I have e new passion, having just discovered fresh leaf indigo dyeing.
Thanks to a multi-talented friend, Donna Miyashiro of Hawaiian Blue, I recently learned how to use fresh indigo leaves, easily grown in one’s garden, to create a soft, beautiful range of blues and sometimes greens or teals. No temperamental indigo vat to baby – it’s so simple!
Donna has a little studio in Lana Lane Studios in Kakaako, a fabulous artist’s enclave that reminds me of the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. She does much of her dyeing and sewing there.
Donna grows her own fresh leaf indigo in her “dyeing yard” where she tends to several varieties of plants which produce different dyes.
To make the dye we used, she soaked the leaves in water for 24 to 30 hours. She said you can tell it’s ready when it takes on an irridescent finish and has some little bubbles on its surface. (See the photo on top.)
The dye bath holds up for about an hour and then it becomes too weak to be useful, so you need to be organized and have everything ready to go.
This type of indigo is only effective with silk and wool. It won’t “take” with linen, cotton or other natural fibers. We tried three types of silk and look how different the colors came out! That’s one of the exciting things about working with any kind of indigo – the mystery and awe when you take the fabric out of the dye bath.
These dyed silks are now ready to be incorporated into one of my fabric “painting” series, Sand and Sea. (The quotation marks are because they look like paintings – but don’t have any paint on them, only hand-dyed fabrics.) I sold six of this series at Punahou Carnival and there’s demand for more, which is really exciting. Here’s one:
The blues are created using a variety of shibori techniques on all sorts of fabrics (linens,cottons,silks); the browns are rust-dyed.
Next up: Learning to dye with eucalyptus. Donna is already having great success with it, and I want to try. I can find plenty of eucalyptus trees right across Nuuanu Valley from where we live. A great excuse for a walk in the woods!
I have to say that I am always impressed with how generous textile folks are. Many forms of art seem highly competitive and the artists tend to keep every “secret” they discover to themselves. Not so with textile artists. They are enthusiastic, open and generous when sharing their art.
Donna is even going to give me fresh leaf indigo seeds so I can start my own garden. She is such a kind and generous friend!
– Paula Rath