Four books on indigo

I've already written about some of my favorite dyeing books elsewhere. In preparation for the relaunched Indigo Intro-workshop, it's now time for book recommendations specifically on the subject. So, my favorite books about indigo!

Jenny Balfour-Paul: Indigo. Egyptian Mummies to blue Jeans.

A book about the history of indigo, illustrated with numerous photos of wonderful examples of indigo craftsmanship - from Egyptian mummies to jeans.
The author began studying indigo in the 1980s. In the process, she was able to get to know a living indigo culture in various places, which has since disappeared in many places. Starting in Yemen, through Arab and African indigo traditions, and later also in East Asia and India. In addition to history and textile history, there are also chapters on indigo on paper and canvas, in medicine and religion.

The book delves 'deep and wide' into the subject, is filled with many sources and rich literature references and reads very well.
And if you work with this pigment today, whether from your own garden or store bought - then this book offers background knowledge and an insight into the long history of humanity and the precious blue. Because indigo blue is not only beautiful, it has also always been precious - and was a motive for enslavement and exploitation. This is also inextricably linked to indigo.
And after a long look at history, there is also a brief but inspiring look at what the future could look like.

Jenny Balfour-Paul: Indigo. Egyptian Mummies to blue Jeans. The British Museum Press, 1998 (my copy is the 3rd edition, reprint 2016) Edit März 2024: Scheint gerade vergriffen zu sein. Gibt es sicher in vielen Bibliotheken und gebraucht.

Kerstin Neumüller, Douglas Luhanko: Indigo. Cultivate, dye, create

Translated from Swedish into English and German. As you flick through the pages, you immediately notice how well designed this book is!
It is a great book even for beginners, as the recipes are clearly described. There are also chapters on the history and 'how' of blue dyeing, limited to the essentials and written in a very accessible way.
The book starts even before the dyeing, introducing three indigo plants and giving tips on how to grow your own. Among its recipes for vats, there are also instructions for a fermentation vat, which I find is not often the case.
The only downside for me is that the recommended ingredients include sodium dithionite (with corresponding safety instructions, of course), which I wouldn't recommend for home use - because there are so many alternatives to it, I don't think it's absolutely necessary at this point.

And if you like specific tutorials, this is probably the perfect book for you, as it concludes with instructions on shibori techniques for blue and white patterns and embroidery on indigo.

Kerstin Neumüller, Douglas Luhanko: Indigo.* Cultivate, dye, create Haupt Verlag, 2020

Joy Boutrup, Catharine Ellis: The Art and Science of Natural Dyes. Principles, Experiments, and Results.

This is the book I pick up most often when I want to start a new vat, or activate an older one!
For intermediate dyer's I think it is a benchmark on the subject of plant dyes. As the title suggests, it's not just about indigo, but offers even more. However, the indigo chapter is substantial.
It explains the mechanism of indigo dyeing, different ways to set it in motion and, in addition to the theory, has lots of practical tips on the size of the vat, amount of pigment, temperature... The whole thing is very compact and clear. What I really appreciate: The recipes are for organic and mineral vats; harsher ingredients are omitted. (Fermentation vats are not discussed however.) If you also want to experiment with reserve pastes for blue printing, you will find two recipes in this book.

Joy Boutrup, Catharine Ellis: The Art and Science of Natural Dyes.* Principles, Experiments, and Results. Schiffer Publishing, 2018

John Marshall: Soulful Dyeing for All Eternity. Singing the Blues.

Finally, a little gem, self-published by the author. John Marshall has been dyeing with indigo since the 1970s and spent many years studying in Japan.
And this book with just under 90 pages is dedicated to everything that can be done with fresh or 'raw' indigo leaves - from Dyer's knotweed in particular.
There are various methods for dyeing with fresh leaves, but also instructions for dried leaves. Experimental composting of the leaves is presented using a thermo-composter on a 'small' scale (small compared to traditional Sukumo, fermented indigo leaves, in Japan), for which the author used as much as 35 kg of dry leaves.
There are three different recipes for fermentation vats, using fermented and fresh leaves, and chapters on working with pigment for textile design. Everywhere there are little practical tips (and a joke here and there...) from the author.
There are lots of ideas for anyone who can harvest knotweed themselves, and it's fun to browse through.

John Marshall: Soulful Dyeing for All Eternity. Singing the Blues. St. Titus Press, 2018

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