Indigo dyed Khadi cotton yarns on the way! Ethical and sustainable yarn production.

Indigo dying and Khadi cotton yarn

Yarn Yarn are very excited. Our new handspun khadi cotton yarn has been indigo dyed and is on the way!  We have been working closely with a group of women artisans in VERY rural India who are making indigo dyed handspun khadi cotton for us. Let us explain what it is and the processes involved...

Khadi cotton is a handmade cotton yarn. It is produced using the process of charkha spinning. No machines are used, just a lot of manpower! The production of this yarn is low but it gives employment to many poor families in India that we work with.

The cotton is grown in areas that strictly do not use pesticides so it is organic to some extent. We cannot call it pure organic legally because we do not have control over these areas, the farmers do. 

We have had our Khadi cotton hand dyed using Indigo dyes, which I have to say are magical. 

Indigo dying process.

Natural Indigo dyes come from southern parts of India. The state named 'Tamil Nadu' has a vast production of Indigo leaves. These leaves are dried under the sun and then put in cold water for a long time. Gradually over time there is extraction of some colours from the leaves which occurs in the water.  The indigo layer is then extracted from the water and the layer becomes hard like a cake (see image below)

Indigo dye for cotton yarn

Nowadays 90% of people in India use powdered indigo which is a chemical/synthetic Indigo. Natural indigo has a high proportion of impurities such as indirubins that gives it that beautiful colour variation. The blue you get depends on where the indigo was grown and the weather at the time. 
Synthetic indigo on the other hand produces an even blue that does not vary. The exciting thing is that Yarn Yarn's indigo dye used in our Khadi cotton yarns is NATURAL! 
Natural indigo is a sustainable dye; after the pigment has been extracted the plant residue can be composted and used as a fertilizer and the water reused to irrigate crops. Natural indigo can often be traced to its country of origin, and even to the farm where it was produced. In buying it, you will be helping to give sustainable employment to rural population in developing countries. Synthetic indigo on the other hand is extracted from petrochemicals and its manufacture produces hazardous waste. By using natural indigo, you will be helping the environment and reducing the use of petrochemicals.

Natural indigo is the ideal blue dye to use on handmade textiles and on natural fibres. It may cost more than synthetic indigo, but the main cost of handmade items is time. Natural indigo is also essential for living history research, and for historic re-enactments. This may seem obvious, but if you want to use natural dyes, you need to use natural indigo rather than synthetic. Synthetic indigo is not a natural dye. Sometimes dyers may be unaware that they are in fact using synthetic indigo, as some shops don’t always make it clear what type of indigo they are selling. 

Stay tuned and keep an eye on our blog in the next few days because our Khadi cotton naturally indigo dyed will be on sale here. There is a limited supply as it is only made in small batches. The time from custo order to shipment can take months. 
See below for images of our yarns in production.
Indigo dying cotton yarn
Indigo dyed cotton

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