There’s something so magical and satisfying about dipping a crisp white piece of cloth into a bath of dye and turning it into a one-of-a-kind piece of art. Especially when said dye is of the indigo variety, a rich and luxurious blue that’s unmistakeable for any other shade. The ancient art of dyeing with indigo stems back to ancient Japanese tradition and is traditionally referred to as Shibori. Today we’re walking you through the process of setting up an indigo vat and dyeing pillowcases with a fun, geometric pattern.
Here’s What You Need
- 2-gallon bucket / vat
- Lukewarm water
- Pre-reduced indigo (we’re using Jacquard’s TK)
- Soda ash dye fixer
- Reducing agent / color remover
- Stirring stick
- Rubber bands
- Clothes pins
- Plastic gloves
- White fabric
- Iron (optional)
Prepare Your Indigo Vat
For a 2-gallon indigo vat—which will supply you with more than enough dye for two pillowcases and then some—add 2 tablespoons of indigo, 2 tablespoons of soda ash, and 1.5 tablespoons of your color reducer to lukewarm water.
Gently stir with a long stirring stick in one direction for about a minute. Then reverse the direction you’re stirring and continue for about another minute. As you stir, you’ll notice a collection of bubbles forming in the center of your vat. This is what’s referred to as a “bloom” and indicates that the indigo is working its magic! Allow the vat to set for one hour.
We recommend doing this over a prepared surface and well-ventilated space, such as outdoors over newspapers or trash bags.
Prepare Your Cloth
Today we’re making pillowcases, but you can literally dye any piece of white fabric you have on hand. That includes napkins, shirts, towels, throws, quilts, and decorative textiles. There are countless ways to create designs, and the internet is a wealth of inspiration if you’re seeking some ideas. We encourage you to get creative by finding objects around your house!
For our pillowcases, we opted for a folding technique combined with rubber bands. To recreate our design, lay your pillowcase flat and begin fan-folding it back and forth horizontally (we did about five folds). For super crisp lines, use an iron with every fold you make. Next, fan-fold your strip into triangles, ironing in between each fold. Finally, place rubber bands around the corners and crisscrossing through the center, as pictured.
Once you’ve finished this process, soak your folded fabric in cold water and gently ring it out.
After an hour has passed, check in on your vat. It should have an oil-slick like appearance on the surface and your “bloom” of bubbles in the center. The dye underneath may be hard to see, but it should be a lime green color. All the above means your vat is ready for action! If you want, you can remove the bubbles, or you can simply work around them.
With gloved hands, fully immerse your folded fabric into the vat and allow it to soak for roughly five minutes. After this time has elapsed, carefully pull it out and set it aside. If you want, you can re-submerge for another three to five minutes for an even darker dye. Note that when you remove the cloth from the dye, it will be green. This is normal! The fabric will darken to that rich, indigo blue as it oxidizes.
You’ll notice in the final pictures that one of our pillowcases has more color while the other has more white-space. For more color, submerge your pillowcase in the vat and gently open up the corners to allow more dye to hit these white spaces. Use your creative intuition here!
Dry, Rinse, & Decorate
After about 20 minutes, cut or remove the rubber bands from your folded cloth to reveal your design. Allow it to dry in a well-ventilated space, such as an outdoor clothes line, until it’s dry. Once dry, rinse thoroughly with cold water, ring out, and place in the dryer. You can repeat this process again to ensure all excess dye is removed. Once this process is complete, you’re ready to decorate and enjoy!
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