Travel Japan — Indigo Dye

15 Nov

In Japan, my tour guide Kiyo from Esprit Travel and Tours, took me to Aizen Kobo Workshop.

Lucky for me, one of my friends in Hawaii asked me to bring her back some sashiko thread. And lucky for me, Kiyo listened to all my requests and fit in everything I wanted to do.

Sashiko stiches by gina pina

Since we were already in the textile district, we got there easily.

Japanese indigo used for dying is unique. No other dyes give the dark eggplant blue color. The dye actually strengthens the fabric and repels snakes and mosquitoes.

In the shop I got to see what looked like a huge ceramic garden pot, huge and tall. It was bubbling over a heat source. Foam floated on top and it had an unusual odor. Not unpleasant but not an odor that would make you want to eat it. The foam and the liquid were dark blue. The son of Aizen Kobo stirred the vat with a long stick. He said it is living and he had to stir in oxygen to keep it as he wanted it. These are my words. In an article from Wingspan, the inflight magazine from All Nippon Airways, it tells about a living bacteria that must be kept warm and is fed a special diet of wheat bran, limestone, ash lye and sake.

The fabric is costly because it can take up to 4 months of dyeing and drying in the sun to obtain the darkest blue color.

In the shop I saw various pieces of fabric that were tied for dyeing and many beautiful finished products and bolts of fabric.

Here is the sashiko thread I bought.

They felt so healthy next to the more anemic one I bought later at a fabric shop. I was sorry to part with them. I felt the connection to history and human touch in them.

© 2010 Jeanne Litt, All rights reserved.


Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Abundance, Japan


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6 responses to “Travel Japan — Indigo Dye

  1. Jb

    November 16, 2010 at 4:45 am

    What is your friend planning to do with them? Would love to see pics of finished projects when they are done.
    Maybe your friend will make something for you 😉 …even a bracelet would be very cool!

    • purplume

      November 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

      Thanks Jb. I just added a picture of some sashiko to this post.
      Actually I was sorry to part with the threads. I find myself longing to have some for myself. I can e-mail the place and ask to get some. Then I think of all the fabric and yarn I have waiting to be used up. I think I will give away any that I don’t totally love and get busy using up stuff and then see about getting some more of his thread.

  2. Jen C.

    November 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Wow, you found something amazing! I’ve been here for 4 years now but I have never seen the things you saw on your trip. I think your trip to Japan has inspired me to go and visit these hidden gems of Japan 🙂 Thanks!

    • purplume

      November 21, 2010 at 8:07 am

      Thanks Jen, I am so happy if I could inspire anyone. I wish I could go back to the indigo place too. Please let me know when you do.


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