Our weavers get the indigo color dye for our scarves from nature.
To see how this works, we drove to Isaan this year and helped out in the countryside.
In one week we collected more than two hundred kilos of blue paint paste from a piece of land the size of a football field.
Not only did we learn how the dye comes from the plants, it also made us optimistic.
Below we explain how we make the indigo color dye for our scarves in a traditional way.
“We are proud that we can contribute in our own way to maintaining this responsible way of dyeing textiles”
Grow four months
Everything starts with planting the seeds.
As usual with work in rural Thailand, neighbors and friends help out.
There is chatting, laughing, eating, drinking and, above all, working hard.
“The rocking of the paint was equivalent to rocking a newborn child to her”
After four months, the indigo leaves can be harvested.
The land was full of the green plants ready to be cut down.
We grinded the leaves between our fingers looking for blue dye. They turned green.
Apparently more is needed to get blue out of the plant.
With green hands and a crooked knife we hacked in the field.
“Fortunately, old traditions and care for the environment remain important for many”
It is important to cut the plants high so that you do not suffer too much from false masses (stems) because the blue is in the leaves.
After an hour of felling, there was enough stock for the day.
After that, the leaves are crammed into large vessels.
The green mass should be under water.
We used water from the rice field and put heavy stones on top.
Now we had to wait until the next morning.
For us it meant peace.
A welcome prospect as the work in the hot countryside was hard.
We were devastated.
After twenty-four hours
For the next twenty-four hours, nature does a wonderful job.
The brown water slowly turns green-blue and after a while blue foam floats on top.
In the rising morning sun it looked beautiful.
Then the lugging with wet branches starts.
When all the indigo plants have been fished out of the water, the weaver mixes a brown-red clay with the blue water.
The whole must be mixed well.
We stomped a hive up and down the barrel.
The green-blue-brown mass slowly turned into a dark blue soup.
By moving the basket in and out of the water, oxygen enters the water and the dye mixes with the clay.
After half an hour of stamping in the hot sun, the indigo dye had been absorbed into the clay particles.
We started on the next barrel.
The fact that we were in the middle of the rice fields made the job less difficult for us.
Wherever we looked we saw green rice plants and in the flooded fields around us people put rice plants in the water.
There was a pleasant bustle and people talked and laughed while a baby was rocked back and forth under a tree in the shade.
When the clay has sunk to the bottom of the vessel, the top layer can be poured off so that only a thick blue sludge remains.
All color had disappeared from the top layer,
clear water flowed back into the paddy field.
Finally blue paint paste
Now only the last moisture has to be removed from the blue mass.
We do this with the help of a tightly woven cloth.
That’s where we create the blue knit.
Clear water slowly drips from the cloth, leaving a dry blue paste.
The next morning we were able to scoop out the first dry clay from the cloth.
What started as a football field of green bushes now came in ten clay tins.
This indigo paste will still be suitable for coloring our yarn in three years’ time.
Craft and environment together
It was a unique experience.
This week brought us closer to nature and the traditions of our weavers.
As paint makers in Isaan we sweated a lot but the hard work in a warm climate was immediately rewarded by nature.
Every day we saw green plants turn into beautiful blue dye.
Now that we know how hard it is to make natural dye, we realize all the more how tempting it is to dye chemically.
It saves a lot of work, time and money.
Producers often accept the fact that rivers and soils are polluted with chemical wastewater.
Fortunately, old traditions and care for the environment remain important to many.
This certainly applies to our weavers.
They stand behind their way of working and are proud of it.
For example, our weaver made a small hammock to sift the last of the water.
To her, the rocking of the paint in this was equivalent to rocking a newborn child.
After all, new paint was born.
This pride and involvement make us optimistic.
Now that the importance of sustainable production is becoming increasingly clear, attention is again being paid to traditional working methods.
Many old techniques are a good alternative to polluting production processes.
We have seen with our own eyes in Isaan that crafts and the environment go well together.
And we don’t just get blue paint from nature.
We cook wood, plants, fruits and flowers to color fabrics.
We are proud that we can contribute in our own way to maintaining this responsible way of dyeing textiles.
Who knows, you may soon choose a piece of clothing whose color comes directly from nature.
A good choice, for you and our planet.
Making indigo color paint
- Grow four months
- Harvesting indigo
- After twenty-four hours
- Oxygen and clay
- Finally paint paste
- Craft and environment