Tag Archives: indigo

Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

Working with natural dyes like cochineal that yield red, indigo blue, wild marigold (pericone) and fustic to give us yellow, is like being a pastry chef and following a recipe.  It helps to know a little chemistry or have a willingness to learn.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-37

Indigo dye bath percolating

Eric Chavez Santiago, who is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable natural dye experts and our workshop leader, takes us through the steps to use a non-toxic process to mordant wool that we will  use to dye cochineal, fustic and wild marigold.  Wool that we dye with indigo requires no mordant but another set of intricate steps that will guarantee a result of intense blue and its variations.  See the green bloom in the photo above. The chemistry here is to allow no oxygen to enter the dye bath. Stirring is a no-no.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-32 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-27

The intense colors we get depend on a number of factors, including the original color of the natural wool, the amount of dye for the recipe, the length of time in the dye bath, the number of dips, how little dye is left in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid (lime juice, for example) or a base (baking soda, alum or ashes).  Eric has developed an extraction technique for the cochineal that yields the most intense, concentrated color.  The extract can be saved and refrigerated for later use and then refreshed.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-14 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-28 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-57

In the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets workshop, we go through the basics and then tackle more advanced dyeing techniques using acids, bases, and over-dyeing.  Over-dyeing is when you first dye your fiber with the base color such as red (cochineal) or yellow (fustic or wild marigold).  The red is then dipped in the indigo dye bath to yield various shades of purple depending on the shade of red.

Next Workshop:  March 6-12, 2014

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-90 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-88

This is not a complex process, but requires attention and following the recipes.  By the end of the workshop, participants have color samples with specific formulas/recipes for all the shades from yellow to green to pink to red to orange to purple to blue.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-92 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-83

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-94

During the workshop, we also experiment with shibori dye techniques using indigo with 100% cotton fabric.  The resulting pattern depends on how we fold, wrap, package, or tie the fabric.  Some use rubber bands, string, marbles, sticks, and other materials to manipulate the design.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-81 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-79 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-77

Everything depends on whether the material is a protein (animal) or cellulose (plant) fiber.  Cochineal only works best with protein fibers that are mordanted in advance.  Indigo is not really a dye but a stain and only coats the surface of the fiber (which you can see through a microscope).  Indigo works well with protein AND cellulose fibers.  And, wow, does it attach to everything it touches!

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-89  DyeWorkshopJan_Group-70

Assisting Eric with the workshop is his wife, Elsa Sanchez Diaz.  As his partner in life and this workshop, Elsa takes detailed notes about the formulas that Eric is using so that there is a record of the colors achieved.  She also helps the participants to complete their samplers with tagged formula notes at the end of the workshop.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-46 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-36

Our participants come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Northern California, and Kansas.  They include novices and experienced fiber artists/dyers.  Several had never been to Oaxaca before.  One is an English professor, another a faculty member in architecture and interior design, another a mixed media artist, and two professional weavers.  Everyone came away with a great experience and more information than they ever dreamed possible.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-43 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-52

Next Workshop: March 6-12, 2014 

If you can’t attend this workshop, let us know!  We can possibly schedule the next workshop to suit your travel schedule.

Color Intensity of Natural Dyes from Oaxaca Sources

Today I changed the banner of the blog to give you a picture of the range of intense colors we got from the natural dye workshop we just completed with Eric Chavez Santiago.  Eric is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable dye masters and his techniques include how to extract the color without wasting it.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-74

We started with three colors only — cochineal, indigo and fustic — red, blue and yellow.  By over-dyeing and using various shades of natural wool, plus the chemistry of using an acid or a base with the color, we were able to get the amazing, rich colors that you see in the banner photo. They are all colorfast.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-24 DyeWorkshopJan_Group-61

I will be writing more about this in the next few days and publishing more photos.  But in the meantime, I wanted you to see what our group accomplished during this three-day workshop.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-37

The next natural dye workshop is in March 2014. Let me know if you want to participate.

DyeWorkshopJan_Group-11

 

Oaxaca Indigo Dye Workshop Delights Penland School of Crafts Visitors

Penland2013_1-45Dyeing with the natural color of indigo was a highlight of the Penland School of Crafts textile workshop tour of Oaxaca in early November.  I brought this wonderful group  of women — all first-time visitors to Oaxaca — for a workshop with Eric Chavez Santiago and his parents at their family home in Teotitlan del Valle.

Dye Penland2013_1-34 Dye-6 Dye-3

Indigo is a plant that grows wild on the southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.  Before we rolled up our sleeves to immerse our hands and white cloth into the dye pot, Eric explained the process of how indigo is processed here by hand to get the intense color that you see in the photos.

