A beautiful and unique scarf to cover up on a light summer’s evening, this simple project is a perfect introduction to the Japanese art of Shibori. Any woolen shawl or scarf can be used to show off the beauty of indigo and the many shades of blue it can produce.
You will need
- Pashmina or fine woolen shawl
- Prepared indigo vat (see below)
- Rubber gloves and apron
- Bowls for soaking and rinsing
- White household vinegar
- Washing detergent
1. Soak the shawl in clean cold water for a couple of hours.
2. Squeeze out all the excess water and then fold the shawl in half and hold it up so that both fringed ends are hanging down—another pair of hands will make this easier! Wearing rubber gloves, dip the shawl into the indigo vat so that both ends are immersed, with the center section of the shawl above the surface.
3. Repeat the dipping process, this time leaving a little more of the shawl above the surface of the dye. Keep dipping in this way, airing the shawl between dips, until the very ends of the shawl are the desired shade. You may need to dip four or five times to get the gradation of color you want.
4. Rinse carefully in several changes of cold water until no excess dye remains. Add white vinegar to the final rinse and then wash with detergent. Allow to dry, then press on the correct setting.
Preparing the indigo vat
You will need
- 1 oz (25 g) indigo powder— this will dye 4 ½ lb (2 kg) of fiber or fabric
- 1 ¼ pt (600 ml) warm water
- Large glass jar with a screw-top lid
- 5 ¼ oz (150 g) soda ash
- Litmus paper (to test pH level)
- Large pan with a lid
1. Place the indigo powder in the glass jar with 3 teaspoons (15 ml) of spectralite and a little of the warm water. Stir well to make a paste, then mix in ½ pt (200 ml) of the warm water.
2. Add the soda ash to the rest of the warm water in a jug and stir well. Add the soda ash solution to the indigo solution a little at a time, using the litmus paper to check the pH level after each addition. Stop adding the soda solution when the desired pH is reached.
NOTE: Spectralite removes the oxygen present in water. Once the oxygen is no longer present, the indigo powder will dissolve. We then add a soda ash solution in small amounts at a time in order to alter the pH level. The soda ash raises the pH: to dye animal fibers like wool or silk we need it to be ph9; for plant fibers such as cotton or linen we need it to be ph11.
3. Cover the jar by placing the lid on loosely, and set it aside in a warm place for the solution to develop (it must be kept warm for this to happen). This will take 30–40 minutes. While this is happening, prepare the large vat by filling a large pan two-thirds full with warm water and adding 1 tsp (5 ml) of spectralite to it. Keep this pan covered and warm.
4. The indigo solution in the jar is ready when you can see both a metallic blue layer on the surface and a yellow liquid beneath. This is due to the dye on the surface of the vat reacting with oxygen in the air; the liquid below remains yellow because it is not in contact with any oxygen.
5. Add the indigo solution to the spectralite solution in the large vat by lowering the jar into the vat; do not pour the indigo solution in, as pouring could cause splashing, which would introduce oxygen into the vat.
6. Leave the vat covered and warm for an hour. It is ready to use when the surface of the vat is covered in metallic blue bubbles with an oily appearance.
To learn more about the art of indigo dyeing check out Shibori by Nicola Gouldsmith.