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Indigo blue - growing, harvesting, processing and marketing indigo dye plants  RSS feed

 
Judith Browning
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I am excited when I hear of larger scale production of natural dyes.
SEA ISLAND INDIGO is doing it.

The dying process in commercial clothing manufacture is extremely toxic, so any small attempt at replacing that is 'progress' to me.

I also hope this trend, that I think that I see, leads to homegrown natural dyes having a more significant place in a homestead income stream.

Does anyone in south carolina know of this farm?

 
John Elliott
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I hadn't heard of it before, but I am not surprised. There are all sorts of little craft enterprises keeping old traditions alive in out of the way places in South Carolina. I know there is a tea plantation (the only one in America! according to them) on Wadmalaw island, a couple islands up from Kiawah.

Do you want me to keep my eye open for Carolina Indigo plants? You may have some success growing it in Arkansas, although to compare Arkansas to South Carolina, the Ozarks are equivalent to "upstate", and the swampy "delta" area along the Mississippi would be the equivalent of the Carolina "Low Country".
 
Judith Browning
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John Elliott wrote:I hadn't heard of it before, but I am not surprised. There are all sorts of little craft enterprises keeping old traditions alive in out of the way places in South Carolina. I know there is a tea plantation (the only one in America! according to them) on Wadmalaw island, a couple islands up from Kiawah.

Do you want me to keep my eye open for Carolina Indigo plants? You may have some success growing it in Arkansas, although to compare Arkansas to South Carolina, the Ozarks are equivalent to "upstate", and the swampy "delta" area along the Mississippi would be the equivalent of the Carolina "Low Country".


Thanks for the offer, John....A few years ago I would have said sure, keep an eye out for seeds but i've tried growing it here...a few different varieties...and we just haven't got the long season that it needs. I am focusing on woad now. It was the blue before indigo many places and actually grows well here. It has high fertilizer requirements but I have found it thrives on a frequent watering from the pee bucket and a bit of ash. I know when large fields of it were grown they say it depleted the soil badly.
If you hear anything more about this farm could you share it here? I think it is outside Charleston.

 
Judith Browning
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more indigo growing in Bloomington Indiana called "IndiGrowingBlue".....
indigrowingblue

very good and detailed instructions they share for growing indigo from seed.......
http://www.indigrowingblue.com/IndigoGrowingGuidelines.html
indigrowingblue.jpg
indigo plants in Indiana
 
Judith Browning
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some more information on indigo and other blue natural dye plants.

http://www.bluecastlefiberarts.com/Indigo-Dye.html

I am looking at this as a possible farm income.
 
Judith Browning
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more of this wonderful dye........at the Chicago Art Insititute, one of my favorite places to visit in Chicago in the sixties.
'In the know: Indigo

Ethel Stein: Master Weaver
ethel-stein-indigo-23-BLOG.jpg
[Thumbnail for ethel-stein-indigo-23-BLOG.jpg]
Ethel Stein. Indigo 23, 1988
 
Judith Browning
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This video is excellent...explaining how to grow and process, including variety choices.
 
Judith Browning
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a short video on Shibori ....one of many traditional ways to use indigo dye....the natural fiber cloth dyed in this video could easily be thrift store finds cut from cotton, silk, linen or rami clothing, curtains, sheets, etc.


more Shibori.....not all indigo dyed, but beautiful examples of what can be done with this simple technique...and a pretty cool sound track
 
Judith Browning
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More information about indigo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigo_dye

...and an excerpt
"A variety of plants have provided indigo throughout history, but most natural indigo was obtained from those in the genus Indigofera, which are native to the tropics. The primary commercial indigo species in Asia was true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria, also known as I. sumatrana). A common alternative used in the relatively colder subtropical locations such as Japan's Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan is Strobilanthes cusia (Japanese: リュウキュウアイ. Chinese: 馬藍/山藍). In Central and South America, the two species grown are I. suffruticosa (añil) and dyer's knotweed (Polygonum tinctorum), although the Indigofera species yield more dye."
 
