Though the process of turning green leaves into brilliant blue dye through fermentation has been practiced for thousands of years, it still feels magical. Most natural dyes colors are derived from bark, berries, or leaves that can be boiled down and dyed with—but the process of making blue dye is much more difficult.
Every community—from Mexico, to Nigeria, to Japan—has its own spiritual ritual, recipe, and technique for creating natural indigo dye. In India, the birthplace of indigo, dye paste is dried into cakes for easy transportation and trade. The synthetic dyes which enable today’s plentiful supply of commercial denim and tie-dyed products replicate the look of natural dye almost exactly. Since Levi Strauss created his first pair of workwear blue jeans with indigo in 1873, the process has changed remarkably.
As a freelance fashion designer, I have designed denim apparel for brands who have the manufacturing capabilities of washing, distressing, and styling denim for mass market. But when I first witnessed the wondrous natural process of making indigo from plant to paste at a small studio in Thailand, I fell in love with the traditional process and the brilliant color it produces.
This is the real deal. I have returned again and again to Studio Naenna in Chiang Mai to learn from esteemed author and artist Patricia Cheesman who has been practicing this art form for 25 years.
The Natural Indigo Dye Process
Here’s the 10 step process of making natural indigo dye as learned from Patricia and the team at Studio Naenna. See the process from plant to paste as described in the photo captions.
Read about The Kindcraft x Studio Naenna Textiles Maker Collaboration and watch our video below highlighting our story and the making process. There is a limited quantity of naturally-dyed, handwoven slow fashion available in The Kindcraft Shop.