Indigo & Cotton

More and more things around here fall into my big indigo vat!

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I’ve often written about indigo, so I don’t think anybody doubts my undying love for the blue stuff. I usually dye on wool, but indigo works on all natural fibers, so here’s a bit of indigo dyeing I did on cotton.

I found this cotton blouse at the thrift shop, it’s from Thailand, and I like the neckline and the tufted fabric. But, the sleeves make it look very frumpy on me, plus it’s beige and too small.

Thrifted Thai cotton blouse – beige before indigo.

So the top obviously went into the indigo vat, several times. Even with a good strong vat, cotton comes out just medium blue, whereas dyeing wool in the same vat gives a rather dark blue. And also, I had terrible trouble dyeing an even blue even though my vat is large enough.

My finished top after many indigo dips, with new seams all over, sleeves removed and wedges inserted into the sides. The color is uneven, but this photo does exaggerate the unevenness.

Many dips did not remove the unevenness, so I am beginning to understand why the traditional use of indigo is usually for shibori and other techniques that create patterns. Yes, these patterns are beautiful, but it’s also extremely hard to make just an evenly blue fabric. Even in the modern use of indigo for jeans, the threads are dyed first and woven afterwards, and I don’t think this is any coincidence – if the threads are unevenly dyed, it will not show much after weaving, whereas if you dye the finished fabric, everything shows.

Oh well. I dipped the top until I liked the intensity of blue. I may return to it some other time, maybe I’ll overdye with dark tones from iron and tannin.

When I had the right blue, I redid all the stitches that show with thread of a matching blue color. I removed the sleeves and cut 4 wedges out of the fabric. Then, I ripped the side seams and inserted 2 wedges in each. This gave me a new side seam so I could easily redo the side slits. I’m happy with the result, and the shape is now a lot more flattering on me. No pics of me wearing it, though, I’m not really fit to appear in front of a camera today!

But in conclusion, wedges like these can rescue lots of clothing that has become too small for some reason.

Wedges to make the size larger and form a new side slit.

I had a bit of left over fabric from the Thai top, and that went into another project along with some cotton thread that I used for wrapping a shibori project  (more about that one another time). Because the thread was wrapped tightly, it did not dye uniformly, but that’s OK.

Enter pair of destroyed toddler pants. I’m not sure why an almost 3-year old crawls outside on pavement, what I do know is that it wears through the knees in no time. The crotch was also busted, so I decided to try my hand at some boro – the Japanese mending technique. This is the crotch patched. Not pretty, but very functional:

The simplest boro.

Here’s a progress photo. I’ve finished one knee, which was not worn all the way through, but had just worn very thin. I put a piece of fabric from the Thai top on the back, and seamed perpendicular lines of running stitches – sashiko. The other knee has worn through and has two holes.

Pants during boro mending. The sashiko stitching is closer where the fabric was most worn.

This is what I did with the other knee. Seamed around the edge to stop fraying, then I seamed the fabric onto the back side using circular shapes dictated by the holes. My boro stitching may not conform to very orthodox boro rules (if they exist?), but I do give myself some points for the fact that my boro is true mending, not decoration on purpose-made holes. I foresee more mending like this in my future.

Sashiko stitches around the fixed knee.

Shibori ♥ Indigo

A while ago, I tried the classical combination of indigo and the Japanese technique shibori, for the first – and definitely not last – time. I dyed a handful of cotton t-shirts and shirts from local second-hand shops.

Traditionally, arashi shibori was made by tying fabric around a wooden pole. The patterns thus achieved are reminiscent of waves of a rough sea – “arashi” means storm.

I made my arashi shibori by wrapping the t-shirt around a piece of pvc pipe, folding the t-shirt vertically (1 and 2 below) before wrapping it. Then, I tied cotton string tightly and bundled the fabric towards the centre (3). It should fold as much as possibe, that’s what produces the pattern (4).

arashi_shibori
T-shirt (1) folded (2) tied (3) and done (4).

The direction that the pattern takes obviously comes from the direction of folding before wrapping. Next time, I’ll try diagonal folds. But all in all, the arashi pattern turned out great, here’s a closer look.

arashi-detail
Detail of neatly folded t-shirt.

And a detail from a shirt where I didn’t fold the fabric neatly before wrapping – that actually makes the pattern more interesting.

skjorte_arashi4
Detail of randomly bundled shirt.

Itajime shibori is made by folding and clamping fabric. I tried the very simplest verision, clamping a quadratically folded t-shirt (1 and 2 below) between a couple of wood blocks using rubber bands (3).

itajime_shibori
T-shirt (1) folded (2) clamped (3) and done (4).

This fold gives a pattern that I find simple and attractive (4). And look at the wood blocks after an indigo bath. Maybe my next experiments will be dyeing wood using indigo.

traeblok
The wood for clamping also took indigo blue nicely.

There’s a lot more to try with itajime shibori: other folds, clamping with other shapes instead of simple wood blocks. And there are many other types of shibori: kumo shibori and yanagi shibori to begin with. Many more experiments!