Judith Browning
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indigo seed from Ricketts Indigo

https://squareup.com/market/rickettsindigo/japanese-indigo-seeds


Japanese Indigo Seeds - 15g (1/2oz)

$18.00 Regular

15g / ½ oz of Polygonum tinctorium (Persicaria tinctoria) seeds.

- Each packet contains approximately 2 tablespoons, estimated at around 6000 seeds.

 
Judith Browning
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...a Tennessee company.....
Stony Creek Colors
Stony Creek Colors facebook




 
Bill Bradbury
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Here in the west, we are being inundated with dyer's woad. They seem to love the worst possible dry, rocky conditions and produce so much seed that they take over hillsides. There is an actual eradication program in place, but no one seems to want to use it. We live in weird times!
 
Judith Browning
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Bill Bradbury wrote:Here in the west, we are being inundated with dyer's woad. They seem to love the worst possible dry, rocky conditions and produce so much seed that they take over hillsides. There is an actual eradication program in place, but no one seems to want to use it. We live in weird times!


I try to grow that very woad and have never had any come back as volunteers.....I had heard that it was a problem some places, but not here evidently.
I love it as a dye and have better luck with it than growing indigo. Our season is short for indigo and I found that the deer love it....where as nothing, not bunnies or deer, eat woad
 
Judith Browning
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...more on dying with indigo

True Indigo Dyeing: The Fermented Vat
the plant hunter
 
Judith Browning
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Dying wood with indigo......beautiful

Aside from contemporary textile applications of aizome being used in current fashion, the signature ‘Japan blue’ can now be found being applied to Japanese cedar for use in interior decoration, flooring, and other household accessories.

http://designmadeinjapan.com/magazine/stunning-application-of-indigo-dye-to-wood-products/


Indigo table top made by Japanese craftsmen Nakagawa Shuji.

 
Judith Browning
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Here is a really excellent article by Deb McClintock.....great pictures and text about how to dry (rather than ferment) and use indigo leaves for dye.
http://debmcclintock.me/2015/09/14/dried-leaf-japanese-indigo-process-take-1/

 
Judith Browning
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"..... she shows how an amazing range rich and subtle blues can be created using indigo dye."
amazon us
amazon uk





"The blue dye indigo has been the world's most important dyestuff for almost 5,000 years. Indigo is the first book to cover in detail, at both the local and international level, all aspects of the subject - historical, agricultural, and botanical; chemical and technological commercial and economic; indigo's various uses in textiles and its many sociological, medicinal, folkloric, and other connotations. "

amazon us
amazon uk


...and an article 'Dying With Indigo' from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

 
Judith Browning
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"Gloriously pieced together, much like the fine garments it portrays, this colorful book takes the reader on an international tour of indigo-colored textiles, presenting a huge swathe of remarkable clothing, people, and fabric. Catherine Legrand has spent more than twenty years traveling and researching the subject, and she has a deep knowledge of the ancient techniques, patterns, and clothing traditions that characterize ethnic textile design."
amazon us
amazon uk


"McKinley's journey in search of beauty and her own history leads her to the West African women who dye, trade, and wear indigo--women who unwittingly teach her that buried deep in the folds of their cloths is all of destiny and the human story."
amazon us
amazon uk


'Indigo: The Indelible Color That Ruled The World' on NPR
 
Judith Browning
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Dyeing with Fresh-Leaf Indigo, Limited Edition by John Marshall



This book is beautiful....ignore the price and check out the art in the link to his site......he is the expert.....
 
Chris Badgett
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WOW! Their website is beautiful: http://www.seaislandindigo.net/

Not positive, but I believe it was built with Square Space.

"Donna Hardy of Sea Island Indigo has single-handedly revitalized commercial indigo production in South Carolina" ... so cool!
 
Niele da Kine
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Well, I dunno about South Carolina being the only place in the United States that grows tea. Maybe they mean "continental" united states?

