That blue

Well after many years of liking indigo dyed cloth from many cultures in a vague unfocussed sort of way, I recently realised I like it very much, that it definitely spoke to me, but that I know absolutely nothing about it. This, to me, is a wonderful situation to be in.

For several years now I have painted and printed my fabric, usually calico, with acrylic paints. When I first started with textiles this was an accessible way to produce your own fabric and I do like the abstract expressionist look you can achieve, so I won’t be giving it up. I’ve never dyed fabric, but students in my classes often bring  glorious fabric dyed during other workshops. Indigo is special in that not only does it produce the most glorious range of blues it also goes with every other colour so well, a quality exploited daily by millions of jean wearing humans. So I have some ideas brewing for mixed pieces, as it is such an inclusive colour.

So I was reading the latest issue of Embroidery, found myself absorbed in the book reviews, spotted the Jenny Balfour-Paul book Indigo, and managed to resist buying it for about two days. But it’s that time of year when to offset the niggling inadequacies of life you need something to revitalise and invigorate yourself, so I bought it, and also one or two other books also reviewed in that dangerous magazine. They haven’t arrived yet, I’m not sure why, perhaps they’re being printed by hand, in a sort of Kindle backlash.

The Indigo book is published by the British Museum, and it is excellent, not a how-to book, but a book that covers all aspects of the subject of indigo, with many illustrations. So as soon as I can, when I have read up more on how to do it, the old indigo vat will be established somewhere in the Redfern encampment, and undoubtedly many strange blue rags will be hung on the line, and once again the neighbours will be bemused by the state of our washing.

12 thoughts on “That blue

  1. You have captured that January feeling so well – “It’s that time of year when to offset the niggling inadequacies of life you need something to revitalise and invigorate yourself”. I feel a treat coming on ……

  2. I’m glad you agree Linda. Being frugal is generally good but there are times when a little of something new and different moves your work on and keeps life jollier. Steph.

  3. Feeling so down and ill I have been bashing the retail therapy as well Steph, not the British museum but YOU. I have bought the little Li book and a drawing book and some threads
    This morning 3 enormous parcels arrived and I was for a second completely concerned that in my stupur I had ordered a million pounds worth of stuff, looking very gone out the delivery chaps, no doubt stunned by my funky boot slippers and tiger dressing gown, shattered my fear with the parcels were for my son (who does not live here) weird
    Have not read the books yet, waiting until my head will absorb something
    Love your blog

    1. Hi Shelagh,
      Sorry you are still dodgy, hope there’s some improvement soon. I’m liking the sound of tiger dressing gown, I want one now. The Li book is very short at least, so not too much effort required. Keep at it Sx

  4. Steph, I have a great dvd about indigo and the artisans who use it. JBP is in it and it made me buy the book a few years ago. It’s a weighty tome which she’s just updated I believe but you will find it fascinating. Ironically a friend and I are going to experiment in the next week or so with a new indigo vat process using fructose and builder’s lime developed by a chap called Michel Garcia.Apparently it gives a softer blue than the traditonal vat but I’ll let you know!

    1. Hi Lesley,
      I’ll check your blog for progress with the indigo vat, so don’t forget to post some images. Good luck with it.The cd sounds interesting too, I’ll check it out.

  5. Sounds like an interesting project. I love batik and indigo ( if you ever want to borrow my batik wax pot..) And I’m glad I’m not alone in the ‘buy a book, feel better’ school of good health!

    1. I think you should sell that phrase to Amazon Claire, before someone else does. A good book, a walk, a little tipple, a soupcon of cake, responding to people who are kind enough to remark on your blog posts, well, these things need to be in our armoury of little experiences to go towards building as positive a life as possible.
      I feel a need to make a longer list now, like ReasonsTo Be Cheerful by Ian Dury.

  6. Oooooh Stephers ….. dangerously distracting side-line coming up!! – enjoy the vat … can I come and have a play in it one day? xx

    1. Too right Hils, that vat is ever on my mind. I haven’t bought the ingredients yet though. You are so welcome to come and play in it, but have you seen how blue it can dye a person? We could rampage around Birmingham like Boudiccas. No, I haven’t had the tipple yet, honestly. Sxx

  7. Will wait in anticipation to see your indigo dye adventures! I’ve had some indigo powder for a while (thought customs might take it off me but it got through!) but have not dared use it – the process always seems so complicated having to ferment the dye bath and prevent it from oxidising etc I’ll pluck up courage one day!

    1. Complete and utter faff. Dylon Indigo blue produces almost the same results, except if you want to over dye again and again.
      Its the shibori or tritik (tye-dye) that produces the wonderful effects
      Oh and make sure that you choose a lovely base cloth, el cheapo cotton is such a shame
      I still have lots of pieces left, that are too scrummy to use lol

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