As one of the oldest dyes, indigo has a rich history of dyeing textiles and printing among many countries and their tribes all over the world. This characteristic blue colour is a plant-based dye that comes from the Indigofera Tintoria. In Southeast Asia, indigo was already highly valued due to its ability to dye natural fibres with this deep blue colour for centuries.
Obtaining the dyestuff from the Indigofera Tinctoria requires a fermentation process. To extract the pigment from the Indigofera, the fresh harvested plants must be soaked in water for 48 hours. Then limestone powder is added into the fluid and further fermentation will take other seven days to produce the indigo paste which is the main component for indigo dye. Recipes for creating a dye vat vary per region and tribe. Each dye master keeps the recipe secret and passes it to the next generation.
After the dyestuff is ready to be used, the weaving yarns are dipped into the vat for dyeing. When the yarns are removed from the dyebath, the first colour that appears is green. Slowly, the colour turns into blue by oxidation. To produce the unique blue indigo colour, it takes 15-20 times of dipping and oxidation to develop the right shade of blue. Although indigo produces a deep shade of blue, it has the property to only penetrate the colour into the material partly. This ability, creates a fade after wearing that is valued by many people.
To see how Indigo dyeing works, please watch our video here.