussed:
Michel Garcia’s Fruit Vat Method
We also learned about creating an “instant” indigo vat using the ground indigo. The indigo is fed by a syrup made from a fresh fruit that contains flavinoids, such as pears. Rebecca learned this method from Michel Garcia when she visited his studio in France (her post about that visit). This recipe is available in this video of Michel teaching about natural dyes.
We used a number of decorative techniques on our fabrics before immersing them in the vats. Rebecca demonstrated batik and some simple shibori techniques using tongue depressors, stones and rubber bands. (Who knew?) I demonstrated arashi (pole wrapping) and stitched shibori methods that I learned in Ana Lisa Hedstrom’s class during the summer.
Indigo Fabric Paint
Another fun recipe we experimented with is an indigo paint developed by Michel Garcia to use on natural fabrics. This information is also on the Michel Garcia video mentioned above.
Click here to read Rebecca’s post about this class and see additional photos on her blog.
In my next post I will describe seed saving for next year’s crop. And soon I will write about the method we learned for composting indigo leaves to create sukomo, or indigo balls.