INDIGO IN DEPTH
According to Pantone, blue is going to be one of 2014’s biggest colors. More specifically, the prediction is that Pantone’s cerulean hue, “Dazzling Blue” will be the hottest shade of the year. Although indigo is several ticks darker, it will undoubtedly be a popular variation.
One of the earliest known textile dyes, indigo is on par with black in terms of staying power. Since its discovery in ancient times, it has been universally popular and irreplaceable. It was worn only by royalty and upper classes for some time, and eventually became a widespread wardrobe staple in the form of blue jeans. Although most denim is no longer authentically indigo-dyed, it’s still an important color in the world of textiles and design.
From flooring, to sofas, to curtains, to walls, indigo can be easily incorporated into most any space. Pantone’s 2014 trend prediction will no doubt inspire even more innovative ways to use the color. The bold hue is not for the faint of heart, but it is a rich way to make a statement.
Although it is seen as a common shade of blue today, early indigo dying took meticulous skill and patience to do properly, resulting in rare textiles and garments. After an extensive extraction process, which involved months of underground fermenting in cow or camel urine, the dye was condensed into small cakes of indigo. These cakes were then crushed into a powder, immersed in water, and processed further.
In it’s liquid form, indigo is a bright green color. It is only when dyed fabric is removed from the pot that it takes on its radiant blue hue. Air oxidizes the dye, turning it blue on contact. Much like wine, indigo is a living thing. If not processed and stored properly, its rich color can die off.
Our wild nettle after being submerged in indigo.
Real indigo is processed all around the world – Japan, India, Nepal, Iran, Turkey, Africa, and more – with every region having its own unique practices and uses for it.
Similar to the way that paint coats a surface, indigo creates a coating on fibers. To prevent bleeding, it is important to submerge the fabric multiple times and dry it between dips, building each layer of dye on top of the previous. This process solidifies the color and seals it onto the fiber.
Small indigo cakes with dyed wool and silk.
Freshly dyed indigo at Carini Lang’s Nepal weaving facility.
Indigo is a temperamental dye that must be handled by patient hands; any variation in the conditions can kill the blue. The sensitive factors and amount of skill involved with indigo dying made it an art form. Over the years, knowledge surrounding the process has been gradually forgotten; a handful of artisans have kept it alive.
Today’s methods of indigo dying are less complex, more eco-friendly, and more stable. Indigo is now dissolved using natural mineral salts; the very same method that we use for all of our own materials. It allows us to dye silks and wool for carpets and cashmere for shawls with the highest quality indigo available. Even with modern advancements, it is still an unpredictable dye that creates different results in every batch. And that’s the beauty of it.
Hand-dyed indigo cashmere shawl by Carini Lang.
It’s as every day as a pair of blue jeans and as stunning as a sapphire. Its depth, richness, and mystery have captivated us for centuries. The color indigo looks as alluring on a tapestry as it does in the night sky. Whether in textiles, flooring, clothing, wall color, or accessories, indigo’s inky hue will never go out of style.
Carini Lang’s “Rollers” rug.