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Sunday, 8 November 2015

India, indigo, inspiration

I'm still thinking about ways to tell you about India. It was so intense in such a short time. I look back at the pictures, and sometimes I can't understand why I didn't capture certain things to show you. And then I remember the heat, and that my brain was always a little fuzzy and it was probably enough for me just to look and listen and do nothing more. So, until I find a way in, I'm going to tell you about what I've done since. A project inspired by indigo. 

In Jaipur, we saw handmade indigo-dyed paper.
We watched as the dabu master dipped piece after piece of our attempts at mud-resist into the indigo vat.
And, of course, I came home with mud-resist and block printed pieces, all with their own nod to indigo.
Right from the start, I had in mind what I wanted to make. I did a patternmaking course just before I went to India, so I wanted to experiment with that too. First I needed a bunch of indigo-dyed fabrics all with different patterns.
Indigo dye shibori techniques tie-dye
I had ideas of trying out bandhani, the tiny little knots Indians use to create the most intricate patterns with their tye-dye, but after a day of gathering fabric – the stitching above ended up as the piece on the left below – I knew I didn't have time for that kind of detail.

All in all I probably ended up with a more Japanese shibori approach to my dyeing, but effective nonetheless.
Indigo dye shibori techniques tie-dye folding and clamping
While the dye ended up a lot lighter than it first appeared coming out of the bath, I forged ahead anyway. The piece on the left below was created by pleating the fabric and then securing it on alternate sides with bull-dog clips. The one on the right was scrunched into a ball and secured with thread. After the first dip in the dye bath I undid the bundle and then
re-tied it for a second dip.
Indigo dye shibori techniques tie-dye folding and clamping
My two favourites are the ones below. This one was created using stones secured into the fabric with rubber bands.
Indigo dye shibori techniques tie-dye folding and clamping
And my very favourite is this one – all that gathering was worth it in the end.
Indigo dye stitched shibori techniques tie-dye folding and clamping
Next – the embroidery. I had seen a piece in India that was indigo-dyed then trimmed with a pop of contrasting colour and it really appealed to me, so I went with orange. The shapes left by the stones looked like a constellation of stars, so I continued the theme with my stitching.
Indigo dye shibori techniques embroidery kantha
I then took the piece made by the scrunched up dye and covered it with kantha stitching. As my sister pointed out, the dye on this piece was the most reminiscent of 70's tie-dye, so it really did need to be the one to be covered in embroidery.

I went cross-cultural again, using shibori thread to stitch my kantha.
Indigo dye shibori techniques embroidery kantha sashiko
With the dark shibori thread and touches of dark blue where I'd double-dipped pieces, or kept them in the bath longer, I decided I still wanted to add a bit of really dark indigo into the mix. With a piece of mud-resist fabric I bought in India, I found what I was looking for.

And now for the great unveil – ta-dah, the finished skirt! I'm really happy with how it turned out. I wouldn't even change the intensity of the dye now, as I like the contrast between it and the yoke.
Shibori indigo dyed kantha embroidered skirt front
And the back…
Shibori indigo dyed kantha embroidered skirt back
Then what did I do? Well, I turned around and made another one of course! The second one was mostly made with fabrics I bought in India, although there is a mud-resist one I did in there too. It's also a little more subdued in its colourway which suits the person I made it for.
And there you have it… Over the coming weeks I'm sure I'll be telling you about the block printing and the mud-resist and the most exquisite embroidery, but for now thanks for letting me share my first India-inspired pieces with you.

Happy week everyone!


  1. Gorgeous work, Tara! Looking forward to most posts on the India trip. Saw the Indian textiles exhibition at the V & A in London recently- such mind blowing craftsmanship.

    1. Thanks so much Leslie. I would have loved, loved, loved to see the V&A exhibition. The little snippets I've seen online looked divine.

  2. Well done. They're both beautiful. Glad you're back blogging. I was missing it.

    1. Thank you x
      I think I've already got the next post in mind!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Sandra, I was really happy with how they turned out.

  4. The skirts are beautiful, and really enjoying your blog. See you on Sunday morning for more embroidering!

    1. Oh thanks Kate. Did you find the information on San Antonino? I can send you the link if you couldn't.
      I'm looking forward to seeing how you're all going with the stitching.