Dyeing with fresh leaves of Japanese Indigo (Polygonum tinctorium)
see some photographs of my exciting dye experiments following
information found in the book
(Stealing the colours of the rainbow),
written by Dr.
about the workshop of the Japanese master
dye bath has to be worked quickly to prevent the instable Indigo
pigment from the leaves from decomposition before it attaches
itself to the fibres. Only cold water and a small amount of vinegar
are used, there are no other additives.
This method of dyeing works best on silks.
Indigo (Dyer’s Knotweed) on the field
of the Tretau family in Kollow.
For this dye process the leaves of the plant should be picked
before flowering starts.
of Japanese Indigo after the first cut
the freshly cut stalks home in the car.
in water ...
and draining off on a duckboard.
leaves have been stripped off and are cut finely.
leaves have been soaked and are now squeezed vigorously to release
the dye from the leaves.
I added 50 ml of acetic acid (25%) to 20 litres of Water.
vinegar is added to the water to help release the dye pigment
and to delay its breakdown.
is strained off and has to be kneaded once again in water with
released pigment has a strong green colour.
leaves and the dye bath change colour and intensify during the
second kneading in water.
white silks are added to this cold dye bath and moved about for
ca. 1 hour. It first turns green in the dye bath...
then changes more and more to blue.
contact with oxygen and water the colour changes to a blue tone
with a slight turquoise tint.
Take the dye stuff out of the dye bath after about an hour and
rinse in water. To add more oxygen keep moving the fabric.
silk has to be dried quickly to fix the dye to the fabric.
the first dyeing process the dye baths are repeated once or several
times more to ensure a greater depth of colour and a better lightfastness.
wool and silk are overdyed.
in the final rinse. Different yellow dyes result in different
shades of green.
dried results on the following day.
silk is not ready yet, it is going to be rinsed again and then
evening of the 7th of October, after six weeks of dye experiments,
the silk is ironed and I am delighted with the results!
morning of the 8th of October: The colours change during the day
and look different in changing lights.
from the colour wheel.
overdyeing of different yellow silks results in very different
shades of green.
book “Der Regenbogenfarbendieb” has enriched and inspired
me. I would like to thank the dye master Yoshioka in Kyoto for
the generous sharing of his knowledge – and Dr. Elmar Weinmayr
for writing this book!
this dye experiment for the widely extended second edition of
my dye book "Wolle und
Seide mit Naturstoffen faerben" (transl. Dyeing wool and
silk with natural dyes). This book will most likely be published
in 2006, under the titel "Naturfarben auf Wolle und Seide
- Faerben ohne giftige Zusaetze" (transl. Natural dyes on
wool and silk - dyeing without harmful additives). The recipe
will be given there in detail.
Indigo – Dyer’s Knotweed – Polygonum tinctorium
received the seeds for this experiment from the Thüringer
Zentrum Nachwachsende Rohstoffe in Dornburg/Germany; the
Tretau family in Kollow grew the plants for my dye experiments.
I would like to thank both of them sincerely for their help!
Japanese Indigo is a small herbaceous plant, native to the warmer
regions of Eastern Asia. It is not fully hardy in our climate
and thus can only be grown as an annual. The precursors of indigo
are present in the leaves, which are best used fresh, but can
also be dried carefully. The loss of pigment through drying the
Japanese indigo can be as high as 90 %.
The use of fresh leaves
of Japanese Indigo is absolutely necessary for the dye process
shown above. The quicker the leaves are processed, the better
the dye results will be.
The seed source given
in the German text will only deliver seeds in Germany.
A description of the
plant and its cultivation (in German) is available from the “Thüringer
Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft”. Maybe activities
such as this will lead to a renaissance of natural indigo dyeing.
© Dorothea Fischer
contact under Dorothea@LustAufFarben.de
Foertig translated into English, thank you.
interesting report, well worth reading by Britta Noack:
The recipe by Britta
Noack for 1000 g of wool or silk:
2000 g leaves of dyer's
knotweed (freshly picked, from about 7 plants)
25 l of water
50 ml of acetic acid (25%)
Pick the leaves off
the stalks, chop as finely as possible, mix into the cold water
and start rubbing (wear rubber gloves, otherwise hands and nails
When the leaves are kneaded and rubbed, the juice is extracted
from the leaves; the liquid turns green.
Add acetic acid to stabilise the liquid.
Strain off the leaves, fill up with more water and repeat the
process. Fill up to 25 l again and put in dry silk or wool, dip
down occasionally and move the fabric/yarn about in the liquid.
Take out after about an hour, when the material has turned blue.
Leave it out in the open for ca. 30 minutes to oxidize. Rinse
3 times and dry.
The dyer's knotweed
can also be picked when already in flower, as some dyers do. It
might well contain more dye pigment at that stage. I followed
the experiences of master dyer Yoshioka during this experiment.
Dorothea Fischer, 18.04.2007