one of the things that inspired us most on a recent trip to LA was the shades of blue that we spotted everywhere, from swimming pools to the fronts of warehouses. so when we heard about Jane Palmer and her natural-dye house that specializes in indigo in the heart of the city’s garment district, we jumped at the chance to see the process for ourselves…
We certainly weren’t the first to fall in love with indigo dye, an organic compound found in hundreds of different plants. In fact, it was used by many ancient civilizations and valued for its rare blue color. “I love the look of natural indigo dye because it never looks flat,” explains Jane. “It has this uniquely inky look that glows from within.”
“Indigo dyeing is about patience because it takes a long time to achieve the desired result,” says Jane. Once the indigo has been prepared (a process which alone takes about an hour), it’s added to a vat of water, which turns an unexpected bright yellow or green.
After cloth is dipped into the vat, it also comes out yellow-green. It’s the oxygen in the air that will slowly turn the material blue. To get that rich indigo hue, the fabric must be repeatedly dipped into the vat—up to eight times to make it really dark.
To create their unique indigo designs, Jane and her team use a process called shibori, the ancient Japanese practice of folding, clamping, binding and stitching fabric to create patterns (we think of it like a really complicated version of tie-dye). The technique takes time to master; in Japan, a dyer must apprentice for years before becoming a practicing artist. “We have developed our own styles of shibori that we use over and over because we love the way they look,” she says.
Photography by Ken Tisuthiwongse.
For more of what we were up to in LA, click here