Make a Beautiful Shibori-Style Scarf Using Natural Indigo Dye

Dyeing fabrics with indigo is an age-old technique that has never gone out of style. (And for good reason!) Use this natural dye to transform a simple white linen scarf to make a gift that's both timeless and on trend. 

Indigo Dyed Linen Scarf

Indigo Dyed Linen Scarf

Photo by: Marian Parsons

Marian Parsons

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Materials Needed

white linen scarf
wooden popsicle sticks
rubber bands
natural indigo dye
soda ash
thiourea dioxide
candy thermometer
two large plastic tubs
4 cup measuring cup
large spoon or stick for stirring
plastic drop cloth (if working inside)
latex or rubber gloves

Prepare Fabric With "Resists"

Like traditional tie dye, shibori relies on folding fabric (Image 1). In order to create patterns with indigo dye, "resists" need to be used to prevent dye from hitting the fabric. These can be wooden popsicle sticks or other flat wood shapes like triangles, circles, etc. (found at craft stores) and rubber bands (Images 2, 3 and 4). The more the fabric is folded and the more resists you add, the less it will be dyed by the indigo (Image 5). Tip: Experimenting with the resists is part of the fun of dying! Try a few different techniques to see which one turns out the best! 

Prepare Dye Bath

While wearing gloves, follow manufacturer's instructions to prepare the indigo dye bath. There are several techniques, depending on whether a natural or synthetic dye is used or if lye is used in the dye or not. If dyeing inside, work over a plastic drop cloth. For this natural indigo dye preparation, mix one-tablespoon natural indigo dye with 1 cup of warm water. While indigo powder dissolves, pour four gallons of hot water (120-130 degrees, measured with candy thermometer) into a plastic tub with three tablespoons of soda ash. Add water and indigo mix to tub and gently stir. Allow dye bath to rest for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle one tablespoon of thiourea dioxide into dye bath and allow mixture to rest for 10 more minutes. When dye bath is ready, the water will look green under the surface. Tip: The "recipe" for making an indigo dye bath can sound intimidating, but it is pretty forgiving.  Natural indigo dye, soda ash and thiourea can all be purchased from online craft/fabric dying shops.

Indigo Dyed Linen Scarf

Indigo Dyed Linen Scarf

Photo by: Marian Parsons

Marian Parsons

Dye Fabric

While wearing gloves, gently ease fabric into dye bath to avoid splashing (Image 1). Since water is hot, use a large spoon or stir stick to keep fabric submerged in dye bath for sixty seconds. Remove from dye bath and put in second plastic tub to set (Image 2). Fabric will appear green at first and will turn indigo blue once the air hits it. Tip: For a richer indigo color, repeat dyeing process, allowing the fabric to rest for 30 minutes between each time in the dye bath (Image 3). Leave dyed fabrics in resists overnight, so pattern and dye can set. Tip: While the dye bath is prepared, dye as many textiles as you can, like cotton T-shirts, linen napkins, tea towels and pillow cases (Image 4). Natural fiber fabrics will yield the best results.

Undo Resists

Remove resists (rubber bands, popsicle sticks, etc.) from scarf (Image 1). Unfold fabric and hang or lay out to dry (Image 2). Note: Some of the fabric may again appear green until it is exposed to the air.

Final Steps and Fabric Care       

Once fabric is dry, wear gloves and soak fabric in a plastic tub filled with warm water and 1/3 cup vinegar for approximately 15 minutes. Remove and rinse in clean water until dye is no longer running. Line dry and iron, if necessary. Tip: Wash fabric on delicates cycle of the washing machine with a mild detergent or by hand and line dry to ensure your beautiful hand-dyed scarf stays beautiful for many years to come. 

Indigo Dyed Linen Scarf

Indigo Dyed Linen Scarf

Photo by: Marian Parsons

Marian Parsons

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