By Joel | April 25, 2010
If there’s one thing I like learning about, it’s definitely knowing how things, especially those I like, are made. And today, I just checked another one on my list of things to know. Earlier this morning, I went to an indigo farm and learned how they cultivate, process and use indigo as a natural dye. From the plant to the shirts we buy, I just became even more interested and appreciative of indigo and the art that it has become.
An indigo plant normally lasts for four years before it starts fading its color. At that time, a new set of indigo plants have to be cultivated. Indigo leaves wither very easily as soon as one pluck them out from the shrub. Hence, the time from its cutting to processing need not to be very long. The process starts with the collection of indigo leaves that are left to soak in water for eighteen hours. Then, the dark blue almost black liquid is separated from the leaves and stirred for a couple more hours to introduce oxygen in the mix. The liquid is then left undisturbed for a few more hours to allow some sediments to solidify. The water is then drained and what is left is the indigo that would be dried to powder. After hours of drying, the indigo powder could now be used to make the solution to make different patterns of shirts.
It sounds very easy because the general process can be described in one short paragraph, just like what I did. But the truth is, there is a lot of time, effort and energy that goes to this endeavor. The heat alone to cultivate the indigo is enough to discourage the light-hearted and the repetitive process involved in making the shirt is a test to one’s patience. But then, these are the ingredients that make something special. I remember looking at the shirt I made today with brilliant stripes of white contrasted in a deep blue hue of indigo and telling myself, “This is great.” Now more than ever, indigo takes a whole new meaning for me, one that is characterized by an admiration for its all-natural and all-impressive beauty. I not only learned how it’s made, I also appreciated and loved the thing I made.