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Indigo fabric

craftfool | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I purchased a piece of indigo dyed fabric for a jacket. I want to keep the dark color so I did not wash it before cutting out the jacket pieces.  The dye did rub out on my fingers.  How can the color be set and not rub off on my hands and other fabric?

Also, since I plan to have it dry cleaned, will I need to give the cleaners any special information?


  1. Fruzzle | | #1

    I usually use salt & vinegar to set dying I do at home -- you might try soaking it in cold water with a goodly amount of both (maybe about 3/4 of a cup of each to a large saucepan full of water), then rinsing it in several batches of cold water. I've done this successfully with all types of natural fibres.

    But since you said you plan to have it dry cleaned, I'm not sure if you want to avoid water altogether. If you have some scrap pieces, I'd definitely test this method on those, first, to make sure you don't have any issues with shrinkage or other water damage.

  2. mimi | | #2

    Have you tried heat setting it with an iron?  Put a scrap between two pieces of scrap white fabric and press on the highest setting.  Let cool and see if it rubs off.


  3. SewTruTerry | | #3

    I would do a double test by laundering a small scrap like you would like to care for it and also take the same size piece to the dry cleaners and ask them to run it through their process and see if there are any changes to the hand and the color of the piece.  Several years ago I had a very disheartening encounter at the dry cleaners with a hand dyed Egyptian cotton shawl (the cleaning process removed all of the red dye from the piece but non of the blue) so even the dry cleaning process is not a guarantee.  Also if you are successfull in dry cleaning the material make sure that you label the garment carefully so that every time it goes to the cleaners they actually "dry-clean" it and not just launder it.  Good Luck.

  4. User avater
    fashionlizard | | #4

    I have several books on indigo dyeing...but of course I don't have access to them right at this moment. One is Indigo Textiles by G.Sandberg.
    But based upon memory, I will impart the following:

    The indigo dye coming off on your fingers is crocking... There are particles of indigo left on the surface of the cloth that have oxydized (which turns them blue)but have not bound themselves to the fibers. These particles would come off in rinse water as well, but would not bind to anything else since they are already oxydized and only the unoxydized form of indigo will bond permanently to the fibers of your cloth or yarn. The "blue fingers" effect that you are noticing can go on for some time! I bought a new, traditionally indigo-dyed hakama for Iaido Practice (Japanese sword drawing) and for about a month after every practice (several times a week) my right hand was blue because one uses the right hand to move the fabric of the garment behind your knees out of the way before sitting down. This happened even after I washed the hakama TWICE with salt and vinegar added to the rinse water. Only after I read the books on indigo dyeing did I come to understand that the dye being released was not "bleeding" in the sense of other dyes; releasing their molecules from the fibers into the water, but it was just the unbound particles of oxydized indigo falling off the surface of the garment. Rinsing the fabric in water will not change the color of indigo dyed fabric very much at all.... but ABRASION while wearing it will. Think of your blue jeans...they get lighter at the knees and where the high wear points are on your leg seams. This is partly because the indigo dye did not fully penetrate and bond to the inner fibers of a tight twill weave. If the fibers had been dyed and then woven, rather than dyeing the garment when complete, you wouldn't see as bad a problem with abrasion.
    To remove the exess dye from your fabric, just rinse until no dye is suspended in the water. But try not to do this with a lot of agitation where the fabric is rubbing against itself.
    The deepness and color of indigo dyed cloth depends on the amount of reduced indigo available in the dye bath and the number of sequencial dips into the dye bath to allow more indigo to bind to the fibers. This is not as easy as you might think, since the indigo bath is highly alkaline and it is possible to strip indigo off the fibers and reduce it once more into the bath! It is quite an art to get deeply dyed indigo. Water will not remove indigo that is bound to the fiber.
    Also, becareful with pressing.... indigo develops a shine if you use a hot iron, so unless you like that effect, use a press cloth.

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