Searching for Natural Indigo in India

The next day and a visit to Dastka Andhra, a project supporting and promoting hand weaving in Andhra Pradesh. We bought some samples of natural dyed fabrics and I purchased some handwoven kora (natural coloured) dupattas (shawls) for workshops next year. They will be good for both the mud resist and shibori.

Dastka samples

Dastka samples

Though hand weaving is their priority they are promoting the use of natural dyes including indigo.  Most of the indigo you come across in India is synthetic though presented as natural. Dastkar’s indigo fabrics are yarn dyed in fermented vats by a master dyer who is 90 and still working. Unfortunately, though he has taught over 300 people, there is no one to take over from him which is very sad.

I was lucky enough to  purchase some of his natural indigo to bring home. A tip I was told to test the quality of your indigo cakes. If you drop it in water they should float.  I can’t wait to experiment with different fermentation vats using this, next year

indigo cakes

Then on to Chennai and monsoon rains where between downpours I managed to buy some hand spun and woven silk before traveling down the coast to Auroville to visit  The Colours of Nature.

The founder of The Colours of Nature, Jesus Ciriza Larraona, went to Kashmir many years ago to produce silk carpets. Disappointed by the polluting dyeing methods he witnessed, he started to collect information from all over India on traditional dyeing techniques.

Eager to put his knowledge into practice he started a Research & Development Unit in Auroville, an international township dedicated to human unity, located in the south of India. The Colours of Nature is one of only few remaining natural dyeing units in the world, who are entirely focused on an environmental friendly, vegetable dyeing process. Their research in natural dyes is ongoing. Their specialisation is developing natural indigo fermentation and his dream is to develop his indigo fermentation on an industrial scale.

As well a his commitment to natural indigo fermentation Jesus has been experimenting with  other natural dyes for twenty years and claims to have a quick and fast alum mordanting process which he is keeping secret for the moment.




3 thoughts on “Searching for Natural Indigo in India

  1. Claudia Raessler

    We operate a commercial dyehouse in Biddeford, Maine. Our focus is currently on protein fibers running three dye programs – synthetic, organic-synthetics (GOTS approved dyestuffs); and botanical. Recently we have been doing a “research project” for a new customer with indigo. We have had some difficulty at the production level achieving a minimal amt. of crocking with the understanding that we are skien dyeing and, to date, have not applied any type of finishing techniques to an end product such as a woven textile. Our dye master is a very experienced individual having trained in England and Pakistan but his background is primarily in large scale production and in denim programs as opposed to the hand knitting or mid-scale woven production. I wondered if I could schedule a call or at least have an e-mail exchange as to our process and some questions that I have regarding how to manage our expectations where the volumes range from 20 # to 400 #s at a time. Please let me know if this is a conversation you would be willing to consider.

    Claudia Raessler

    Saco River Dyehouse
    Strategic Alliances and New Product Development
    Biddeford, Maine


    1. alex madden Post author

      Let me know whether you are using natural or synthetic indigo and the process you are using at present. It sounds as though you may not have scoured your yarn sufficiently and so the indigo isn’t penetrating properly. The alkaline level may also be an issue.


  2. Pingback: Fab India: The #Indigo collection – Geeta's List

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