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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mysterious, Exotic Indigo


Indigofera tinctoria is the plant that was once one of the original sources of indigo dye. It is a small shrub with light green leaves and sheafs of delicate pink flowers. This past spring I planted two different varieties of indigo in our garden. I like to use the graceful sheafs of blooms to use as filler in cut flower arrangements.

Indigo, the color of a midnight sky,
the tint of my favorite pair of jeans,
and the dye used to create these exotic fabrics.
Indigo appears in the rainbow between
blue and violet and shares attributes of both.

Hand Dyed Indigo Fabrics

Indigo, a color both rich and mysterious, has traveled through time in many cultures being used as pigment for painting, as dye for cloth, and for both medicinal and cosmetic purposes. A natural dye originally extracted from plants, indigo dye is among the oldest dyes used for both textile dying and painting. Most indigo dye today is usually a synthetic, but these fabrics were dyed using traditional methods of the Yoruba culture of Western Africa.

Gasali Adeyemo

Gasali Adeyemo, one of the international artists at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, is a master at his craft of indigo batik dying. Born and raised in a rural village in Nigeria, Adeyemo spent six years to perfect his artistic skills at the Nike Center for Arts and Culture, Nigeria. After his student years, he became a trainer to teach others the arts of the Yoruba people: batik painting on fabric, indigo dyeing, embroidery, applique, and quilt making.

My husband and I had the good fortune to meet Gasali at the 2009 IFAM where he exhibited his craft and sold the rich textiles that he had created. The yards of exotic indigo Batik were done using traditional Adire techniques of tie-dyed fabric with traditional natural indigo dyes.

Totally fascinated, my husband and I listened as Gasali explained this time intensive method. Using raffia, he stitched row upon row of repeatedly folded fabric to create the white pattern on the indigo background.

Once dyed and opened a design of concentric rows of pebble shapes encircle this fabric.

More of the same type of design but a little different color effect.

Other designs are created using paraffin or beeswax to lay out a pattern on the fabric with traditional tools such as a broom stalk or chicken feather. Once the textile is dyed, the wax is carefully removed revealing the white design.

Indigo fabrics dyed with this age old natural process are rare these days. We haven't decided what these yards of fabric will become, but we appreciate the craft and the artisan who created these beautiful textiles. Perhaps a table cloth? Pillows? Or just maybe a quilt?

What would you make with them?

You'll find more indigo at Mrs. Matlock's here.


  1. Beautiful post on INDIGO! This one was hard for me but you hit a home run!!

  2. What riches those bolts are. I love indigo and am always drawn to textiles in this rich colour. Lovely post!

  3. Wow....the labor that goes into something like that...truly a labor of love. Beautiful!

    I would love a tunic made from this...to wear with jeans...or white slacks...

  4. I am MIA on Indigo! Sarah, yours is the perfect post for it..it is always fun to learn...what wonderful fabric! Joni

  5. What a fun and interesting post! That blue indigo is so beautiful and I love the hand dyed batik fabrics! So interesting!

    Hope you are having a great week!

    Miss Bloomers

  6. What lovely fabrics...especially knowing the labor and detail that went into creating them! You've had so many interesting posts on the Santa Fe Folk Art Market~

    I vote for a quilt :-)

  7. Always soooo informative, Sarah! Did you see Mary's post (homeiswheretheboatis) on the same subject...indigo?

    Love your flowers!!!!!!

  8. who could imagine that such a delicate looking plant could produce such and rich and deep colour ... wow!!! and i love the info on the dying ... such a labour intensive technique, and it looks so fabulous!!! haven fun creating with your fabric!

  9. Great post! This artist is fantastic! I would love to have anything made form these beautiful prints! Thanks for sharing. Anne

  10. What an amazing artist. The fabric is just gorgeous. It would be beautiful as a quilt, or pillows for a white wicker settee. Thanks for sharing his work. Kat

  11. Gorgeous post Sarah...lovely tribute to the Indigo colors..and love Gasali..wow!

  12. Great post. I've always seen the color, but never the actual plant. Thanks for your visit and ind comment.

    - The Tablescaper

  13. I learned so much in this post! I am fascinated by textiles and how they are made...so much goes in to the beautiful fabrics! Thank you for sharing and for always being so kind to me! Christie at Three Pixie Lane

  14. nice taste of indigo.
    super cute smiles.

  15. Great post - so informative and interesting.

  16. This was a wonderful post about the color indigo, Sarah. It was very interesting to learn about Mr. Adeyemo's process of making that fabric and how he achieves the patterns it is dyed. I think pillows would be so pretty made from the fabric, or a quilt!

  17. Love the color and your beautiful post, Sarah!..Christine

  18. Love fabrics in this so rich colour! Marvellous post.

    LOLA & Nora:)

  19. Beautiful photos! Those fabrics are works of art.

  20. A fascinating first-hand account of indigo! I learn something every day.

  21. Indigo has always fascinated me. I doubt seriously I can find Indigo plants here, but would plant some if I could. I will have to search the Internet.

