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.

 

 

Searching for Cloth in India

I’ve just returned from another Indian journey searching for cloth for Denny Andrews and myself in India. A trip filled with the new and old and surprises on the way Arriving in Delhi after a night flight we spent a couple of days in the hurly burley, travelling around in tuck tucks through streets filled with noise, smells and crowds.

Firstly visiting the regional Government shops including the newly reopened Khadi emporium which is a must for all visitors. It sells everything from handycrafts, clothes, soap, food stuffs and all at fixed prices.   This means you are assured a fair price and no haggling for those who are averse to this. I was on the look out for khadi silk, khadi being the hand spun and hand woven textiles and a legacy of Gandhi. There were coloured Dupion silks and the raw Matka silk though none of the lighter weights I was looking for. Then on to the highly recommended Craft Museum where there are constantly changing exhibits as well as a very interesting permanent display,shop, a very good restaurant. We were able to see a tribal art exhibition and for those who have a vision of the intricate and ornate and familiar Indian crafts would be amazed by the vast and varied tribal imagery from the paintings from Andhra Pradesh which resemble Australian aboriginal paintings in their dotted painting style to the dung grounds with rice paste images from Maheshwar.

Then a 23 hour train journey to Hyderabad.

Revisiting Siripuram the ikat village in Andra Pradesh where Denny Andrews has been buying ikat for many years. Wonderful hospitality and fabrics in a beautiful and traditional village. I have visited this village several times and seen various changes. From the pit hand looms to more power looms and an apparent  reduction in weaving. Bedspreads are still the main production here and dress fabric which Denny has always loved for her dresses and kaftans is deminishing. The weavers are getting older as their children move away and seek out work in the cities

Then on to a village which weaves silk ikat. We arrive at twilight and are seduced by the glowing colours. IMG_8502

Beautiful blues with Japanese indigo

I’ve spent a weekend immersed in Japanese indigo dyeing. Picking and stripping leaves, fresh dyeing silk wool, hemp silk in a cold bath and then using the used pulp and dye bath to make a more conventional vat for wool. I’ve updated the page on growing and dyeing with Japanese indigo with new instructions and pictures so please have a look.

So many colours from sky blue wool, turquoise silk, jade green and a soft muted blue on wool gauze. I have also bundled some leaves in silk and hemp silk and waiting for the indigo to be released. I had such a lovely result last year and I hoping for a repeat performance.

This is such a great dye plant and for those of you who I gave a plant this year. Hold back from harvesting. Let your plant flower which should be very soon and set seed and you too should have a good harvest from more plants next year.

I plan to run a weekend indigo workshop next year around the middle of August in time for the first harvest. The plan is to harvest my indigo and make different baths using fresh indigo and  perhaps, some different fermentation vats. Let me know if you are interested

More Blues

I’m busy getting ready for the first of the two three day mud resist workshop this weekend and so I’ve had to put my work on hold for a few days. Cotton is being scoured, menus planned, blocks oiled,  dabu ingredients are ready for mixing.

I’m looking forward to this weekend as there will be a couple of familiar faces from previous workshops as well as a few new ones. Though there is a good number for the August bank holiday The September course on the 6th, 7th and 8th still has spaces left, and so please get in touch if you are tempted.

Dan has been busy experimenting with bread recipes, as well as making some new printing blocks which look really promising. We are so lucky to live between Coleshill Organics where we buy the fruit and vegetables we don’t grow and Factory Furniture who very kindly give me offcuts of wood for blocks.

 

Singing the Blues

We are actually having a summer it seems.

The weather was kind again this weekend. The sun shone down on us all, while we folded, tied, clamped, wrapped and stitched fabrics for the indigo vat.

Dan played music, made focaccia and kept us supplied with lemon verbena, tea, coffee and cool home made elderflower. Loved the Richard Hawley and Ry Coode and Taj Mahal

 Fresh stock solution to sharpen last weekends vat. I  find better results when the vat is kept just on the tipping point and a dark green rather than clear yellow green colour which doesn’t seem to build such a deep colour.

Here are some of the pieces of blue that were made by the group.

Inspired, I got down to some blues of my own working over the top of some less than successful samples

You never tire of the blue alchemy.

Even my spattered toenails got the blue treatment thanks to my friend Billyblue nails

Next I will be dyeing with fresh Japanese indigo leaves

Mud Glorious Mud

It’s been a while, and much has been happening in the Stable Yard. I had a most enjoyable time last weekend with lots of indigo, dabu mud resist and five lovely women who ventured from as far away as Cornwall and Monmouthshire.

I love the way that everybody had access to the same blocks, though made very different pieces. Sadly, many of them went away unwashed. Thank you for your enthusiasm and here’s hoping for some pictures of the finished pieces to share.

I think I will let the pictures speak for themselvesdabuMaking dabu

mud printing studioPrinting with blocks

Janet's resist dryingMud resist drying

mud resist and indigo lineFirst dips in indigo

Busy

Busy, busy, busy!

Dan's focacciasDan’s focaccia for lunch

double dabuSecond print and more indigo

drying Indian styleDrying Indian style

Jennie's tableclothJennie’s deep indigo tablecloth

indigo iron and mudBefore washing

indigo and ironIndigo, Iron and a bit of imagination.

Saturday it will be a day of shibori and indigo. Really looking forward to it.

Bundles and Books

 

I’ve just spent a warm, sunny weekend, in good company, teaching and experimenting with various papers, plants and potions.

The first day of the workshop involved folding stitching and bundling various papers and fabrics with vegetation from the kitchen and garden. The bundles were then simmered  and most left to steep overnight. Other papers were prepared for the following day.

The results were some colourful pages and some lovely strong prints from leaves and flowers. We all made discoveries and gained inspiration for future work.

On the second day papers were steamed and more prints revealed. Dan kept us supplied with lots of refreshments and provided a feast of home made focacia breads to go with our lunch of soup, hummus, harissa and salad.

After lunch paper pages and pockets were stitched together to make books.

 

 

At the end of a lovely weekend, everybody went away with their individual books and pieces of silk and cotton.  I think a good weekend was had by all.