Tag Archives: anil

Searching for Indigo in India: Countdown to Travel

It’s a 24-hour flight from California to New Delhi, not including the layover in Tokyo. I’m getting ready for a month of travel, focused mostly on the India State of Gujarat, with my Canadian friend Fay Sims, leaving San Jose on November 15.

Indigo dye pot, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Indigo dye pot, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

My motivation to go to India is multi-fold:

  • to experience first-hand indigo dye history, artisanry and textiles
  • to visit my first cousin, Odissi dancer Sharon Lowen, who has lived in New Delhi, India for 43-years after leaving the USA on a Fulbright

Sharon Lowen’s Odissi Dance in Swarnakamalam…by kasuvandi

  • to embrace my 99-1/2 year old aunt, my mother’s younger sister, who now lives with my cousin
  • to reconnect with friends, textile artist Nidhi Khurana and her painter-muralist husband Ruchin Soni
  • to compare and contrast the textiles of Oaxaca and Gujarat
Eric Chavez Santiago at the indigo dye pot

Eric Chavez Santiago at the indigo dye pot (happy birthday, Eric)

  • to write and photograph the processes and people
  • to get yards of hand-spun cotton Khadi cloth, Ghandi’s symbol of India’s independence from England
  • to discover who knows what else!
Variations of indigo blue, depending on wool color and number of dye dips

Variations of indigo blue, depending on wool color and number of dye dips

Natural Dye and Textile Study Tour, One-Day in Oaxaca

My friend, master weaver Federico Chavez Sosa, asked me to bring him back a chunk of native India indigo to experiment with. My friend, master weaver Alfredo Hernandez Orozco, asked me to bring him any type of native India fiber to experiment with on his flying shuttle loom. They are innovators.

Indigo blue shirts are first made with natural manta cotton, then get four dye dips.

Oaxaca: indigo blue shirts on natural manta cotton, with four dye dips

I am going with one empty suitcase, the second half-full.

What advice do you have for me on the quest for India textiles with natural dyes in New Delhi, Gujarat state and Mumbai?

Example of indigo block print from India, on cotton and silk cloth.

Indigo block print on cotton and silk, from India

Indigo block print on cotton and silk, from India



Oaxaca Organic Indigo Blue Dye — Añil or Teñido de Reserva

Indigo blue color is derived from an organic botanical plant that grows on the coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec near Tehuantepec on the Isthmus.  Do you hear the añil in the name?  It takes 200 kilograms of plant material to end up with 1 kilogram of the hardened rock of blue that has dried from the fermented paste.  It’s what Levi Strauss used to make the original blue jeans during the California Gold Rush and even today, a bit of natural organic product is used to “stimulate” the chemical color of blue that was developed in 1904 during the Industrial Revolution.


Eric Chavez Santiago, the Museo Textil de Oaxaca‘s director of education, keeps a stock pot of indigo going in his dye kitchen almost constantly.  Eric says it can be refreshed with fructose crystalline.  He recently took a workshop from French dye master Michel Garcia who uses mango skins to activate the dye chemistry.

During a three-hour indigo dye workshop at the museum that I took from Eric, I learned that indigo has been in use for thousands of years in Egypt, Africa and India.  It was used by the Mayans, Incas and Zapotecs of Oaxaca!  It is grown in South Carolina, U.S.A. and most of the world’s production comes from San Salvador.  A small production, boutique crop, only 100 kg of añil is produced each year in Oaxaca state, but the market is growing as more local people are using natural dyes in their woven textiles.  They only produce the indigo in Niltepec.  They don’t dye fabric with it there.


It is tricky dyeing with indigo.  Añil oxydizes in water and becomes yellow green.  It is very important to gently immerse what you want to dye into the dye bath so the indigo is not disturbed by movement.  No stirring allowed!  When the cotton or silk  or wool is removed from the dye bath, the fabric color is yellow green and changes to blue as soon as it meets the air.  Multiple dippings are required to get a deep, intense blue and the indigo must not be “tired,” according to Eric.

During today’s workshop, we create shibori and tritik designs on the white cotton cloth we bring to dye.  We have not actually created the dye bath — it is already prepared for us!  Eric Chavez Santiago offers this indigo dye workshop once or twice each month at the textile museum.  Check the museum’s calendar for exact dates.  The cost is 50 pesos and you bring your own fabric to dye.  Very fun.

See my next post for more about Oaxacan indigo.


December 2009 Happenings! Oaxaca Textile Museum.

Reciban un cordial Saludo. Estas son las actividades en el MTO para el mes de Diciembre, espero nos puedan acompañar. Información, comentarios y/o inscripciones  favor de comunicarse  a educacion@museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx , difusion@museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx o  Tel. 501 1104- ext. 104.

Greetings!  Here are December 2009 Museo Textil de Oaxaca (MTO) activities for your information.  If you have comments or suggestions, please send them to Eric Chavez Santiago at educacion@museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx or difusion@msueotextildeoaxaca.org.mx, or telephone 501-1104 X.104.

