Tracing the Indigo Dyed Criss Cross Jacket
Here at Indigowares, we love sharing all the details of your garment’s creation with you. We put such care into making ethical and environmental choices every step of the way – it’s one of the things that we’re most proud of!
We prioritise being transparent and traceable with every design, knowing exactly how each part of the process will be completed , by whom, and where. Sharing this info with you not only helps to spread awareness and knowledge of slow fashion practices; it also lets you in on the beautiful artistry that you carry with you every time you wear Indigowares! From the organic materials sourced tho be indigo dyed, to the natural dyes and processes we use, to the quality hand craftsmanship, each piece has such a unique story.
With every new design, we have been working on ways to track and record the process and share it with you. While designing and making, there are so many wheels spinning that it can be challenging to fully document everything. This is why we are so excited to release the new Criss Cross Jacket. This is our most transparent piece so far, as we’ve been able to collect photos and process notes every step of the way. All so we can share them with you here!
By sharing the detailed process behind this jacket, I hope we can give you more insight into the time and love that goes into making your clothing, and just how rich the story of a garment can be.
We have such a close relationship with our makers in India who do a beautiful job of finding the best vintage materials and sustainable fabrics to bring Indigowares to life. We wanted to celebrate this in the Criss Cross Jacket. You can see how this jacket came literally from the earth— through organic materials and natural indigo— to be dyed, and embroidered, and sewn by makers, to make it to your closet!
I have had this jacket on my mind for a long time. I have always had a vision of combining indigo dyeing with embroidery – I’ve wanted to create a design that blends these two skills in a garment ever since I first started indigo dyeing.
When we began working with Kiran Sandhu (Kinny), our amazing indigo supplier, this design started to take shape. Kinny and I began talking about creating a limited-edition garment, entirely dyed – including the growth and farming of the indigo pigment- and sewn on her land.
Kinny's Indigo Farm
Kinny’s indigo farm sits at the foothills of the lower Himalayas. This is where she grows her indigo crop, which she calls Teraiblue, after the Terai, or ‘wetlands’ that provide the perfect soil for her indigo.
If you’re new to the process of indigo dyeing, you might be surprised to know that indigo is farmed from a plant – Indigofera tinctoria. Indigofera is grown in sub-tropical climates, like Kinny’s farm in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand. If you would like to know more about Kinny’s process and what brought her to establish her own indigo farm, click here for our blog that gives the full story! You can also follow Kinny at @kinnysandhu, where she shares tons of beautiful images of the indigo growing and extracting process.
Dyeing the Fabric
After being farmed, indigo is then extracted from the plant, and can be put into many forms for use. In this case, Kinny creates indigo cakes, which are then used to dye the linen that our Criss Cross Jackets are made of.
One of the things I love about Indigo dyeing is how you can trace the process through history. The oldest known records of indigo dye can be found around 6,000 years ago, discovered in Huaca Prieta, Peru. It is a rich natural process, and a skill that dyers can hone and endlessly experiment with.
In the modern day, indigo dyeing is becoming a lost artisan skill, shadowed among many synthetic dyes and fast fashion processes. A piece dyed with organic indigo in natural fermentation vats is a luxury garment, that has taken great skill and knowledge to craft.
To reach the beautiful indigo hues that are imagined in the design, the dyer must understand and take notice of their indigo dye vat before beginning to dip the cloth. The fabric must be washed and scoured in preparation. The indigo stock is mixed and fermented with great care. All of this preparation is part of your garment’s journey, even before the fabric touches the indigo vat!
For the Criss Cross jacket, Kinny has sourced a locally woven linen from Delhi. This linen is then dyed on Kinny’s farm, in the same location that the pigment for the indigo dye is grown. Kinny puts it best when she describes the process as “seed to jacket”. We have sourced the Criss Cross jacket with materials that come from the earth. That are then created by hand, never traveling far from where the materials were grown. It goes to show how amazing and natural the process of garment making can be.
Sewing the Jacket
Once the linen has reached its lovely deep indigo hue, it is rinsed for colourfastness, dried and then ready to be passed onto to be embroidered.
For the next steps of the process, Kinny has a number of people who she works with on her farm to create the final garment.
Kinny and the ladies who work with her on embroidery have shared some of their stories with us. Basanti is one of these women and is the most experienced of the group. Kinny mentioned that Basanti lives in a village a bit further from Kinny’s farm. Because of this, she has been embroidering the jackets from home— Kinny wanted to give her the work, but also wanted to make sure she was safe from traveling on crowded public transport with the pandemic in mind.
Basanti was originally from Bangladesh, her parents and grandparents having migrated as refugees in 1971. Many of the other women who work for Kinny have a similar background, including Rubi, Kriahna, Mina Phulmati. All are incredibly skilled at khanta embroidery, as you can see in the traditional stitch used in our jacket.
The two tailors that have been working with Kinny specifically on this jacket are from Irfan and Naushard. Kinny has been working with these men for many years, a partnership she enjoys as they share her same pride and passion for the dyeing and making process.
Each jacket pattern is cut first so that the lining and surface layer of linen can be stitched as one. This gives us beautiful embroidery on both the outside and inside of the piece. It also means that the stitchers don’t have to create excess work for themselves. They sew just the right amount required to cover the jacket.
The Final Result
As you can see, this all comes together beautifully!