Yarns for Indigo demos in Turkmenistan

Yarns for Indigo demos in Turkmenistan

I just finished dyeing sampling skeins for my indigo demos in Turkmenistan. I dyed with Cochineal (reds) and Fustic (yellows). The yarns are (from left) wool, silk, an organic cotton/bamboo blend and a cotton/rayon blend. For the demo they will be over-dyed with indigo for a beautiful range of purples and greens! The undyed skeins will give a range of indigo blues as each substrate will take the indigo differently.
If you would like to try this, these same dyes are featured on The Yarn Tree’s website

Indigo Kit – Questions & Answers

Answers to some questions about the Natural Indigo method

I have received e-mails with some very good questions about the Indigo Kit and thought I would post the questions & answers here.

What is different about this method?

While there are many ways to make an indigo vat the two most widely used are the chemical vat and the natural ferment vat.

The chemical vat requires lye or caustic soda and thioureadioxide (Thiox). Lye is not so easy to obtain, is toxic and must be used with care. Thiox imparts a very strong odor to the indigo vat and requires good ventilation. This type of vat is very PH sensitive and not the most stable. To adjust the PH you would use Soda Ash or lemon juice.

The natural ferment vat takes 7 – 10 days before it is ready to use, requires a dedicated space, must be kept from getting too cold or too hot and care to keep it going. The most basic formula calls for indigo, ground madder root, soda ash, bran and water. The vat requires rest periods between dyeing, it needs to be fed and nurtured. With proper care it can last for years.

With Michel Garcia’s method there is no strong odor, it is ready to use in an hour and is very stable. Like the natural ferment vat this type of vat can be kept indefinitely – it just needs to be woken up when ready to use again. It does not require dangerous chemicals (lye or caustic soda) instead it is made with fructose and lime.

Can I do this at home?

Yes. The process is virtually odorless. You can use your kitchen stove for the heat source. The goods that you dye can be rinsed in your kitchen sink. Any mess can be cleaned up with Clorox- Cleanup.

What do I need?

  • A heat source, your stovetop is fine
  • 16-liter (or larger) enamel or stainless steel pot with a lid
  • Thermometer (a candy thermometer or digital thermometer)
  • White vinegar (for neutralizing the dyed goods)
  • A place to let the goods oxidize, a drying rack with newspaper underneath works well

How long does the vat last?

Indefinitely, as long as you don’t let it freeze or get too hot. The vat should be stored covered until you are ready to use it again. Store it in the cabinet under the sink, in your basement (as long as it can’t freeze), somewhere safely out of the way until you are ready to use it again.

What if I don’t want to store the vat?

In my teaching this method I explain two ways of using the vat.

The first is to use it, then store it and revive or wake up the vat when you are ready to dye again.

The second is to set your self up to do all the dyeing you are going to do until the vat is exhausted of indigo, then dispose of the vat.

How do I dispose of the vat?

Simply put – you can pour the vat in your garden or down the drain. If you have any concerns bring the PH of the vat to neutral by adding white vinegar and then pour it down the sink or in your garden.

How much can I dye with the Indigo Kit?

This is a bit of a tough question – it depends on how many dips you decide to do – at a minimum you should be able to dye one to two pounds of yarn, fabric or fiber. You can easily add more indigo to the vat as it becomes exhausted (used up).

You can purchase the Indigo Kit and additional supplies here: Indigo Kits




San Pedro Cajonos – Indigo Workshop in the Silk Village

The following slideshow is of the indigo workshop held in San Pedro Cajonos over two days in March 2012.

Photo credit: Linda LaBelle, Leslie Fiske Larson and Adriana Sabino Vásquez (MTO)

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Silk Road Connect returns to NYC!

Silk Road Connect in New York City

After piloting our Silk Road Connect arts-integration approach in New York City schools for two years, we are pleased to announce our first two partner schools: JHS 185–Edward Bleeker Junior High School in Queens (whose students are pictured above) and MS 61–Dr. Gladstone H. Atwell Middle School in Brooklyn. Between the two schools, more than 20 teachers and administrators and 300 students—10 classes of sixth-graders—are taking part in Silk Road Connect during the 2011-2012 school year.

To kick off the new school year, tabla player Sandeep Das visited JHS 185 from New Delhi on October 5. Students and educators at both schools will learn to dye with indigo later in October. Textile artist Linda LaBelle will lead classes through this immediately accessibly but infinitely variable process, using traditional methods developed along the Silk Road. (Watch our “Indigo Goes to School” video to learn more about the dyeing process and the study of indigo as a means to connect various subjects.)

Collaboration with teachers and school administrators is central to the Silk Road Connect approach. To keep lines of communication open and provide support to educators, the Silk Road Project employs Fellows who work directly in participating schools.

The Indigo Project

The Kickstarter campaign is 37% of the way there! $3770.00 has been raised. There is just a month left to reach the goal of $10,000.00. The Indigo Project needs your help!

Do you love textiles, the color blue, a good story, sustainability, helping others?

If the answer is yes – support The Indigo Project!