Indigo is a roadside weed around here. It's also in the cow pastures and ranchers are thrilled to let you remove it from their pastures. They'll let you take as much as you want.

Get a quarter to a half bucket of fresh indigo leaves. (If you put them in net bags, you won't have to pull the leaves out of your yarn later.) Put the leaves and a few teaspoons of baking soda into a five gallon bucket. Fill about half way to maybe two thirds full with water. Let sit over night. Now you're ready to dye some fiber or fabric.

With these instructions it's what you don't see that's amazing. No need for heat. No need for mordant. No need for fixative. It can even be done without the baking soda, but you get better color if you use it.

So, put your yarn or fabric into the swampy looking dye bath. Go have a cuppa coffee or something. Come back and pull the stuff out of the dye bath. Hang it up for a bit. Nice time for that second cup of coffee. Then if it's blue enough, you're done - although you could put a light vinegar rinse on it to neutralize the baking soda if you think it might be of concern. If it's not blue enough, toss it back into the bucket and have a bagel to go with the previous cups of coffee.

Here's some pictures: https://sites.google.com/site/hillsidefarmhawaii/spin-the-bunny/indigophaseiv
indigo dyed yarn
 
Judith Browning
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If you are into indigo production this might be something informative to keep an eye on......

the formation of The International Center for Indigo Culture, Inc.

indigo plants growing
 
Darren Cook
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Getting jealous...indigo is beautiful but I'm sure growing it in my area would be a challenge.

So I googled dyeing with chokecherries/aronia berries, having those aplenty. Found this straight off....gonna have to try it!
https://pollywollydesigns.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/welcome-to-polly-wolly-designs/
 
Judith Browning
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Darren Cook wrote:Getting jealous...indigo is beautiful but I'm sure growing it in my area would be a challenge.

So I googled dyeing with chokecherries/aronia berries, having those aplenty. Found this straight off....gonna have to try it!
https://pollywollydesigns.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/welcome-to-polly-wolly-designs/


I don't know where you are but you might be able to grow it. Indigo needs a long season and most start it in a green house. It sounds as though you can start a lot of plants in a flat and then set out when the weather warms.
 
Judith Browning
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More indigo/blue related stuff
This is a nice story, fiction and informative
As she did in The Giver and later Messenger, in Gathering Blue Lois Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable.



amazon us
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gathering_Blue
 
Niele da Kine
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Has anyone noticed any difference between leaves picked when the indigo is in flower and when it isn't? I've noticed that a richer dye seems to happen when the leaves are harvested when the plant is in flower. Although, this is just observational and not scientific. I may have just put more leaves in the bucket when I'd been picking them while the plants were in flower.
 
Dennis Lanigan
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I'm seeing some bluing on my dried japanese indigo leaves that I've picked two days ago (mid-June). I'm thinking of picking all summer, and then picking the flowering plants too to compare.

By the way, I'm growing japanese indigo outside in the foothills of the coast range/mid-Willamette Valley Oregon if anyone wondered if that could be done.

This is the recipe I'm going to use for my dyepot. https://maiwahandprints.blogspot.ca/2013/08/natural-dyes-indigo-fruit-vat.html
 
Judith Browning
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Rowland Rickettes has japanese indigo seed ready for 2017 https://squareup.com/store/rickettsindigo/item/japanese-indigo-seeds


I posted a link to his info on growing indigo further back in this thread....and here it is again  http://www.indigrowingblue.com/IndigoGrowingGuidelines.html


 
r ranson
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I stayed up late last night to plant my first inidigo seeds.

Indigo plant flowering

I bought these a few years back, but never had the courage to grow them.  Richters' seeds come in foil packs which are great for long term storage and I've had great germination from old seed in unopened packets before.  So fingers crossed!

Couldn't find any instructions at the time except what was on the back of the packet. "start inside 4 to 8 weeks before planting out. sew at twice the seed depth in fine, moist starter soil."  or something like that.  24 little seed plugs, 2 seeds per plug, and a gentle bottom heat (our house is cold).  With luck, something will come up.

