Sir Isaac Newton was the first theorist to define the color Indigo as one of the deepest blues, and it has long been considered one of the most favorable blue dyes to work with because of many of its natural properties. His color circle which included Indigo was the basis for the color charts that followed.
A book that I have enjoyed reading through this summer is America’s Indigo Blues: Resist-printed and Dyed Textiles of the Eighteenth Century by Florence Pettit. Resist printing is a technique that has been used by many cultures for centuries. A method is used so that the color is resisted on many parts of the fabric. The most common way to do this is with a wax pattern. Nowadays the wax is applied to a cloth to make a stencil and then is dipped into an indigo dye for about an hour, but in many old cultures the fabrics were left to sit for a few days. The reason that this was done with indigo dye is it is the only dye that when submerged into cold water would not heavily run. Once the wax would chip away the printing was complete. Often little veins of color would run, this is how you can tell an original from a reprint. This beautiful Indigo resist print was probably made in 1870 in Europe.
Indigo Batik is one of the oldest forms of resist printing with wax. I love this pattern printed on cotton.
Ikat is another form of resist printing and the reproduction fabrics have become quite popular as the threads are dyed and then woven.
There are many regions in Japan that are famous for their indigo resist prints and kasuri fabrics.
Kasuri fabrics are Japanese Ikat’s. Donghia has recreated these in 100% cotton.
William Morris became interested in designing printed textiles in the 1870’s. Susan Bosence’s book Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing says, “His loathing of those accursed ‘Prussian blues’ led him (Morris) to more tireless research into woal and indigo dyeing. He and his dyers built an indigo vat 9 ft. deep, holding 1,000 gal, requiring five dyers to operate it, and ‘very pretty it was to see the silk, coming green out of the vat and gradually turning blue’. His own talent, his own reading and research, his own experiments in design and dyeing – the continuity from the first to last – were the essential ingredients for the excellence of Morris’s work”. His 1883 pattern “Rose and Thistle” was made an evolved form of resist printing called Indigo Discharge. This is where the bleaching agent was block printed on to the fabric to lighten the background.
Do you love these fabrics as well?
Indigo Fabrics, Indigo Girls, Mood Indigo– I like it all.
Photo Credits: Colourlovers.blogspot.com (1,2) courtesy of quilt and textile historian Deborah Roberts http://worldofquiltstravel.com (3) ThingsAsian.com (4) F. Schumacher (5) Donghia (6) historicalstyle.com