Penland2013_1-36 Penland2013_1-38

After Eric demonstrates how to twist, tie, bundle, fold, clip, band, and otherwise manipulate a white piece of cotton to get a pattern, each person takes their cloth and starts their own project.  Some choose marbles that are held by rubber bands.  Others fold the cloth like a sandwich of triangles. Some combine the two.

Penland2013_1-39 Penland2013_1-30

It’s a surprise when we unroll them from the styrofoam tube.  Every resulting piece is unique and beautiful.  Perfect for a scarf or wall-hanging.

Penland2013_1-44 Penland2013_1-33

I cannot say enough about Eric and his family, what an education and experience. I feel like I have new friends in Mexico. The personal contact and sharing make this such a rich and deep experience, not just learning a skill but really feeling the history of the culture and being charged by the experience. – Barbara Benisch

Penland2013_1-41 Penland2013_1-31

During the workshop, Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas give us a break and show us the process for tapestry weaving with a thorough demonstration.  The family only uses natural dyes to produce the rugs they weave.

We have two spaces left for a 3-day natural dye workshop in January, several spaces open for a 4-day tapestry weaving workshop that immediately follows.

We develop customized programs like the one for Penland for arts organizations.  Contact us to learn more. 

Penland2013_1-48 Penland2013_1-32 Dye-4

 

Indigo Blue, Color of Kings: Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop

If you are looking for hands-on instruction, a cultural immersion into natural dyes of Oaxaca, and would love to have an experience learning from the Museo Textil de Oaxaca’s director of education Eric Chavez Santiago, please contact me.  We organize programs for museums, textile guilds, fiber artists, designers and anyone wanting to know more about hand-dyeing with natural materials.

Here are some of the topics Eric talked about during the second day of a workshop we organized for Sydney, Australia’s Walter G & Company that focused on indigo dye recipes and using indigo for over-dyeing:

DyeWorkshop-34 DyeWorkshop-15Royals around the world coveted indigo as a symbol of their wealth, power and prestige.  When we think of the color royal blue, what comes to mind is an intense, deep color that saturates the fabric and draws attention to the person wearing it.  Indigo was used 6,000 years ago in Egypt, sought after by the Pharaohs who procured it from traders who traveled the tropical belt of Africa.

 DyeWorkshop-30  DyeWorkshop-31

Indigo is mystical, says Eric.  In Africa, dancers pray for an abundant indigo harvest to give them an abundant life.  In Puebla, Mexico, there is a traditional story that warns pregnant women not to approach an indigo dye bath.  If they do, the power of the color will disappear.  But indigo is a chemical process, says Eric, straightforward and scientific.

DyeWorkshop-27 DyeWorkshop-22

Today from Oaxaca, Mexico, to Africa, to India, to El Salvador, to South Carolina, USA, over 40 different indigo plant species, some of them wild and native to each region, are cultivated for dye material, explains Eric. In Oaxaca state, the wild bush grows along the Pacific coast, is cultivated, fermented, dried into blocks, and sold to weavers and dyers, who grind it into a fine powder for use on protein fibers such as wool and silk, or on plant fibers such as cotton.  Our workshop focuses only on dyeing wool, since cotton takes much longer.

DyeWorkshop-23 DyeWorkshop-24

This year, in 2012, Oaxaca had the largest harvest of indigo ever.  Over 400 pounds of dried leaves were picked.  Oaxaca’s indigo produces one of the most powerful, intense colors in the world, along with the indigo of San Salvador.  The color from India and Africa pale in comparison. This is good for local weavers who are turning to the use of indigo for its color-fast results and organic properties that ensure environmental sustainability.

DyeWorkshop-28 DyeWorkshop-12

During this second day, we used an indigo recipe developed by French chemist-dyer Michel Garcia.  Eric has studied with Michel Garcia and uses his fructose-based recipe along with hydrogenated lime.  The fructose reduces the oxygen in the water, stabilizes the water, and suspends the indigo to yield a more uniform, intense color.  One only needs to stir gently with a wooden stick or fingers!

DyeWorkshop-11 DyeWorkshop-14

To pulverize the rock-hard indigo, ancient dyers used a metate and mano de metate.  Today, Eric uses a coffee grinder — one for blue indigo, another for red cochineal.  He dissolves a bit of the indigo in a small sealed jar of water filled with marbles, and shakes it well.

DyeWorkshop-41

There are many indigo dye recipes available on the Internet along with recommendations for making dye baths, so we are not going into that here.