Ancient dyeplant known for the clarity and fastness of the blue produced. Leaves contain indican which must be oxidized by fermentation to produce the dye. Fresh herbage (strongest when in flower) is steeped in water for 12-48 hours with frequent stirring. A blue sediment will form which is the dye. Needs long growing season. 


That's what the website says. 

If I remember right, a lot of people in my spinning group who grew indigo had trouble getting enough blue pigment in the leaves.  They say it's due to not having enough sun.  That's interesting because we have a lot more daylight than southern climes where indigo comes from.  I'm wondering if it's heat that's the problem?  We have coolish nights.  If I get enough plants to grow, I'll try planting them in different places, including in the greenhouse with the cotton and the hot peppers. 
 
Daniel Schneider
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For those who are too far North for growing indigo, woad is an excellent alternative. It has the same active ingredients as indigo (in much lower concentrations), but will grow at least as far north as central Sweden.  I spent one summer growing and dyeing with it, so if any are interested, I can answer questions they might have about it.

 
r ranson
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Daniel Schneider wrote:For those who are too far North for growing indigo, woad is an excellent alternative. It has the same active ingredients as indigo (in much lower concentrations), but will grow at least as far north as central Sweden.  I spent one summer growing and dyeing with it, so if any are interested, I can answer questions they might have about it.



I would love to grow woad.  I've gotten woad seeds several times, but they never germinate for me.  Is there a trick to it?
 
r ranson
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This video focuses on the dyeing process.



A video about creating an indigo vat.  She's starting with a "60% reduced indigo"



There seems to be lots of different ways to create an indigo vat.  This is just one way.

I'm not sure I like this one very much as it relies more on chemicals than I expected.  For some reason I thought that indigo vats were made with fermenting. 
 
Judith Browning
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For those who are too far North for growing indigo, woad is an excellent alternative. It has the same active ingredients as indigo (in much lower concentrations)
Daniel, the more information the better, would love to hear more about your experiences with woad.....

I thought I would link to my posts about woad in this thread https://permies.com/t/15888/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants#289532
I could change this title to include other blue dyes also...might be nice to have the blues all in one place

https://permies.com/t/15888/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants#272313 (second year woad rosette before flowering)

https://permies.com/t/15888/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants#274420 (simple dye process with woad)

https://permies.com/t/15888/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants#278439 (pic of flowering woad)

https://permies.com/t/15888/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants#286894 (woad seed)

https://permies.com/t/15888/growing-harvesting-natural-dye-plants#289532 (bowl of woad seed)

 
Judith Browning
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For some reason I thought that indigo vats were made with fermenting. 


I think the most traditional and maybe best color is from a fermented vat both for japanese indigo and woad....

Here is a really excellent article by Deb McClintock.....great pictures and text about how to dry (rather than ferment) and use indigo leaves for dye.
http://debmcclintock.me/2015/09/14/dried-leaf-japanese-indigo-process-take-1/


True Indigo Dyeing: The Fermented Vat
http://theplanthunter.com.au/culture/indigo-dyeing/?fb_action_ids=1093910753956707&fb_action_types=og.shares
 
Judith Browning
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I would love to grow woad.  I've gotten woad seeds several times, but they never germinate for me.  Is there a trick to it?


I think the trick is to have very fresh seed and start the plant in a flat where you can monitor the moisture.  The seeds need to be barely covered...sometimes I just press them into the surface of the soil....and then keep moist, not wet, until germination (a clear cover helps and then remove at germination).   I've never had a problem with volunteers although I should check to be sure with the folks that bought our place last year as that garden had two gone to seed and I didn't bother to harvest...also some yellow senna that they probably won't want 

I found starting them mid to late summer worked best as the plants stayed green all winter and then took off in the spring, blooming by early june I think.  I'm not sure what a colder winter would do, but these survived occasional snow and ice and temperature drops into the single digits.

