Bali: Indigo Dying

Finding artisans who dye fabrics with natural dyes is becoming harder and harder. Natural dyes produce more muted colors than chemical dyes, they may fade more rapidly, and it’s time consuming to do enough for commercial production. So most dyers use chemical dyes.

However, today, we were able to visit a small enterprise that both produces natural dyes (from mahogany leaves, from mango leaves, as well as from indigo vegetation …) and dyes the yarn to make fabric.

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They have an active dying operation, as well as many looms for producing both fine woven yardage as well as rag fabric strips for making floor rugs (as well as placemats). The white board hanging on one of the walls listed six jobs currently in production.

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They dye both yarn and fabrics with indigo. We were walked through the process of making natural indigo dye.

Take a bundle of indigo, put it in a vat with water and let it ferment for 48 hours. Now decant the light colored liquid,

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aerate it in a mixing vessel for four hours, then add lime to the darkened mixture which thickens it to a near paste consistency.

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Finally add Palm sugar – this apparently creates a chemical structure that allows the dye to penetrate and adhere to the fibers being dyed.

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We each then had the chance to take a two meter piece of white voile cotton through one of four different dying processes – tie dying, stamping with a carved sponge, scrunching/rolling it, and air brushing the fabric after it is covered by lace or leaves of different shapes. The resulting fabrics were lovely:

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The indigo dye is applied to a wet, washed, & rinsed fabric. Once the indigo is applied, the cloth is washed, fixed with salt so the dye will resist fading, then the cloth is hung in the sun to dry.

By the time we were organized to depart, the cloths were dry and ready for us to take them home.

We returned to Sanur for a late lunch then a leisurely mosey back to the hotel, a swim to cool off, then out along the ocean walk till we found a place to eat that suited.

Tonight, in addition to being a full moon (celebrated by all Hindu Balinese) we witnessed the latter stages of a partial eclipse! Now how’s that for exotic?

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