We have been dreaming and scheming for just over a year to try to introduce some naturally dyed goodies to the collection. We have been working with Botanical Colors from the very start to find just the right plant to pair with our Rambouillet wool, and indigo turned out to be the ticket.
It seems like indigo is everywhere these days, and it’s easy to understand why; the indigo blue is intoxicating. The indescribable indigo blue color pushed us to take the plunge into the world of botanical dyes above all else. Introducing a naturally dyed garment is a risk in some ways because one must expect more of an unpredictable result than when working with synthetic dyes. Another large barrier to launching a naturally dyed product is finding someone willing to attempt such a feat – most dyers are set up for only synthetic dyes and switching between synthetic and natural pigments in an industrial dye machine is a little bit like trying to breathe water. Thankfully, we found Kathy Hattori, someone willing to walk down this uncertain road with us.
Kathy Hattori is the mastermind behind Botanical Colors, a Seattle based company that is leaving its mark on the world in the form of beautiful and botanically dyed textiles. Each shirt has been lovingly hand dipped into an indigo dye vat, by Kathy, until it achieves the deep blue of a night sky. Getting indigo to the point where it will attach to wool fibers is something of an art, as Kathy describes “Indigo is very different from other plant dyes as it requires additional steps to make the blue pigment available to attach to fibers. Every dyer has a special indigo recipe and ritual. Some use banana peels and lime to create the vats and others use long fermentation methods or quicker chemical additions.” This process takes a long time to perfect, and even more skill and expertise to achieve a uniform color among all pieces with minimum losses. Kathy says, “…once the vat is ready and the dipping begins, everyone succumbs to the enchantment of watching the dyed fabric turn from yellow to green to rich, deep blue.”
We love using wool because of its longevity, luster, performance, and its luxury. On top of that, wool is a sustainable and naturally renewable resource. All of the same can be said for indigo. Indigo, or indigofera tinctoria is a legume that can be grown easily (in the right climates) and harvested at least twice a year. It is also a nitrogen fixer which promotes rebuilding of soil. This amazing plant provides the world with a beautiful dye, helps soil quality, and is a renewable source of carbon sequestration – how can you go wrong? Well, sometimes indigo dyed goods will rub off blue on lighter colored garments or leathers, so there is a trade off. You’ll want to be aware of how you wash these t-shirts (minimum agitation, cold water, like colors) and for the first several months of wearing these indigo beauties you’ll have to be conscious of pairing your tees with like colors, but frankly, we think it’s worth it.
The indigo henleys and t-shirts available now were made in an extremely limited batch. We hope to be able to introduce more naturally dyed products and hopefully more indigo! To shop the indigo items that are available now, click here.