    Fabrics are a passion, I love the old ways of doing things as this man did. Very difficult to find.

    Thanks for another great post! Indigo is such a beautiful color!

  22. In olden times they grew indigo here in SC. It is a beautiful color!

  23. Sarah, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing such an informative and interesting post. Beautiful fabrics!


  24. All of these posts are making me a little more excited about indigo. I kinda dissed it in my offering this week.

    (A friendly kind of dis, though.)

    Great job!


  25. What a talented artist. His work is amazing.

  26. What a wonderful education in batik dying! I loved the wonderful fabric you showcased and the detailed artistry that went into making it. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Sarah, I just loved this post! What interesting information! I knew that indigo was a plant, but who knew that it was PINK? What a surprise, and I think it is lovely. I love the Folk Art museum in Santa Fe, and this fair sounds like one that I need to visit. Thanks..loved this, and thanks for your support on my posts, too!

  28. What a great post, I enjoyed it so very much! I am so happy to know so much about indigo now!

    Take care,

  29. How wonderful that you highlighted a true artist who is from Nigeria and still crafts this beautiful work with indigo dyes. I always mourn when I hear about traditional handicrafts dying out. Childrren are much too busy embracing the modern world to take time to learn the old crafts. I feel the same way about the wonderful straw grass weaving in South Carolina. These wonderful baskets are so beautiful but I know that the elders who do them ar also dying out and few youngster want to learn the craft.

    Thanks for an outstanding post.

    At 65, I've done it! My poetry book - Life's Journey by Carmen Henesy - is out on Amazon!
    ( Poems about the things that have been important to me in my journey through life, some humorous, some sad, some that may have meaning to you as well )
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  30. What an incredible indigo post! That was fascinating and the fabrics are beautiful. I'm sure they will reveal their purpose some way.

  31. What a fascinating artist! I can't even imagine how long it takes to stick those patterns to make the design sin the hand dyed fabric. I guess I would have to make an article of clothing so when I wore it, I could tell others about the wonderful man that made it.

  32. What a beautiful indigo post! I would have to make something that I would see everyday! Thanks for your sweet visit to my tropical table this week.

  33. What a neat post! This color is beautiful, and I love the photography:)

    Memories by Christine scrapbooking
    http://mbcscrapbooking.blogspot.comLink up your projects every Thursday!
    Make your baby album with MBC! Workshop begins September 13

  34. Hi Sarah!

    What beautiful indigos! And what interesting info about the weaving and dying process. I just love to got to markets like this and learn these awesome bits of information!

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  35. I'd love to have Gasali. His craft is inspiring. I love batik and your retelling of how it's done was fascinating. The fabric you chose is gorgeous. If it's thick enough, I might just go with cutting it bed-size, do some invisible hemming, and have it be the centerpiece of my bedroom. Otherwise, I'd use it as the top to a quilt. As much I prefer a quilted quilt, this would work for a tied quilt just fine.

  36. Fascinating, Sarah! Thank you for telling us about Gasali and the amazing work he does. The fabrics are wonderful. I think they'd provide great inspiration for a tablescape. Does that surprise you? ;)

    Have a great weekend!

  37. What an interesting post. I had never really thought about indigo as a plant. I knew it, but hadn't thought it through. The plant itself is beautiful, as are all the dyed fabrics.
    Thanks so much for sharing about this.

  38. This was a tough one Sarah. You did great though...you really took it to another level, with an artistic twist. I loved it.

  39. This post was very informative. I had never really seen the indigo plant. I think the fabric would make beautiful pillows or, as Penny
    mentioned, a tunic would be lovely.
    Thank you so much for all of this interesting information.

  40. Odd how those pink flowers can produce indigo tint.

    What a fascinating stop on our little journey through Rainbow Summer Schools Indigo.

    You taught me something, wowed me with your pictures, and just made me happy that you linked this week!

    Thank you.


  41. "I LOVE the color indigo". It's the color of one of my FAVORITE little birds that visits our home, "The indigo bunting"! This is a WONDERFUL informative post Sarah. I LOVE the materials that he creates. I think I would make napkins and use for a tablescape with seafood because the one with the little pebble look reminds me of water and bubbles. LOVE IT!!! He is very talented...NOW are you planing on making dye with your new bushes??? How wonderful they are. Did you get any materials and did you make anything? Hugs, Donna

  42. I am sure you will do something wonderful with the fabulous fabric!

  43. I can't believe my luck. I came over to thank you for the comment and to see what you'd been up to and I find this beautiful plant. I have one! It was passed along to my be the mother of my best friend and I never knew what it was! Thanks so much for all the info. It was my lucky day!


Thank you to each of you who take the time to leave a comment. I read and appreciate each and every one and will respond to any questions. Your notes are the only way I know who has stopped in for a visit.

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