Hand Dying with Indigo- Bird Themed Pillow

Hand dyed indigo pillow 2Indigo dying dates back to the ancient societies of Greece and Rome when India supplied this form of hand dying to the early Europeans. It is believed to be the oldest form of hand dying and arguably the most beautiful.

Jacquard’s Indigo Tie Dye kit comes with everything you will need to produce beautiful results. The one pound package is enough to dye 15 t-shirts and can be reserved by storing in a 5 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid, easily found at many home improvement centers.

Indigo Dying KitSo it was with excitement that I set out to produce some hand dyed muslin to use in several projects one fun Saturday afternoon. The kit comes with the dying agent, packets of soda ash and thiox in addition to all the accessories you will need including latex gloves and items to help you produce various results such as wooden blocks and rubber bands. All I needed to gather was the 5 gallon bucket (of course, this would not fit into the kit), a small container for removing the flower (explained later) a shallow pan to store my dyed fabrics while oxidizing (explained later) and a mixing stick (I used a long 1″ thick round dowel I had on hand).

Folded fabric for dyingAfter reading the instructional booklet thoroughly, I decided to use the wooden blocks contained in the kit to accordion fold and bind some of my muslin. Rubber bands placed at various points on the fabrics promised to produce circular effects. Since I wanted to experiment with other effects, I randomly folded and bound two more pieces. The instructional booklet provided with the kit gives several ideas for using the rubber bands to produce unique effects, which is good for a beginner like me.

Hand dying resultsOf course showing you the final results is putting the process into fast forward. I found it a little nerve racking to try and photograph the process while wearing gloves and working with wet dye, especially since the dying vat needs to be protected from oxygen to work properly. So here are the highlights of the process, which, in retrospect was very simple.

1. Mix 4 gallons of warm water with the indigo agent in the bucket. Of course, using a large piece of plastic to protect the floor surface is essential unless working outdoors.

2. Mix the thiox and soda ash in hot water in a small container and let dissolve thoroughly.

3. Add the mixture to the vat slowly, taking care not to splash to much as you do not want to introduce too much oxygen to the vat. Let this mixture sit for an hour. A “flower” will form on the surface which will need to be removed. After removal, a yellow green mixture will be visible.

4. Place thoroughly wet fabrics into the vat, being careful not to splash, and making sure the fabrics do not sink to the bottom since residue forms there and can cause undesirable spots on the fabric.

5. Remove fabrics and place in a shallow pan to dry. They will appear yellow green. The air will cause them to oxidize and turn an indigo color.

Hand dying resultsI found the whole process to be fascinating. After I had rinsed and dried my fabrics, I set out to create a fun bird themed pillow.

Cut hand dyed fabricI used a rotary cutter and mat to cut four 9″ squares from my various patterns with the intention of producing a patchwork front. The back of the pillow was cut to the size of my pillow form, using a 1″ seam allowance.

Wool felt circleOnce I had the four pieces for the front sewed together, I fused a large wool felt circle to the center of the squares.

Sizzix bigshotUsing my Sizzix Bigshot Machine and favorite bird die, I cut out a bird from a piece of the indigo dyed muslin.

Hand dyed die cutI pinned the bird to the center of the circle and used the machine and a straight stitch to sew most of the bird, leaving a small area at the bottom open.

Pin on image

Sew on imageI lightly stuffed the bird with polyfil fiber for a three dimensional effect and sewed the bird closed.

Stuff imageThe rest of the process was nothing but fun, fun, fun as I embellished with free form stitching and a cute little stuffed wing.

Stuffed image on pillow

Embellishing imageI used Aleenes Fabric Fusion to adhere most of the fabric pieces to the pillow but Liquid Fusion for a little bird eye, made from a 6/0 pebble bead.

Hand dyed indigo pillow 2Once I had my pillow front and back sewn together, right sides in, I turned inside out, stuffed with a pillow form and whip stitched the bottom closed.

I have plenty of leftover fabric that I am going to use to create some summery accessories so stayed tuned!

Live Life Creatively,



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