Dyeing with fresh Japanese Indigo

Japanese indigo – Persicaria Tinctoria ready for harvesting

Last weekend I finally did my first harvest of my small indigo crop, which I have been growing in my garden The variety I have is Persicaria Tinctoria – Japanese indigo, grown from seeds I bought from Bailiwick Blue.  The seeds germinated beautifully indoors in the end of March and were planted outdoors in May.  They have grown into healthy plants, which I grow in pots as I don’t have enough ground space in my garden. The hot weather in London this spring has really agreed with the plants. They’ve needed daily watering and I have fed them once a week and kept and eye out for slug attacks, but they have been a fairly easy plant to grow.

There are so many ways of using fresh indigo to dye with, but I wanted to make a vat to maximise the amount of leaves I had. I went through my dye books for recipes of various indigo vats and settled on one I found in the book Wild Colour. It was similar to the one I had used for a woad vat in previous years so I was familiar with the steps. I had to replace one of the chemicals with an alternate as I did’nt have any of the recommended one in the house.

I collected 700 grams of leaves for my vat. I saved the stems and added them in a pot with some liquid feed and water. This helps them grow roots, which means the stems can be planted again to produce more plants.


When I dye with indigo pigment, I vary the amount of fibre I dye, depending how dark I want the results to be. I read in one of my books that a good ratio is 3/1 with fresh leaves so 700 grams of leaves would dye 233 grams of fibre well. I wasn’t after a particularly dark shade this time so I dyed 600 grams of various fibres in several dips and throughly exhausted my vat.

fresh Indigo
Wet skeins after oxidising for an hour and before rinsing


L-R: Silk, Ramie & Merino, Kid Mohair, Silk, Ramie & Merino and Alpaca, SIlk & Cashmere

Indigo can be harvested every two weeks and a week on from my dye day, the plants have grown new leaves and look very happy.  Few of these skeins are now in my shop as I’m hoping to dye more throughout the summer.



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