Indigo Dye Workshop

Teacher: Meichi
Location: Li-han Studio

In Taiwan, there are few kinds of Indigo used for dyeing. There are 馬藍 (ma-ai) and 木藍 (ki-ai) as most common kinds. 翡藍 is used in Korea and Japan, and it has greenish blue than 馬藍. Meichi is growing 馬藍 (ma-ai) and she makes her own indigo paste out of it. We used 馬藍 (ma-ai) bath from her in this workshop.

This is what she uses to make her indigo bath. Indigo leaves soaking in water for 30 hours. Then take out the water and your indigo paste is ready. For 10-20 kg of indigo paste, she adds 100 L water, 300-500 g sugar (syrup or honey, this is to feed the fermentation process for the indigo) and 200 ml of sake (rice wine, liquor). Depending on the color you can add more sugar (200 gr.). She then adds Supernatant of ash water (from coles, black wood, or NaOH = chemical version of ashes) to keep the bath in high pH. The bath should be pH12 and she adjusts this by adding ash water or sake. Mix this pot every day for 5 minutes for the next 3 to 7 days. Then your indigo vat is ready.

Indigo paste and the ash water

Fold the fabric (cotton, linen, natural fiber fabric) into a square piece and bind it with wooden stick and thread or rubber band. Dip it into Indigo bath for 3 min. Open up each fold in the bath so the indigo liquid goes into the details of the fabric folds.

After the 3 minutes, take out the fabric from Indigo bath and open every fold to air them. When the indigo dye is exposed to air (oxygen) it turns its color from yellow to blue.

Repeat this process for 5 times. In professional dying, they will repeat this for 15 times.

Even though we fold it in the same way and dyed the same amount of time, it all came out differently.

After using the indigo bath before finishing the work, you need to air the bath by mixing it with long wooden stick. we did this for 5min or so, and as Meichi finalizes the mixing process, you can see the “bubble flower” in the middle. The next time you use the bath, you scoop out the bubble with a sieve. You can use this to dye with a brush. In old days, this was used as a blue color by painters.

Here is another version of indigo making:

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