An experiment with indigo leaves

A couple of weeks ago I received a box of indigo leaves from the northeast of Thailand. Usually, indigo farmers pick fresh leaves early in the morning and soak them in water when they are still fresh. However, due to the time spent in packing, transportation and delivery, by the time I actually got the leaves it had been about 3-4 days after they were harvested. Although the leaves were not as fresh and in their best condition, it would be such a waste not to do anything with them.

So I decided to do an experiment to see what kind of results I might get using the traditional Thai method of extracting indigo dye and making a vat. I started off by soaking the leaves in water for two nights. After that dark indigo films appeared on the surface of the water. The leaves were removed from the liquid. Then the liquid was stirred and mixed with lime until it became very foamy.


In theory, there is supposed to be sediment settled at the bottom of the container after leaving the liquid for a night. Unfortunately, that did not happen for me. This could be due to a number of reasons e.g. too little amount of lime , shape of the container in relation to amount of liquid. Generally, the way to do it is to take out the liquid on top, keep the sediment, strain it to make indigo paste and then use the paste to mix up a vat. Because I couldn’t obtain the paste in the first place, I decided to just put sodium hydrosulfite in the liquid to see if it would reduce the indigo, and to my surprise, it did as the liquid started turning green.

Here are the results from this spontaneous and somewhat accidental vat. 1,3,5,7 and 10 dips respectively from the top.

I was quite pleased with the colour and the results overall. The process of working with indigo is always exciting and rewarding. Even though the experiment did not go as planned but luckily, I have found a way for it to work to an extent. This is my first time experimenting with indigo leaves. There are still so much more to learn and I look forward to doing many more experiments and hopefully getting it right in the future.

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