History of indigo dyeing
Indigo is said to be the oldest plant dye known to man, and the only plant dye which produces a indigo blue colour.It is said that indigo dyed cloth was used for the mummies of Tutankhamen around 1300 BC, and it has been used since 2000 BC in India, which is the oldest main production area of indigo dye.
Plants with indigo pigment are legumes, crucifers, and Polygonaceae. In India, indigo is a perennial plant in the legume family. In Europe, cruciferous ward, but later it seems that it was replaced by Indian indigo, which was cheap and easy to dye.
In Japan, Tateai, which is native to Indochina, is said to have been introduced from China during the Asuka period (6th century). The oldest indigo dyeing in Japan was from 752 where it was used in Buddha’s eye-opening ceremony, and for the manufacture of aristocratic clothing.
In the Kamakura period (14th century), the darkest indigo colour was called “KACHI-IRO” and Sumurai believed this coloured kimono brought them luck during Samurai wars. Therefore aizome clothes were very popular amongst Samurai. Then, in the Edo period (17th century), aizome was used to dye for various items such as kimono, work clothes, japanese half curtains (NOREN) so on. The city of Edo was full of indigo.
English Scientist Robert William Atkinson, who visited Japan in the Meiji era (19th century), praised Japan, which was all indigo, as “Japan, Blue” and Lafcadio Hearn (Yakumo Koizumi) who was a Japanese writer of Greek-Irish descent, as “Japan is a country full of mysterious blue”…
However, due to the recent importing of cheap Indian indigo and chemically synthesised artificial indigo, aizome dyeing nearly disappeared. Tokushima Prefecture supported famers who produced Tadeai and aizome industries. Tadeai is now produced as a craft crop, and natural indigo products are also produced as japanese traditional goods.
Indigo dyeing chemical reaction & Benefits
Since indigo is insoluble in water, the dyeing method is different from plant dyeing, and it is made ready for dyeing in the process of fermentation. Tateai contains a colourless substance called indican, and when the leaves are damaged or wither, a blue pigment called indigo is formed.
When indigo dyeing is performed, the indigo is fermented to make it water-soluble soak into the fibre, and when it is exposed to the air and oxidised, it returns to the indigo and develops a blue colour.
Aizome was imported to ancient Japan as a medicine for treating food poisoning, fever and for nutritional fortification.It has since been shown to reduce amount of stress related Nitric oxide and Prostaglandin in the body.
- anti- insect properties
- Anti-bacterial properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
Fire Protection-Aizome dyeing makes fabrics fire resistant so they used to use as uniforms for firefighters during EDO period.
Material Strength-Materials dyed with aizome have a 30% increase in strength as opposed to a 10% decrease in strength of fabrics treated with chemical dyeing. Beside the sheer beauty of the finished product they are many reasons why people love aizome products so much.
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