In browsing a few of my favorite stores recently I’ve noticed a lot of indigo or shibori dyed clothing and home goods. It’s an old traditional Japanese dying technique of twisting, folding, and binding fabric before adding dye that dates back to the 8th century (precursor of 80s tie dye!). Blue and white have long been one of my favorite color combinations for summer. The deep blue color from indigo dye is incredible and the possibilities for design and pattern are endless. No two pieces are the same, which makes them that much more special.
I thought for picnic week it would be fun to try our hand at indigo tie dying ourselves and make a summery picnic blanket to enjoy a day at the park or beach on this summer.
Also, I noticed yesterday that if you go to J.Crew’s seasonal swim page everything above the fold is in indigo tie dye style. It’s a popular new trend (this dress from Madewell too!). Here are the step by step instructions…
In case you missed our other picnic themed posts this week: The perfect picnic sandwich, 3 favorite homemade veggie dips, what to wear to a picnic, DIY cloth picnic games. Stay tuned for one more tomorrow!
1 box of Indigo tie dye kit
Natural cotton fabric (we used 100% cotton sheeting)
Clamps, boards, extra rubber bands
First off: If you’re looking for really specific tips and instructions, best to consult the very detailed instructions that come with the indigo tie dye kit!
Step 1: Accordion fold your natural fabric in a variety of different methods (we tried lots of things, everything was successful as long as it started with an accordion fold). Clam with boards (those will ensure large white spots), or use a lot or rubber bands the way you would with tie dying.
Step 2: Following the instructions in your packet, mix the dye in a bucket. You start with 4 gallons of warm water and and pour the indigo dye in while stirring in a circular motion.
Step 3: Add the soda ash and reduction agent (all this is in your indigo tie dye kit!). Stir it again clockwise and then in reverse. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent oxidation.
Step 4: Let sit for 30 minutes. It’s going to smell terrible. It’ll be green and goop will form on top. You’ll think you messed it up but hang in there!
Step 5: Dunk your fabric in water and then submerge it into the dye being careful not to let it touch the bottom of the bucket. Gently press and massage the fabric for a couple minutes in the dye mixture.
Step 6: When you pull it out, once again, you’re going to curse me and think you’ve messed it up but hang in there! Now the fun part- let it sit out for about 15 minutes. The puke green color will turn a dark blue indigo. You can also put it back in the dye for an even darker color (we didn’t do this and left it the lighter blue you see in the final images).
Step 7: Wash wash wash. Wash it all out, removing the bands and blocks. We still saw some greenish hue at this point but it will quickly oxidize away.
Step 8: Throw all your pieces in the wash on cold, and then,
Step 9: Air dry (it’ll look so pretty!)
Step 10: Hem and iron!
Other resources/links on indigo dying: Some different binding techniques and how they turn out, a history of indigo dye, the current above the fold J.Crew swim collection is all indigo dyed, a gorgeous indigo dyed dress, amazing traditional indigo designs for inspiration