Sunday, September 25, 2011

Indigo dying

Yesterday, Tetsu and I went off on a drive again. (If nothing else, having the GPS makes us FEEL like we can go anywhere. We still get lost though...)

I wanted to go to the next prefecture over to a silk weaving town... I had heard that silkworm raising and the making of silk thread were famous there. We did find a museum of sorts but missed most of the sightseeing areas in the rest of the town. I guess we didn't look in the right places and the GPS isn't a tour guide!

Since I was at the museum and there was a hands on corner I tried my hand at indigo dying. (Supposedly you could dye silk scarves and T-shirts but that became pricey. For the experience, a simple cotton handkerchief was fine with me.)

Indigo is a traditional dying process all over Japan and the dye is made from dried plants that have been cured and left to ferment... The lady in charge of the corner was trying to explain about how craftsmen tend their indigo vats but I was anxious to get to the process. I'm sure rubber bands weren't part of the traditional tools but I was given a box of rubber bands and some plastic gloves and told to have a good time putting bands where I wanted.

"You can never make a mistake."

It was a fairly simple process of dunking the fabric in the dye (don't fall in! Don't let go of the fabric!) and letting it oxidize and then dunk again for a deeper color. Finally go outside to rinse it in the tiered pools of running water and Voila! An indigo handkerchief!

The day was beautiful and the mountains were green.

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