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upcycling with indigo

Posted on Aug 4, 2011 by in indigo, natural dyes |

Sept. 2106 addendum: The post below describes one of my early experiments dyeing with natural indigo powder, but I used a synthetic reduction agent called Thiourea dioxide. Preferring not to use any chemicals, I am presently experimenting with a few different natural vats, based on information from Michel Garcia, via Maiwa. Recipes here.


My Japanese indigo crop has been flourishing this year, and I am looking forward to a second harvest soon. I have been using my homegrown dye primarily for yarn, but I have a lot of other needs for indigo, so I decided to start a vat using powdered natural indigo that I bought at Dharma Trading Company (dharmatrading.com).

Part of this year’s first harvest of Japanese indigo on July 9th

The main project for my powdered indigo vat is to “upcycle” finds from thrift stores. A pair of yellow denim pants is now a lovely blue, a chartreuse cashmere sweater has become a beautiful dark indigo, a yellow silk blouse has turned to shades of aqua.

Thrift store finds that were once yellow or chartreuse, and have been transformed by a dip or two in the indigo vat.

I also had fun with some shibori, and look forward to further experiments with that. The scarf below took less than a half hour to create, from wrapping the fabric around a pole with string, to dipping it twice in the indigo vat.

Arashi shibori creates a watery design on this indigo-dyed silk scarf

My powdered indigo vat is still going strong, but I am looking forward to harvesting more of my own indigo next week. I will be picking up some yarn from a friend who raises sheep and dyeing it with my Japanese indigo. More about that soon.