When people hear “Japan blue,” some might imagine the uniforms of the Japanese football team, but it used to be the word to refer to indigo dying.
“Ai” or indigo is natural dye made of fermented leaves of indigo mixed with water. Dying thread or cloth with indigo is called “aizome” in Japanese. In the Edo period (1603－1868), all sorts of people from common folk to samurai have used indigo dyed clothes. It wasn’t only because of fashion, but indigo dyed clothes also have three benefits. One benefit is that the fiber becomes stronger after indigo dying. Secondly, it has an insect repelling effect. Lastly, it has a UV protective effect. The power of nature is great isn’t it?
Aizome has been called “Japan blue” since the Meiji period (1868－1912).
Foreigners who came to Japan during Meiji period named it “Japan blue” because they were astonished at the fact that indigo blue was everywhere in Japanese towns. Have you ever wondered how to dye? To know how to dye “aizome,” I visited a factory to experience it!
The lecturer handed me a white handkerchief, marbles, rubber bands and plastic wrap!
What? I can’t imagine how I can dye a cloth with these items…
The lecturer taught me step by step.
These items are to make patterns on the handkerchief. This way of dying is called “Shiborizome,” or Tie-dye.
Apparently, it’s the easiest way to creatively dye clothes.
Upon his explanation, I had decided what patterns to make.
I still can’t imagine how this messed up handkerchief will get its patterns…
Let’s move on to the dying procedures!
Is it water? Yes, you are not wrong.
Before dying a cloth, it needs to be soaked in water so that the color fixes well on it.
This is the indigo dye.
Each bucket of dye achieves a different level of darkness by adding different amounts of indigo powder.
I’m dying it.
In just a few minutes, the color had already fixed well.
I had to wear gloves so I wouldn’t dye my fingers.
Then, I spread the cloth and left it for 3 minutes so that the indigo bonds with oxygen and becomes blue.
After 3 minutes, I dyed it again.
The more you dye, the more the color fixes in with a stronger bond.
After dying, I washed the cloth neatly so that the indigo color wouldn’t stain other clothes.
The shite handkerchief became so colorful.
Now I took off the marbles, rubber bands, and plastic wrap.
I wonder what the patterns will be like… I’m so excited!
This is the handkerchief I made!
I can’t believe I actually made it. I was amazed at the technique for making patterns resembling skyrockets, and yet it doesn’t take much time.
I respect the wisdom of the ancient Japanese.
In this class you cannot only dye handkerchiefs, but t-shirts and bags as well.
Also, there are other types of dying patterns available, such as letters and pictures.
Young people who are passionate to take over the traditional aizome for future generations created the shop. They cultivate indigo by themselves.
I would definitely recommend that you experience this class if you love indigo blue!
Kurosawa Building1F 1-8-10 Senzoku, Tatio-ku, Tokyo