In July of 2013 I will be giving another natural dyeing workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. The focus of this workshop will be dyeing with indigo. More information about the workshop can be found on the post “workshops 2013”.
First a little background about indigo!
Indigo is not a plant but rather a substance found in several plants around the world, mostly in tropical regions.
Indigo (also called anil) is insoluble in water and needs to be “reduced” to make it water soluble. When wool or cotton is first removed from the indigo vat it is green and only changes to blue as it meets with oxygen. Here is a photo of yarn in the process of changing from green to blue as it is exposed to the air. Dyeing with indigo is a slow process-but worth every minute of it when you see the wool turn from green to blue and the amazing colors you can obtain-all completely natural.
The indigo I use is from the Isthmus (“El Istmo”) of Oaxaca, which is a tropical region- unlike the Valley of Oaxaca where I live. I travel to the Isthmus by bus to get my indigo. I buy the indigo “processed” but need to ferment it again before dyeing with it at home. (We will be learning how to do this in the workshop in February 2013)
It is believed that Aztec women dyed used indigo on their hair in pre-Columbian times. But indigo was also used in the U.S. One species, indigofera suffruticosa, was cultivated in the southeastern U.S. in the 1700s. And blue jeans were dyed using real indigo until it was replaced by synthetic dyes.
Sadly there is a link between chemical dyes and cancer (see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/opinion/a-cycle-of-contamination-and-cancer-that-wont-end.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1&) and this is why I use only organic dyes.