All that being said...the seed that I brought with me when we moved, two pints, and shared with a few folks is dead...two years old and maybe wasn't well pollinated?  I'll never know.

It looks like Richter's still has woad seed...and Horizon Herbs (now Strictly Medicinals) does not.  I'm ordering some more as I like the plant and the color it produces.
 
Judith Browning
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This thread has me sorting through my seed cupboard, originally to see if I could find my woad seed and give it one more try...along with it I found some weld from Richter's and a sweet little homemade packet of Indigofera Suffruticosa seed from Leila Hamaya...the pkt says the seed is from Kau Hawaii and that it is an upright Indigo.  I guess I'll give it another try...thanks again Leila!  I planted some from this packet a few years ago and the deer ate them before I had a chance to harvest.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigofera_suffruticosa


 
Daniel Schneider
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Well, in terms of growing, the thing to remember is that woad is related to cabbages and kale, so if you plant it like you would those, it should go ok. What we did was to sow them directly in the garden mid-late May, about 5 cm apart, (which we later thinned to about 30cm) in 3 rows  about 50 cm apart. The ground we used had been grass till we made the bed, and as I recall (this was a few years ago), we just peeled off the sod and used a manure fork as you would a broadfork to loosen up the soil without turning it over. We dumped on a couple of bags of cow shit , and a good sprinkling of chicken shit, ad possibly a little lime (we were preparing flax and hemp beds the same day , and I can't remember which we limed and which we didn't), and then just planted the seeds in 3 rows, about 10 m long.  They were part of a school project so for June and July they got only got coarsely weeded once every week or so, but that didn't seem to have done them any major harm. Our term started in Mid August, but our advisor, who'd been the one weeding the plants while we were away, said we probably could have started picking  in mid July. When we harvested, we picked as we would a Kale plant: the plant forms low rosettes of leaves ( theres a good picture of a cluster of woad plants here: https://permies.com/t/15888/a/16061/thumb-woad.jpg
), and you pick the outer ones, once they get bigger than about 10 cm long, and leave the center to keep growing. With the number of plants we had, we were able to harvest 5-7.5 kg of leaves at 2-3 week intervals, from mid-August till the second week of October. We'd had an unusually warm autumn that year, and the first few frosts weren't bad enough to seriously knock back the plants, but we decided to sop picking at that point to make sure they had enough energy to get through the winter. The plants hadn't started growing again by the time the spring term ended, so I didn't do any dyeing the second year, but I'd read that the plant is putting most of its energy into seed production in its second year and there isn't as much of the dyeing chemicals in the leaves then anyway. I harvested some of the seeds when I got back in the autumn that year-there were crazy numbers of seed pods, even though we'd only saved 3 of the best plnts for seed- which I coincidentally just found yesterday while organising our yarn/fabric hoard. Have to do a germination test on them. The closet they were in is about the worst one in the entire house to put seeds: a hot water pipe runs through the wall in the back so it' really warm in there. But, if any of them have survived, I think I'll try growing them again this year, and do some more experiments.

The photos of the actual dyeing experiments are on another computer, so I'll get into those in another post in the next day or so
 
Judith Browning
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Thanks Daniel...I'm looking forward to the next 'installment' on growing woad.   Did you cover the seed at all?  or have some way to keep it moist?  I had trouble with germination if the seed was covered with much soil and/or dried out too much. 

I thought I understood that picking leaves at flowering was best for color.....good to know that first year leaves have more color.
 
Judith Browning
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I ran across a couple links in a dye blog that have some serious data on indigo vats.
I think they are starting with a powdered indigo rather than the plant though.

https://blog.ellistextiles.com/2017/02/19/how-much-indigo-in-the-vat/

https://blog.ellistextiles.com/2017/01/16/indigo-reduction-materials/


 
r ranson
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My woad germinated.  It's a miracle!

I have a handful of seed left so I'll plant the rest of it in the ground when it warms up a bit.

No indigo up yet.

This thread has been a huge inspiration. 
 
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