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Extracted from plants, indigo has been used since at least 2500BC. Most continents have indigo-producing plants and it is a sustainable resource: the residue is composted and water used to irrigate crops.
Most natural indigo dye for sale comes from the leaves of Indigofera Tinctoria which grows best in the heat of the tropics. It is light-fast and does not need pre-mordanted.
Synthetic dye is very widely used not only by huge denim mills but by artisans worldwide to produce reliable results. Chemically identical to natural indigo, it bonds to fibres in the same physical manner.
The nature of indigo and the method of dyeing I employ mean there are NO indigo dyed batches since most skeins are individually dyed. For orders of more than one skein I will always try to match them from existing stocks but this does not imply they will be identical. If you wish to order a sweater-sized batch I undertake to match as evenly as possible in the dyeing process but always with the proviso that there will be some shade variations.
Indigo does not chemically bond with fibre but creates a physical bond, expanding when exposed to oxygen and getting trapped within the fibre.
Blue hands are a normal feature of using indigo. I repeatedly rinse every skein but when you manipulate the fibres the last loose particles are released and these rub off on your hands. This is not a flaw. These particles cannot bond to lighter coloured fibres—they are too large and will wash away. Any blue on your hands or clothing will also wash off but bamboo or wooden needles may become stained.
Soak your handmade item in lukewarm water for ten minutes, preferably with a non-lathering cleaner. Move it gently in the water then remove, squeezing lightly. Rinse and repeat if it needs it. Roll it in a towel then lay it flat or pin it out to shape.