DIP DYE - Exploring Indigo

After a few years of hands-on design at the Fashion Institute of Technology—focusing on weaving, painting and screen-printing—most of my career has been spent on digital design, as well as collection styling and project management.  I love design on the computer.  Photoshop and Illustrator have become my go-to tools for creation.  But after so much time spent clicking away on the mouse and Wacom tablet and screen, I am rediscovering the creative spark of rolling up my sleeves and making something. It’s good to get your hands dirty from time to time, and after a day of indigo dying in a friend’s back yard last year, I’ve gotten hooked.

The results of a day in the yard

A set of vintage heavy linen placements and a set of new linen napkins with a simple blue border

Indigo dye folkways run deep.  The committed craftsmanship of the dye-master, the artistry of Shibori…these are at once inspiring and petrifying.  How to approach such a venerable craft as a beginner?  Just have to jump in, and with beginner's mind learn and enjoy the process.  I view these pieces as experiments: explorations that allow me to re-invent collected and beloved swatches and vintage linens, "sketches" that can serve as building blocks for digital design. 

Our home improvement projects have yielded a plethora of clamps and wood scraps, shown here with the dye baths.  The clamps work well for suspending the bordered items in the dye bath, as well as creating the resist areas.

Border design exploration

Process for creating a border

Estate sale finds given a new life: a lovely fat hemstitched placemat set and some jacquard linen napkins, all after 24 hours in the blue.

Each piece in a set has its own personality

Careful folding and clamping results in a bordered plaid

I like to play with simplified designs and techniques to allow modern motifs to come through.  The juxtaposition of the organic, hand-dyed texture with simple borders, blocks and stripes creates a wonderful tension. I love to find old monogrammed and stitched linens that seem too formal for an everyday setting, give them a dip in blue, and use them with tonight's cocktail or Wednesday's dinner.  Why not?