Despite shaking like a leaf from recent food poisoning, I was determined not to miss the Indigo Dyeing workshop at Collage Collage with Heather Young at the latest Adult Craft Night. So I splashed some cold water on my pallid face, forced myself not to care about my unstraightened hair, and rolled into that workshop like a hot mess.
Shibori is something I have been longing to try my hand at for ages, but I’ve never been confident enough to seek out the materials and make the terrible mistakes that are probably a part of trying such an intricate process on your own. So when Erin from Collage Collage told me she was bringing Heather Young in to do this workshop, I knew I couldn’t miss it. Heather Young, of Dust clothing, recently returned to Vancouver after completing her Masters of Fine Arts in Glasgow, and has been teaching natural dye workshops throughout the city. She is a wonderful teacher, explaining not only the history of shibori but also making the quite scientific process of mixing the vats of fermented indigo seem easily attainable.
After wrapping the vats in towels to keep their warmth, the group of us settled back at our long table to start experimenting with our clean cotton fabrics. Shibori is a Japanese term for folding, stitching, and/or binding fabric to resist dye it into various patterns. Indigo is extracted from plants, and was first used centuries ago in countries like India, China, Japan, and by ancient civilizations in Rome, Egypt, Iran, and Britain. I eventually would like to try my hand at all the varieties of technique that Heather laid out on the table – rocks, clamps, binding – but I was drawn to the sewing and cinching method immediately. By folding sections of the cloth and letting my needle weave through the fabric, I pulled everything tight as I could before slipping it into the vat of shining green liquid – the indigo only turns blue once the soaked fabric is brought out into the air to oxidize.
Indigo dyeing is not a quick process. It takes several dips of the cloth into the dye to get it to the classic deep blue hue. I only did two dips for both my handkerchief and tote bag (10 minutes in the liquid, and 10 minutes outside for each dip), but it could take up to 10 dips to reach the darker blues. As our creations dried in the night air, we were all satisfied with our work, admiring the wide differences in design, colours, and patterns.
I was happy to learn that Heather will be coming back to teach another dyeing workshop for kids ages 7 and up in the next two weeks. Watch for details on how to register on Collage Collage’s website. I will definitely be registering my Finn for this one, so perhaps we’ll see you there!