All Things Indigo

Fresh Leaf, Pigment Extraction, Making and Maintaining a Natural Vat, Introduction to Shibori and Clay Resist

July 20 – July 23, 2023
9 am to 5 pm


There are several varieties of plants that contain indigotin pigment that are used by traditional cultures all over the world to obtain the color blue. At Sanborn Mills Farm we grow Persicaria tinctoria, also known as Polygonum or Japanese indigo. For this pigment to be accessible to dyers, it must be extracted from the leaves and then put into an alkaline solution with a reducing agent. This turns the liquid greenish yellow. After the fiber is removed from the vat looking green, the magic happens right before your eyes as it oxidizes.
In this class, we will be working with fresh indigo which we will harvest from the dye garden at Sanborn Mills. Using fresh leaves, ice cubes, and a blender we can dye silk scarves immediately for a lovely blue. Multiple batches can deepen the color.
We will also extract pigment from the leaves in a two day process of soaking, aerating, precipitating and filtering. Then we can use this pigment to make an indigo vat for dyeing protein and cellulose.
The essentials of fiber preparation, scouring for different kinds of fibers, and finishing will be covered for best results.
Silk Scarves and cotton cloth will be used for samples in class. White bandanas, and cotton t-shirts will be available for students to purchase if desired. Students may also bring some used clothing for over-dyeing or up-dyeing if they wish to work on them after regular class hours. Simple shibori techniques will be taught. We will also make clay resist paste for painting and printing.
Students will finish the class with a selection of samples and a notebook of recipes and techniques.

Skills and Techniques:

• How to use fresh leaf indigo to quickly dye protein fibers.
• How to extract indigo pigment from fresh indigo leaves.
• How to make a vat using the extracted pigment.
• How to properly use and maintain the vat
• Fiber preparation: scouring cloth for best results
• Finishing the cloth after dyeing: neutralizing, curing and washing
• Over-dyeing other colors to make green, purple and brown
• Basic shibori techniques or stitching, folding and clamping, and pole wrapping to make shaped resist patterns on cloth
• Using clay resist paste for painting and printing

Materials Fee: Basic- $50 includes fabric for samples, all dyes and assists, notebook of recipes and instructions. Other dye blanks (scarves and shawls) will be available for purchase.
Special Tools or Equipment: All materials will be provided. Students may bring 1 or 2 pieces of their own clothing for embellishment, over-dyeing or up-dyeing.
Instructors COVID preference: Your instructor reserves the right to require safety requirements depending on the state of the pandemic at the time of the workshop.

Workshop Policies

Please be sure to read our policies before you register for a workshop.

Age Requirements

The minimum age to attend a regularly scheduled workshop is 16 years. We have set this age to ensure a safe, productive, and community-building experience for all of our students. There are no exceptions.

Accessibility & Accommodations

If you have questions about accessibility or would like to request reasonable accommodations, please contact our main office at 603-435-7314.

Student Cancellations

Cancellations must be made at least 30 days prior to the start date of a workshop in order to receive a refund.
Registration and material costs will be refunded, minus a non-refundable $25.00 registration fee.
A full refund will be made for any amount paid for overnight housing.

Sanborn Mills Farm Cancellations

Each workshop must have a minimum number of students to be held. If Sanborn Mills Farm finds it necessary to cancel a workshop, we will notify students two weeks prior to the scheduled workshop start date. A full refund will be provided to registered students. Refunds for a workshop purchased as a gift will be made to the purchaser only. Sanborn Mills Farm cannot be held responsible for any refunds for travel expenses or for off-site housing expenses incurred as the result of a cancellation of any kind.

Housing & Meals

Please refer to our housing page for more information.


Each workshop has its own safety procedures. Your instructor will review the specific safety requirements at the start of your workshop and throughout your class. Sanborn Mills Farm is a rural setting. If you are allergic to insect bites, please alert your instructor of your allergy and bring an epipen with you. For draft animal workshops or courses requiring time in the woods, be sure to review tick safety procedures from Tick Free NH. We advise students to wear comfortable clothing, comfortable and secure shoes, and consider your personal needs for a day or extended stay.