DyeWorkshop-37 DyeWorkshop-13

During the two days, we dyed a range of primary reds and yellows using cochineal and pericone.  On day two, over dyeing these colors with indigo, we were able to make a broader range of greens, oranges, browns and blacks.  All in all, the two days resulted in over 20 stunning colors — all color-fast, durable and natural.

DyeWorkshop-42

We are happy to organize customized workshops and plan a series of open-to-anyone-interested two-day workshops starting this summer, just like we did for Walter G & Company principals Lauren Bennett and Genevieve Fennel with friends Lara Zilibowitz and Tempe McMinn.

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop: A Gift of Color From Mother Nature

Several months ago Australian home furnishings designer Lauren Bennett contacted me about taking a natural dye workshop in Oaxaca with her business partner Genevieve Fennel.  Lifelong friends with a passion for textiles, they started the Sydney-based company Walter G & Co. almost two years ago, importing textiles from India to market a home decor line for resale to designers and shops.  In India they work primarily with Rajasthan artisans who use indigo, saffron and madder dye.  They wanted to learn more about natural dyeing in Oaxaca with indigo, cochineal, and wild marigold, including how to ensure color stability.  Their goal was to compare techniques and processes between the two regions, become more informed, and better direct their textile business.

DyeWorkshop-9 c Norma Hawthorne DyeWorkshop-20

In Oaxaca, there are few more knowledgeable about natural dye chemistry and applications than Eric Chavez Santiago.  As director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Eric works with indigenous artisans to preserve the textile traditions of the state.  He  comes from a family of Zapotec weavers in Teotitlan del Valle, and early in his career developed over 100 recipes for cochineal that his father Federico Chavez Santiago uses to dye the rugs he weaves and sells at Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city.

DyeWorkshop-5 c Norma Hawthorne

L to R: Tempe, Lauren, Eric, Lara, Genevieve

Lauren and Genevieve arrived this week along with two friends, Lara Zilibowitz and Tempe McMinn.  With Eric as their dye master, they rolled up their sleeves and jumped into washing, dyeing and over-dyeing wool skeins over the two days we were together.

DyeWorkshop-6 DyeWorkshop-3 c Norma Hawthorne

Eric’s teaching style is both didactic and hands-on.  He carefully explained the history of dyeing in Oaxaca, the differences between dyeing with protein (animal) and plant fibers, types of mordant, issues of toxicity, and small batch vs. production work.  He showed examples of cochineal recipes he developed that are tagged with proportions.  The two-day workshop focused only on dyeing protein fibers like wool, alpaca and silk.

DyeWorkshop-2 c Norma Hawthorne

During the first day of the two-day program, we made a 10%, 20% and 70% cochineal dye bath and then did the same for the wild marigold, which is called pericone here.  You’ll see more of day two of the workshop when we made a indigo dye bath and our blue hands in a later post!

DyeWorkshop-16 c Norma Hawthorne

L to R: Lauren and Genevieve

Eric explained how the pH of the dye bath and the temperature of the water are essential for a successful result.  He also demonstrated how the color of the wool  influences results.  White, beige, gray and brown wool will determine the ultimate color of the fiber when it takes the dye.  Eric shared his recipes and we were on our way dyeing skeins that he had mordanted in preparation. DyeWorkshop-10 c Norma Hawthorne DyeWorkshop-18 c Norma Hawthorne

Lauren, Genevieve, Lara and Tempe all said that Eric’s explanations and demonstrations are easy to understand and they loved being able to fully participate — hands-on.  Plus, they said, he speaks great English, so the learning experience was wonderful.  Eric offers a step-by-step approach with intermittent review of concepts so no one is left behind if the chemistry becomes a bit complicated.  He loves sharing Oaxaca’s dyeing traditions and wants people to be as excited about natural dyeing as he is.

Stay tuned!  We are planning more dye workshops. If you want a customized workshop especially for a group of people, please let me know and we will try to make it happen!

DyeWorkshop-8 DyeWorkshop-4

Cochineal is native to Oaxaca and the state of Puebla.  It was tribute paid by the Zapotecs to the Aztecs.  After the conquest, the Spanish took it to Peru, which is now the largest producer of cochineal.  Cochineal is colorfast if mordanted properly.  It is very precious and costs about 1,500 pesos for a kilogram of dried bugs — that’s about $60 USD a pound.

Yellow is the least stable color to achieve, says Eric.  Without proper mordanting, it can degrade the fibers and fade. Wild marigold, native to Oaxaca, yields a strong, stable color.  Today, we worked with cochineal and pericone to get about 20 different shades based on the wool color, strength of the dye bath, and the process called overdyeing.

Next post:  indigo, king of blue, color of royalty (along with purple, which we will talk more about, too.)