I have once again been invited to teach at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in the fall. I will be teaching three workshops: a weft Ikat to the original group of weavers from Sept 2010, a warp Ikat workshop to a new group of ten, and Michel Garcia’s method of making a reduction indigo vat.

In addition I plan on traveling to one of the last villages in Mexico that produces indigo. I expect to spend several weeks in the village interviewing the villagers and documenting the indigo production from the field to the indigo cake.

This means I could be in Mexico for up to two months. For all of this to happen I need to raise the funds.

There are two ways that you can donate – join the fun at Kickstarter and receive great rewards!


Or if you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation or your company has matching grants then Fractured Atlas (the fiscal sponsor for Stories of Hope) is the way to go.


What will this money be used for? Part of it will be used to produce a book on the indigo growers. This book will document the process from the fields to the indigo cake ready for market. Part of it will go to having both Stories of Hope –Oaxaca (http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2132961)and Stories of Hope –The Indigo Project translated into Spanish. Part of it will go to transportation, room and board for both myself and a translator. Part of it will go to pay the translator. Part of it will go to updating or adding equipment.

Why is this important? This is one of the last villages in Mexico to produce indigo and I feel very strongly that it is important to archive the process and tell the stories of the villagers. Indigo production has sustained them for generations, but this could all become lost as the younger generations leave the village to work in the US or Mexico City. It can become lost because this is a subsistence lifestyle and one bad crop can ruin the village financially. Last year there was too much rain and they were only able to produce a small amount of indigo.

It takes only one generation for knowledge to become forever lost. Twice in the past year I traveled to return to cultures craft techniques that had become lost to them.

Stories of Hope (www.madderlane.com) is making a difference in people’s lives and that is happening because of the generosity and support of people like you!

Stories of Hope – The Indigo Project

Thank you for your support of Stories of Hope – Oaxaca

2010 was a very good year for Stories of Hope!

The workshop in Mexico was successful – the weavers are now utilizing the techniques taught in the workshop to create fresh new products for the marketplace that are selling well. Stories of Hope – Oaxaca, Weavers of Southern Mexico was just published. And I have been invited back to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca to teach in the fall.

In Jan. 2011, Stories of Hope was able to give out a scholarship for Creativity & Experimentation and an interest free micro-loan, I look forward to repeating this in 2012.

I have just started a new Kickstarter campaign, Stories of Hope – The Indigo Project and hope that I can count on your support again this year.

Here is the link to the project:


The Indigo Project

Or if you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation or your company has matching grants then Fractured Atlas (the fiscal sponsor for Stories of Hope) is the way to go.


Oaxaca update!

Today is certainly the right day to tell you all about my time in Mexico! As I sit here and watch the snowfall I think back to warm, sunny days in Oaxaca. They say that the weather each of the first days of the new year will determine the weather for coming months – if it is raining and cold on Jan 2nd, then February will be rainy and cold. If it is sunny and hot on January 3rd then March will be sunny and warm. Every day was sunny and very warm so Oaxaca is looking at a very warm, sunny spring!

The trip was a great success. I was able to meet with the 10 weavers and go over the next workshop with them. The upcoming workshop will focus on weft ikat and will work as a lab. The participants will bring their own yarns pre-dyed with natural dyes in reds and yellows. We will again work with indigo, over-dyeing to give purples and greens.

Several of the weavers have continued to work with the ikat techniques they learned in September. Arturo told us he sold 5 shawls in one week that were done with ikat. Because they all sold we didn’t get to see them!

Moises brought a beautiful silk scarf to show us.

Moises’ Ikat

And Alfredo brought 2 dresses that incorporated ikat.

Dress with Ikat
Detail of Ikat

The museum has invited me to give three workshops in 2011 – I am so honored and excited!

My main purpose in traveling to Oaxaca was to hand out the scholarship and micro-loan. We did not let anyone know that this was why I was there and made arrangements to meet with the recipients in private.

Eric and David, representing the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and I made arrangements to travel to Jose’s home in Teotitlan so that I could photograph his latest weaving. When I was done we asked if we could sit and talk – then we surprised Jose with the scholarship. He was stunned.  The scholarship is for Creativity & Experimentation. The piece Jose weaves will be exhibited at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in June and then it will come here to Brooklyn to be on exhibit in July. The piece will be for sale –  10% of the proceeds will go towards another scholarship. I cannot wait to see what Jose does!

Jose receiving Scholarship for Creativity & Experimentation

Next we made arrangements to meet with Eufrosina & Esteban at the museum telling them I needed to do another interview with them. I cannot tell you how surprised they were to learn they weren’t there to be interviewed instead they would be receiving a micro-loan to help them purchase a loom – they were both speechless.

Esteban receiving the micro-loan!

At the end of my stay the weavers invited me to lunch – including folks from the museum there were close to 20 of us. It was at this lunch that we told the other weavers about the scholarship and micro-loan. They were so pleased for Jose, Eufrosina & Esteban and thrilled to learn that this program will continue to be available in the future to help others. I explained to everyone that this money was not coming from me – but from a wonderful group of people who care very much about them. They are so thankful that strangers from so far away would do this for them.

They asked me to say Gracias to you all!

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