Shibori indigo dyeing is a Japanese dye method where fabric is folded, bound, and sewn to create different patterns using the beautifully rich indigo plant-based dye. Inspired by both the history of the process and to learn more about what goes into producing such a vibrant, incredible dye from all natural materials, we called on the experts from Brooklyn indigo dye house BUAISOU (pronounced "boo-i-saw") to have their dyeing experts to walk us through it.
Founded in 2012 by two young Japanese indigo farmers and dyers, Kenta Watanabe and Kakuo Kaji, the Bushwick-based dye lab hosts workshops and classes to educate on their special indigo-dyeing process, where they use a special process of composting indigo leaves and dried indigo flowers with an ancient vat-fermenting method. The result is a 100 percent natural dye that produces an incredibly vivid blue color that's also able to be immediately washed with other white garments without causing any bleeding.
Photos by Emily Johnston
Above, two small bottles filled with indigo seeds. BUAISOU grows its own indigo leaves in Tokushima, Japan, and makes its vats with only organic ingredients: "Sukumo" (composted indigo leaves), wood ash water, calcium hydroxide, and wheat bran. Those four ingredients are mixed and fermented for 10 days to be ready for dyeing. For a novice, you can purchase an indigo dye kit, which you'll need to get started along with:
-white natural fiber fabric or clothing to dye (only natural fibers will accept dye)
-two five-gallon buckets
-rubber gloves and drop cloth
-compass and a pencil
-needle and thread
The dye house uses a vat of homemade wood ash water to mix with the dyeing ingredients. The water is created from pouring boiling water over wood ash and letting it sit overnight and acts as lye in the dyeing process.
Kenta Watanabe prepares fabric for "karamatsu shibori," one of the traditional Japanese tie dye techniques. To get the fabric ready, start by folding it in half and drawing semicircle lines on the edge.
Stitch along each line (You can also bind the fabric with rubber bands!)
After stitching, leave extra the thread about two inches and cut it. Pull each thread and tie a knot to squeeze the fabric.
Take your bound fabric and submerge in clean water, then wring it out tightly.
Now it's time to dye! Above, the "indigo flower" of foam blooms on the surface of BUAISOU's vat of dye.
After being dipped in the vat, fabric first looks yellowish-green. Then (one of the coolest parts!), as oxygen hits it, the fabric changes color to a vibrant blue.
Dip a few times for darker color.
Rinse well, and then take out all the threads: the fabric will stay white and a pattern is created where the stitching was.
Shibori is complete!
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