Indigo is the only natural source of blue color in the world. Almost all indigo color is now synthetically produced, but it is certain that I would not be wearing my favorite blue jeans if this unusual plant extract hadn’t been discovered!
Our new indigo blankets & pillows are stitched in the same kantha style as our other blankets, and made using the same vintage sari cloth. But first, the outer layers are dyed with a true, natural indigo dye. Find out more about the traditional method of producing indigo below:
Production photos below are thanks to: Josh Estey / CARE and Living Blue BD
Natural indigo dye is still harvested & extracted largely in the northern part of Bangladesh (& Bengal region of India). The tropical plant indigofera tinctoria contains a colorless organic compound called indican, a precursor to the indigo dye. Once harvested in large quantities, the plant cuttings go into a large tub of warm water, with skinny logs or metal rods placed on top to hold them submerged.
As heat & proximity ferment the plants, the indican leeches into the water, turning it bright green. The plant matter is removed and, depending on the specific operation, the water is sieved into another tank. The miracle truly occurs when this greenish liquid is oxidized, turning it blue! In large scale, rural production, a number of men get into the tank and use their bodies to add oxygen to the water, moving and pushing their legs in rhythm.
Then begins a series of skimming, separating, and collecting the liquid that is is dense with indigo sediment. It is then boiled down to remove even more liquid, sieved through cloth, then pressed to extract any remaining water. Alternatively, the thick, wet sediment may be spread on cloth in racks to dry. The leftover liquid is a good bio fertilizer and is used to water the fields.
If pressed, the dye is then cut into cake/bricks and dried in the shade. The indigo is sold either in these blocks, or further ground into powder.
With the invention of synthetic indigo, the natural indigo trade collapsed. Fortunately, the plant survived for its intrinsic value as a rotation crop that adds nitrates to soil and yields valuable micro-nutrients as a fertilizer. Today, as interest in natural products & methods increases, we are seeing value returning to this ancient process.
We are thrilled to marry this incredible, cultural process with our kantha tradition to create beautiful, unique, indigo quilts.