Out of the Blue: The Ancient Craft of Indigo Dyeing

Out of the Blue: The Ancient Craft of Indigo Dyeing

In southern India, an organic “seed to seam” service dyes threads and fabrics using naturally produced pigments to make one-of-a-kind artisan garments.

Read more artisan stories in our latest print issue,
Volume 37: Craft.

spending a week shooting in Kottakarai, Tamil Nadu,
photographer Carl van de Linde thought £365 a bit steep for a pair
of jeans. Not so after experiencing first-hand what goes into the
production of naturally dyed fabric. “You can’t compare it to, say,
a Levi’s factory,” says van der Linde, “where you make the same
thing over and over and it’s easy to calculate overheads. Here,
it’s different colours… different patterns… working with a
substance that’s organic and alive… It’s super artisanal.”

The photographer spent time shooting natural dye specialists The
Colours of Nature, a company which offers organic “seed to seam”
services and offers a full-range of natural lightfast fabric
colours, including indigo, yellow – made with Calendula officinalis
– and red – made with Rubia cordifolia.

Extracted from organic Indigofera tinctoria leaves harvested in
a nearby village, the indigo arrives in the traditional form of
“cakes”, which are ground into a fine powder and added to vast
dyeing vats with lime and fermentation ‘food’. Dye masters at The
Colours of Nature then test the pH balance of the dye and remove
any sediment to keep the colour consistent. Beyond producing dyes,
thread and fabric, the company also creates finished garments which
are sent to customers and stockists worldwide.

Discover more stories from the Craft issue here.