Indigo shibori workshop for felters

Last weekend I ran a workshop on indigo shibori dyeing for the London branch of the International Feltmakers Association, of which I am a member. I’ve attended previous IFA workshops on felting and natural dyeing, and the participants are always enthusiastic and engaged, so I knew I was in good hands!

I wanted participants to experience the difference between synthetic and natural indigo, so we began on Saturday by setting up three vats. The first was what is known as a 123 vat, popularised by natural dye guru Michel Garcia – this was made up of 1 part indigo, 2 parts lime and 3 parts fructose. The other two vats were made of synthetic indigo in different concentrations.

To start with we focused on clamping and binding shibori techniques, and soon everyone was having fun with pegs, marbles and lolly sticks, while the more adventurous grappled with some plastic pipes and string to produce arashi shibori.

In the afternoon we moved on to stitching. Because this is more time consuming, it meant that keen students could take their pieces home to finish stitching in the evening so it was ready to dye the next day.

stitching shibori

There was time at the end of the afternoon to undo the first bound and clamped pieces and the makeshift washing line outside soon began to fill up!

shibori washing line

On Sunday the we continued to experiment with different techniques (sometimes combining more than one) or fabrics, learning how the same technique can look very different on different fabrics.

pole wrapped shibori unpicking shibori

We also found a more photogenic place to hang our work. 😉

indigo shibori indigo shibori indigo shibori indigo shibori indigo shibori

At the end of the day everyone had a good collection of samples to take home and seemed very happy!

ifa shibori samplesIFA shibori workshop

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

12 thoughts on “Indigo shibori workshop for felters”

  1. Can you review the differences between the process and the results of using natural indigo as opposed to the chemical form. Pros and cons of each? That would be wonderful to know as a rank beginner in dyeing. As a fiber artist for almost fifty years, I have managed to avoid spinning and dyeing while embracing weaving and basketry and felting and stitch, to name a few.

    1. Technically, synthetic indigo and natural indigo are chemically identical. But natural indigo includes various impurities, so it is usually less concentrated than synthetic indigo.

      I tend to use natural indigo in organic vats like the lime and fructose one in the class. These take longer to reduce than synthetic vats, which are usually ready within a couple of hours. We used the natural vat a bit in the afternoon of the first day but it wasn’t really until the second day that it was giving good strong colour.

      With natural organic vats if you want to get really deep blues you have to dip more times and leave the fabric in for longer than with synthetic vats. They smell much nicer than synthetic vats!

      Natural indigo is more expensive than synthetic indigo, and there are concerns about the environmental effects of the synthetic indigo production process. On the other hand, to grow enough natural indigo to supply all the jeans manufacturers worldwide would require an awful lot of land and water, and the colonial history of growing natural indigo in the Caribbean and India is not an edifying tale. 😦 But there are now more small producers growing and selling natural indigo.

  2. Wonderful work, Flextiles! I especially admire the piece with the squares amid the wavy lines. I’m still struggling with Garcia’s 123 vat, but your color looks great.

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