Fun Indigo Dyeing Patterns and Techniques
Embrace this versatile hue in your home in an easy-breezy way.
One of my dear high school friends posted on Instagram recently about her college-age daughter’s indigo dyeing experiments using old linen drapes. She reclaimed and refashioned the materials into beautiful bags and totes. With the continued popularity of indigo and the ability to use different patterns, a DIY dyeing project may be just what you need to infuse your home with the earthy, yet classic color.
Indigo fits effortlessly into varyious styles of homes and decor, from traditional to rustic, and even has an array of options for a DIY dyeing project.
“It’s a blue that has a spectrum in it,” says interior designer Lisa Turner, co-owner of Trinity Mercantile and Design Co. “It’s a beautiful color of blue, and when you’re dyeing with it, you can do anything, from a pale, almost-turquoise color to— by dipping it multiple times—you can barely tell it from black.”
Trinity’s recent indigo dyeing workshop showed off the breeziness of this fashionable hue, as pillow covers, scarves and bags were dipped and dried outside the boutique in Decatur, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta.
Indigo doesn’t just work with neutrals like cream and white, but pairs well with orange and lime green, adds interior designer Wallace Bryan, Trinity’s co-owner. Pillows, bedding, tablecloths and even cord-concealing chandelier sleeves can be a striking indigo accent in a room.
“The ranges within the color make it appealing,” Turner says.
An indigo dyeing project also can camouflage stained fabrics and accessories.
“My favorite tablecloth now is my indigo-dyed one, because it’s so cool,” Turner says.
We tried out a binding technique during the DIY workshop, using expertise from Mollie Coffin with Jaipur Living, and learned about other eye-popping patterns to try next time.
At home, Trinity’s designers recommend using a starter kit with enough materials to experiment several times on your own or with friends. You can keep the dye in a vat for up to several weeks while testing out patterns and techniques.
“We all love to produce a product that can be ours,” Bryan says.
Kits typically come with basic supplies, and here’s a sample supply list from the workshop we attended.
- 5 gallon bucket(s)
- 1 gallon bucket(s)
- rubber gloves (a box of rubber hand gloves)
- large kitchen rubber gloves (2 pairs for the people who are doing the dipping)
- string and clothespins to hang and let dry
- plastic gallon bags for taking home
- sharpies to mark the bags
- canvas tarps to protect the ground underneath the dye pots
Suggested materials for binding
(You don’t need all the items, but can choose the ones you have handy.)
- baskets (to separate/organize items like marbles and clips)
- marbles (a mix of big and small)
- rubber bands (a mix of thick and thin, but mostly thick)
- binder clips (a mix of small and large)
- squeezy clamps
- cotton twine
- popsicle sticks (a bag)
- wood blocks (square or rectangle, about the size of your palm, at least 10)
- PVC pipe (1 or 2)
- scissors (2)
- yardstick or ruler (1 or 2)
Using various folding and binding techniques, you can customize indigo creations for one-of-kind pieces. For our indigo pillowcase, we used rubber bands and this pleat-and-bind technique.
“Kumo shibori” technique
Fold the fabric like an accordion.
Pinch and bind into equal sections.
Do the same with the opposite side, in staggered sections.
Pulling the fabric out at seven points creates a specific design.
Continue binding with rubber bands, working your way toward the center.
Keep binding until you can’t go any further.
Add additional rubber bands to make the fabric into a tight bundle.
Covering the fabric or banding it tightly will keep the dye from reaching that part of the case, leaving parts of it white. The more rubber bands you use, the more white you will see. The fewer rubber bands you use, the more indigo you will see.
Place a final rubber band around the center of your project.
The general rule is that more fabric exposed equals more blue. Less fabric exposed equals more white.
This technique uses wood block or popsicle sticks to form the pattern.
“Itajime shibori” technique
Fold fabric like an accordion.
Fold it again in the other direction – again, like an accordion.
Place between two wood blocks or multiple popsicle sticks.
Bind together with string or rubber bands or clamps.
If your graphic preference is circular, try using rubber bands in a different technique.
Bunch a small wad of fabric anywhere on your larger fabric piece.
Tightly wind a rubber band around it.
The areas covered by the rubber bands will create small, abstract rings of white.
Knot all four corners of the fabric individually.
Starbursts (using marbles)
Put a marble under the fabric.
On the top side of the fabric: wrap the fabric around the marble and tightly wind a rubber band at the base.
Repeat with a second, larger sized marble (and rubber band) if you’d like.
Add more marbles in an organic or structured pattern.
Remember that any fabric you leave exposed will turn blue in the finished product.
Once you choose your banding technique, the rest of the process is the same.
After banding, thoroughly soak your project in water to saturate the fabric.
Next, soak your fabric in the indigo dye (use gloves to keep you from turning blue, too).
Once removed from the dye, the fabric may look a little green. The color will become bluer with time. Repeated dips in the dye creates deeper indigo hues.
Then cut off your rubber bands to reveal your design.
Hang your piece up to dry for about an hour. Let it dry completely before placing on furniture or against other fabric.
Our banding technique created a blocky look from the accordian fold at the beginning. Some sections colored more than others, which was OK with us.
Turner says she loves the childlike wonder when doing a dyeing project.
“You’re tying and binding this piece of fabric and you’re imagining how it might look,” she says. “When it finally gets finished and you get to untie it, it’s exciting. There’s no ugly indigo dyeing. It may not look like you thought it would, but nobody’s looks bad.”