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  • Writer's pictureLinda Litchfield

More On Indigo

The current exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum at 83 Bermondsey Street London SE1 3XF is Orla Kiely A Life in Pattern (on until 23 September 2018). It’s a lovely retrospective of the work of this much-admired Irish designer. Her ubiquitous patterns, clothes, bags and homewares are shown to advantage and a walk through the galleries induces a warm feeling of nostalgia for the avocado/orange/brown vibe of Sixties Britain.

You won’t find much sign of indigo in the Orla Kiely exhibition, but my reason for visiting the FTM last evening was to hear a ticketed talk by Swedish authors and indigo dyers, Kerstin Neumuller and Douglas Luhanko entitled Indigo: cultivate, dye, create. This is also the title of their recently published book (first published in 2017 in Sweden by Natur and Kultur and now translated into English by Frida Green and published in 2018 in London by Pavilion). I had already acquired a copy of the book. It is written in a simple, clear style, is well-laid out and has excellent photographs. The authors are both passionate about indigo: they met when Neumuller (who has a tailoring/folk art background) went into Luhanko’s denim jeans shop in Stockholm, to enquire if anyone was interested in dyeing with indigo. They have together been growing and dyeing with it and now writing about it since then.

The authors describe their book as “a practical book which leads you by the hand through indigo dyeing”. After discussing what indigo is, it has sections on growing indigo plants, dyeing with indigo, recipes for dyeing both with indigo and with woad, and with indigo in combination with other pigments and also sections on shibori, sashiko , patching and mending and ikat. I think that even for someone who knows quite a lot about indigo already, there is much to learn and enjoy here. The emphasis in the book is on natural indigo but the authors recognise the commercial place of synthetic indigo, observing that a pair of blue jeans dyed in natural indigo will be at least twice the price of a pair dyed in the synthetic alternative.

Indigo: cultivate, dye, create also contains a recipe for making a fresh woad dye vat. The woad on my allotment has been waiting patiently for long enough: watch this space.


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