Color us blue at CHAI Studio
Indigo dye has been used as medicine, cosmetic, print and textile dye for hundreds of years. Cuneiform tablets dating to 7th century B.C. Mesopotamia, gives a recipe for coloring wool with the plant dye.
It was later exported from India to Rome and Greece as a luxury product, and spread throughout the world. In the United States, it became the color of choice for denim because it was one of the few natural dyes that could yield a rich, dark color that also helped to soften the cotton fibers over time.
The beauty of indigo is now appreciated through such artforms as Japanese sashiko, embroidery utilizing white threads over a dark blue indigo field, and shibori, Japanese-style tie-dye that results in delicate patterns, to resist-dyed adire cloth of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and strip-woven indigo kente cloth from the Ewe of Ghana and Togo.
CHAI Studio owner Amerjit Ghag introduced textile enthusiasts to the indigo tie-dye process during two workshops on Sunday. For a $20 fee, participants were able to dye a white cotton scarf.
The process started with folding and tying off bits of the scarf with rubber bands for the color-and-resist patterning. It was a mystery as to how the work would turn out, and the surprise factor provided much of the joy of the afternoon.
The tied scarves were soaked in a mixture of the indigo, sugar or fructose as a reducing agent that removes oxygen from the solution, and lime as a base that allows the reducing agent to work. A $42 kit available at the shop allows people to try this at home, for coloring up to eight garments.
We were told to be gentle during the soaking and kneading process to avoid introducing oxygen to the solution, which causes oxidation and may results in unwanted colors.
We had so much fun that after the scarf supply was exhausted, women turned to buying up towels, bandannas and clothing, anything white in the store to toss into the dye. I bought a top/dress, and maybe by then the dye was becoming exhausted because there were some light brown splotches in my pattern. Even so, I thought it came out great and will be wearing it around town.
Because of the popularity of the workshops, she plans to offer more as we close in to the holiday season. The scarves and various towels and bandannas make great gifts.
To learn more about future workshops, drop by the shop to be added to its email list, or call (808) 536-4543.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.