Planting indigo seeds at our new Chiang Mai studio

Up until now all of our work was being done out of a spare kitchen and a single indigo vat in Ann’s mother’s backyard. The decision to relocate to Chiang Mai was made long ago but it was only last week that we finished the bulk of our work in hectic Bangkok and finally made the move to the green North. With a lot of help on the way we ended up renting this lovely place for the purposes of setting up a proper studio and dyeing/weaving space.

Studio house

The very first thing we did was plant indigo. The soil for the most part is bare bone dry dirt with heavy grey clay just two inches below it with a few somewhat-established fruit trees on the perimeter doing the best they can. In a way this is great because it gives us an excellent place to start experimenting with the soil-improvement capabilities of the local indigo (Indigofera Tinctoria) which just so happens to be in the Leguminosae family. With the presence of Rhizobium bacteria it should fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil (with the awesome byproduct of us being able to harvest our very own indigo pigment). By growing indigo amongst mixed perennial species, covering any exposed soil with carbon-rich plant material and sprawling groundcover plants, applying compost, worm castings and fermented bio liquids and using no-dig planting methods we hope to significantly improve the soil’s fertility, water-retention, and microbial activity which should result in a healthy, diverse and self-sustaining forest garden of abundance. We started our experiments with a one-time ploughing of four short rows to break up some of the clay and incorporate worm castings and shredded coconut husk into the soil. We then scattered our Indigofera Tinctoria seeds, covered them with more shredded coconut and gave them a good watering. Three days later little sprouts were already poking their first sets of leaves through the mulch. They will have about a week of care and watering after which we must leave them to fend for themselves. Hopefully they will become established by then.

watering indigo plants

indigo seedlings

We also made some time to continue our explorations in under-dyeing indigo with coffee and myrobalan. The “butterfly” pattern we liked in our previous post was reproduced, this time at larger intervals and with the yellow being extracted from onion skins.

indigo coffee zigzag

blue green katano

diamond shibori

butterfly shibori onion

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