EXPOSICIONES: Coming Expositions: Animated Plots: A Zoological Textile Exposición en curso: “Tramas animadas, un zoológico textil”

· Sábado 13 de diciembre de 2008, 20hrs – Inauguración exposición “Nudos teñidos. Ikat, Plangi y Tritik”

· Saturday, December 13, 2008, 8 p.m., Opening Reception: “Tie Dyeing: Ikat, Plangi and Tritik”

TALLERES Y PRESENTACIONES: Workshops and Presentations

PRESENTACIÓN: PROCESOS DE ELABORACION DE LOS TEXTILES A Presentation on the process of textile weaving and dyeing in Oaxaca. Entrada libre, dirigido al público en general. Free and open to the public.

Descripción: Presentación visual de los tipos de fibras, telares, técnicas de tejido y teñido utilizadas en Oaxaca Description: A visual presentation of the types of fibers, looms, and weaving and dyeing techniques used by weavers in Oaxaca.

Sábado 6 de Diciembre 4:00-5:00 pm (español). Saturday, December 6, 4-5 p.m. (Spanish)

Sábado 27 de Diciembre 4:00-5:00 pm (inglés). Saturday, December 27, 4-5 p.m. (English)

TALLER DE TEJIDO (incluye todos los materiales). WEAVING WORKSHOP (includes all materials)

Descripción: Cada participante tejerá sobre un telar de marco un textil de 20×40 cm con la técnica del tejido simple. Each participant will weave a 20 x 40 cm textile using a simple weaving technique on a frame loom.

Duración: 10 horas. This is a 10 hour workshop, five days, 2 hours per day. Schedule: Lunes 22, Martes 23, Viernes 26, Sábado 27 y Lunes 29 de Diciembre de  11:00am a 1:00pm. [Monday, December 22, Tuesday, December 23, Friday, December 26, Saturday, December 27, and Monday, December 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.]

Cupo: 10 participantes, dirigido a público en general a partir de 14 años. Limited to 10 participants, age 14 and older.

Donativo: 250 pesos. Cost is $250 pesos per person.

Impartido por: Eric Chavez- Servicios educativos MTO. Instructor is Eric Chavez Santiago, coordinator of educational services, Museo Textil de Oaxaca.


Descripción: Durante los 3 días de taller los participantes conocerán los materiales tintóreos, su fijación y aplicación sobre fibra de lana, cada participante tendrá un muestrario con las recetas utilizadas al finalizar el taller.

Description: During the three workshop days, participants will learn about dye materials and the dyeing process, and how the dyes are absorbed by the wool. Each participant will develop and use dye recipes to apply during the final workshop.

Duración: 18 horas. Length of Workshop: 18 hours. Jueves 11, Viernes 12 y sábado 13 de diciembre de 10:00am – 2:00pm y de 3:00pm – 5pm. Thursday-Saturday, December 11-13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (1 hour lunch break).

Cupo: 10 participantes, dirigido tejedores y público en general. Limited to 10 participants. Weavers and the general public are invited.

Donativo: taller 3 días: 500 pesos. Cost for the three-day workshop: $500 pesos.

Donativo por día: 200 pesos. If participants are only able to attend for one day, the cost is $200 pesos.

Impartido por: Eric Chavez- – Servicios educativos MTO. Instructor is Eric Chavez Santiago, coordinator of educational services, Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

TALLER: TIÑE TU PLAYERA CON AÑIL (incluye añil, no incluye playera de algodón) T-SHIRT DYEING WORKSHOP USING INDIGO (includes indigo dye, does not include cotton T-shirt)

Descripción: Cada participante podrá crear un diseño simple y teñir  su playera en añil con la técnica de teñido de reserva con nudos y pinzas. Description: Participants will create a simple design and dye a T-shirt using indigo (blue) dye. The technique is known as tie-dye, created by making knots and using clothespins.

Duración: 4 horas. Length of workshop: 4 hours.

Sábado 20 de Diciembre 10:00 am-2:00pm. One Day, Saturday, December 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cupo: 15 participantes, dirigido a niños y al público en general a partir de 10 años. Limited to 15 participants, for children age 10 years and older.

Donativo: 100 pesos. Cost for the workshop is $100 pesos.

Impartido por: Eric Chavez – Servicios educativos MTO. Instructor is Eric Chavez Santiago, coordinator of educational services, Museo Textil de Oaxaca.


Para niños de 5 a 23 años. For ages 5 to 23 years old.

Horario: 10:00 A 13:00 hrs y de 17:00 A 18:00 hrs. Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. De lunes a viernes (CERRADO MARTES), from Monday to Friday (closed Tuesday).

Relatos mágicos y divertidos, juegos populares, dichos y refranes,  actividades artesanales e información del Museo Textil para dar a conocer y compartir entre los niños la gran diversidad y belleza de los textiles en el mundo.

Amusing and magical stories, popular games, sayings and refrains, craft activities and interesting information from the Oaxaca Textile Museum in order to know, share, and experience the beauty and diversity of world textiles.

Contact information: Informes e inscripciones educacion@museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx , difusion@museotextildeoaxaca.org.mx ,  Tel. 501 1104- ext. 104

TODAS ESTAS ACTIVIDADES SE LLEVARÁN A CABO EN EL MTO. HIDALGO 917, CENTRO, OAXACA. All activities will be held at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Hidalgo Street #917, Historic Center of Oaxaca.


Eric Chávez Santiago

Servicios Educativos

Museo Textil de Oaxaca

Hidalgo 917.  Centro, Oaxaca  68000

Tel: (951)5011104 – 5011617 Ext.104