Mood Indigo: When Fiber Art Gets Blue

chinese textile art
Indigo-dyed Chinese textile art baby
carrier. (Photo by Joe Coca)

cate pratoBlue skies, blue lagoons, blue jeans . . . for me, there's nothing like blue. Four rooms in my home are painted different shades of blue, from a moody "Muscari" to a soothing "Misty Morn."

But ohindigo! The first time I remember hearing the word indigo was when I learned the color spectrum, aka the rainbow, in elementary school: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Not only did I have no idea there was a color between blue and purple, but it was a strange-sounding word in among all those other basic colors. The word itself promises something exotic, rich, and deep, and the hue doesn't disappoint.

In fact, indigo is the only organic way to turn fabric blue. Until the advent of synthetic dyes, it took a natural process made from a dozen different plants from around the world to produce indigo in various concentrations to make blue clothing. Interestingly, none of these plants are native to North Americaso much for the reputation of blue jeans as being "all-American."

Even the indigo dyeing process has a mystique about it. As Interweave Editor Anne Merrow describes, "It is really quite magical to watch fiber pulled out of an indigo dyebath. Material that went in white will emerge yellow-green, quickly turn blue, and continue to deepen as it airs."

indigo fiber art dyeing vats
Vats of indigo dye in China.
(Photo by Anne Merrow)

On a recent trip to Shanghai, Anne took a side trip to the nearby town of Wuzhen where they still practice the traditional craft of creating indigo-dyed calico. Anne's narrative and photo essay of her blue-tingedtextile art trip, including slide shows and a video, are shared on the new edition of the Colorways eMag that takes an in-depth look at indigo dyeing and fiber arts.

I dove into this interactive vat of blue-hued inspiration with the same gusto I usually reserve for chocolate (note to Anne: please call me when you book your tour of Switzerland). The history, cultural influences, and techniques for indigo dyeingnot to mention the pretty colors it turns fabric, yarn, and other textilesis all fascinating.

Visiting the world of indigo through the Colorways eMag is like traveling to a blue haven for your fiber art-loving senses. It has made me want to delve deeper into indigo blue and even try my hand at dyeing for my fiber art projects. I promise to show you my results if you show me yours!

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