If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Dip, Hang, Repeat

Dear Ann,

Last Sunday I spent a glorious day at French General’s indigo dyeing workshop in a 19th century building at the South Street Seaport. (19th-Century turns out to mean “very badly lit,” but intrepid dyers were not deterred.)

All I can say is, here are some photos of heaven in a 5-gallon bucket.



The background music: vinyl.  There is no digital in indigo.

Our leader, Kaari Meng, a tower of indigo power, at the vat.  I adored her workshopping style:  a 15 minute chat (while we got started on our shibori) to impart Indigo ABCs and Shibori 101, and then an entire day of learning by doing.  Kaari and crew were ever hovering near the vats, ready to answer the pressing questions that only occur to a person when she is up to her elbows in fragrant blue sludge. (And loving it!)





Confession:  I took a cherished gift to the vat.  Cristina dyed some linen yarn for me, ages ago, and I knit it up into a raggy little summer scarf.  I love it and have worn it to death but truth be told:  it could be bluer.  Things can always be bluer.  Here’s the







The simplest shibori we did was to make little bundles with cotton scarves.


So cute I kind of wanted to keep them as-is, as objects. But after 7 or 8 dips, curiosity gets the better of one.



I don’t suppose I need to tell you that I kept the sticks.  Tongue depressor art.


Things get lurid for a minute when you lift the sticks.



We unfurled our bundles with giddy delight.  Unfurling never gets old.




Do it again! Do it again!







Photo(30)The start of a massive pile of used shibori resists.


Photo(31)Amber’s magnificent scarf on the right.

Photo(16)Remember my Raspy that had an encounter with the bleach pen back in 2006?  Yeah. Bleach pen, say hello to indigo vat. Booya!


Photo(18)What more is there to say?  BEST DAY EVER.  I urgently recommend an indigo workshop to anyone in need of a blast of textile joy.  Thank you, Meng sisters of French General.  Please come back soon.



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  1. way cool that blue is.

  2. Such amazingly beautiful photos. Blue is my color anyway and these are wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Fantastic! Was that book I got you any use or inspiration?

    As an aside, I think your NY rain of yesterday has crossed the Atlantic overnight. It is pouring here. Bleargh. B x x

  4. Oh how beautiful! Love the scarf in its new skin!

  5. Ohhhh! How pretty and what fun! When we finally get some warm weather here in Toronto I hope to try a vat of indigo in my own back yard.

  6. There is no doubt, you are a child of the tie-dying 70’s!

  7. What a day! Every picture here is fantastic. Your renewed sweater is killer!

  8. Gimme, gimme, gimme! Such great photos – love that way you included the day’s drama and intrigue.

  9. On my first trip to Japan 15+ years ago, our quilter hosts arranged an indigo workshop for us in Arimatsu, famed as ‘shibori town’. The workshop could/should have been wonderful if we were not so incredibly jet-lagged, language-challenged and totally overwhelmed by ‘everything Japan’ in those first days. I came away from it with a pathetic, handkerchief-sized piece and recurring wishes to experience a do-over. Looks like you hit the jackpot on your first try!

  10. Aaahhh! I got to dip about 1 thing in indigo once and was hooked. I’ve been stymied at every turn from trying to do another workshop. But I think I know what I’m doing for Mother’s Day now. Prepare to be amazed, kids!

  11. What fun! Pulling things out of dye pots is just such a surprise….think Easter eggs. Thanks for the great pictures!

  12. The purpose of the elastics? Are there other tongue depressors on the bottom and the elastics are holding them together in a squeeze?

    • Exactly, Mary. You have to squeeze them tight to keep the dye out when you immerse the bundle; otherwise might as well just dye them blue all over. You bundle them tight, but then when you have them in the vat, you work them with your hands so that the dye can penetrate the folds. The picture of my 2 scarves illustrates the difference it can make. The bundles were nearly identical but obviously one got a lot more dye into the packet that the other.

  13. Gorgeous! Wish there was an indigo workshop in San Francisco.

  14. So jealous, and around the corner from my old apartment too. I love the new look of your raspy!

  15. Thanks for taking the time to share so many photos. Blue with envy.

  16. Are shibori and tie dye the same thing? I haven’t shiboried yet but the unfurling sounds a lot like the joy of unwrapping a fresh tie dye (which I haven’t done for years)- so exhilarating! I must try indigo as well. Those scarves are beautiful. thanks for sharing your adventure!

    • I think tie dye is one category of Shibori. Shibori is dyeing using a variety of “resist” techniques to form patterns. Folding, tying, sewing, using objects and pressure.

  17. Wow! Thanks for showing us this.

    BUT!! How did you have time to put down the Leaves of Grass????

  18. Thanks for posting your pictures of our dyeing class. That was my idea of a perfect day. In fact, I brought home TWO leftover tubs of dye and plan to refresh them for another go this weekend. Nothing in my house is safe. Anyone who didn’t get enough of it is welcome to join me.

  19. My Blue Heaven! Oh, my, my, my!

    This is awesome! Kay, thanks for sharing with us another wonderful experience.


  20. I’ve never dyed anything that I can recall (maybe I tie-dyed a t-shirt back int the 70s?) and never had much desire to, but this is amazing! I want to do this!

  21. A question just came to mind: Did they say anything about how to keep the color from running when the time comes to wash whichever garment/fabric that was dyed? Is there a way to make the color fast?

    • Kaari recommended a quarter cup of vinegar in the sink with water, soak it, then launder as normal. It will fade–like blue jeans–and you should never wash it with whites, but it’s pretty stable after that. Loses most in early washes, then gradually after that.

  22. Bleu de bleu! I’m glad the linen got a refresher. I’m looking forward to turning some things blue around here very soon. xoc

  23. To PM who wishes “there was a workshop in San Francisco.” If you’re willing to drive a few hours a man called John Marshall has a summer studio class called “Working With Natural Indigo” in August. Barbara Shapiro—a San Francisco artist—has offered indigo dyeing workshops in the past, and might again. http://barbara-shapiro.com/about/teaching/a-greener-indigo/

    Those are just two names that I found on a quick internet search. I bet that there are more!

  24. Blue with envy!

  25. And now I am furiously googling indigo dyeing classes in Portland and researching shibori books. I’ve thought about doing it before, but I think Ive been scarred by my early tye dye and batik failures in Girl Scouts circa 1986. Tongue depressor packets and a room full of support sounds like the most perfect weekend ever.

  26. I was sold seeing your scarf! completely awesome! so far, my forays into dyeing have only been with
    RIT, though I’ve had some happy results….nothing to compare with your indigo, however.
    on an unrelated, but related, topic, just watched PBS’s ‘craft in america’, featuring Gee’s Benders,
    amongst other amazing craft goodness – do watch it:, and thanks for the most excellent post! http://video.pbs.org/video/2365236475/

  27. Agreed – everything IS better bluer! MUCH better. Beautiful, beautiful work.

  28. ohhhMY! The beauty. I’m dying to be dyeing in indigo. I will confess to trying a few differnt kind sof dyeing a few years ago and indigo is the only one that captured my heart. And the color! Another for the to-do-this-summer list.
    PS the tongue depressors. Love.

  29. Oooh! Ahhh! Mmmm! Awesome…

  30. so what were the tunes on vinyl? what’s an indigo soundtrack?

  31. I check back here pretty regularly to see what’s new. For the last week or so, every time I check in, I see the headline at the top, and read it as Hip, Dang, Repeat.

    Every time.


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