Wearing an ancient art: Handmade linen dress dyed with natural indigo

Every few months I experiment with new natural, plant-based dye colors for my handmade clothing business-- usually leaning into colors that are the most easily accessible given the country I live in, the plants I can grow, and the food waste that's available. For instance, when I lived across the street from a local diner in 2020, I was able to collect several pounds of onion skins from the diner kitchen that they were going to throw away-- and I used them to dye several yards of fabric rich yellows and greens!

Looking for a dye color that can become a year-round staple in my clothing line, I started playing around with the Jacquard Pre-reduced Natural Indigo dye -- It is absolutely gorgeous on linen and cotton!

As a clothing designer and a consumer, I find it really unique to find linen dresses (or any natural-fiber clothing) that are hand-dyed with natural indigo in the United States. Now, it's a permanent dye offering in my line!

What will you love about indigo?

1. Indigo is lightfast:

Compared to other plant-based blue dyes, indigo doesn't fade as easily in the sun or when exposed to high heat. After a year of consistent wear and washing, the black bean blue I used to use began to fade to a grey, and the indigo-dyed linen was still very... blue!

2. Indigo matches REALLY well with denim/blue jeans:

Although most denim is dyed with synthetic pigments today, the plant-based indigo is so similar in color. This means you can mix and match more of your Charlie Darwin clothing with denim pieces you might already own!

Which of our soft, natural fiber outfits will you wear in indigo?

Braided cotton gauze scarf in indigo blue
Braided cotton gauze scarf in indigo blue

What is natural indigo?

The Plant: Indigofera tinctoria is a species of plant from the bean family. To make the dye, the leaves are soaked in water and fermented.

The History: Indigo was first used for dyeing over 6,000 years ago and has been used all over the world in many cultures. It was brought to the US in the 1700s and was a major export crop in South Carolina, heavily supported by plantation slavery at the time. Indigo was used to dye the blue coats for the American Revolution, and when the paper currency of the colonies lost its value, indigo breifly replaced money! Synthetic (lab-made) indigo was eventually discovered in 1897 and took over the blue-dye market. Today, natural indigo is primarily used by local artisans and is not found in fast-fashion clothing from large-scale consumer stores. See my previous post to read more surprising history about the use of natural dyes!

PS. All of my handmade linen clothing can be dyed with natural indigo, so head over to my online store to shop for all of my current styles!