I wanted to post this article that began this blog once again….and again I thank my friend Rick, who has gone to join the ancestors, for his help in setting up this blog and for all his encouragement and for his right-on polilitics….
“….So have you ever smelled indigo-dyed fabric? It has a funky earthy smell that indigo lovers inhale for the pleasure of it. Try it and let me know what you think.
When I sell true indigo-dyed fabric, I sometimes think I sound like a broken record when I remind folks, time and again, that indigo-dyed fabric is not like other fabrics dyed with “fast” or non-running colorants. But really, I want you to be happy with your purchase so you have to know that the dye runs like crazy at first.
Traditional organic Indigo dye, which used to be the norm in African Indigo cloth, will always run for the first 6-8 washings–most heavily at first, and then less and less as the excess dye is washed out. Thus, it is not colorfast until all the excess dye has washed out. Some people swear by washing the cloth with salt or vinegar to help to set the dye. Some people like to add special products such as Synthropol or Retayne to the wash cycle. These products keep the dye in suspension in the water so that it does not re-attach to the fibers before the water runs out. With no additional products, my experience is that usually half a dozen rinses in the washer does a pretty good job of washing out the extra dye. Check the water, if it’s still blue, the extra dye is still coming out. One customer has suggested that you dampen a corner of the cloth and iron it between two paper towers. If the paper towel has blue on it, you need to wash the cloth again.
Until you no longer see blue on the paper towel or in the water, I strongly recommend that you exercise caution in wearing an indigo dyed garment with other light colored clothing or when you are sitting on your white leather couch, or are mixing the cloth into other projects, particularly with light colored cloth. The color of the dye retains its vivid color, and is not diminished by washing unless you are also repeatedly subjecting the cloth to the bleaching effects of the sun, in which case the color will fade agreeably over time always yielding a pleasing color.
Due to the labor intensive nature of making indigo dye-baths from natural materials, and the fact that natural dyed cloth cannot be sold in Africa for more money than cloth dyed with industrial materials, much contemporary indigo dyed cloth is colored with a mixture of colorfast manufactured dye and the traditional dye. Thus the benefits of both means of dyeing can be achieved in a manner that serves the economical needs of the artisans….