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Natural Dye Basics: Natural Indigo Vats with Extract

May 5 @ 9:00 am - May 7 @ 5:00 pm


Natural Dye Basics: Natural Indigo Vats with Extract

Sara Goodman

Thursday, May 5th – Saturday, May 7th

9:00am – 5:00pm

Workshop Overview

The Natural Dye Basics workshop series at Sanborn Mills Farm is taught by our lead teacher, Sara Goodman. This series of 5 classes are an introduction to the colorful world of natural dyes. Each class stands alone — the classes do not need to be taken in order. Each class will include the basics of proper fiber preparation as well as an orientation to the studio’s procedures and practices. Upon completion of any one of these classes, students may arrange to work in the studio individually, when it is open, for a use fee

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 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.

This workshop will cover the basics of working with powdered natural indigo extract to make and maintain a vat for long term use using ferrous sulfate as the reduction agent. Other natural vats, using organic materials such as henna or fruit sugar will be discussed and demonstrated if there is interest. The advantage of the iron vat is that it is very stable, so advantageous in a workshop setting. The essentials of fiber preparation, scouring for different kinds of fibers, and finishing will be covered for best results. Basic shibori techniques using stitching (mokume), pole wrapping (arashi), and clamping (itajime) will be taught. We will also explore ways to use clay paste resist (for painting and printing) and Japanese rice paste resist technique (katazome) with stencils. We will be working primarily with cellulose fiber (cotton, linen etc.). Protein (silk, wool, etc.) will be discussed and samples shown. 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 and up-cycling if they wish to work on them after regular class hours. Students will finish the class with a selection of samples and a notebook of recipes and techniques.

The indigo extract used in this workshop will be extract that is available commercially. To learn how to extract indigotin pigment from fresh plants and process your own extract, see our workshop Fresh Leaf Indigo and Pigment Extraction in the Natural Dye Basics series. 

Skills + Techniques

Students will learn:

  • How to make a natural indigo vat with indigo extract powder and ferrous sulfate as the reducing agent
  •  How to properly use and maintain the vat
  • Fiber preparation: scouring cloth for best results
  • Finishing the cloth after dyeing: neutralizing, curing, and washing
  •  Three resist techniques: shibori, clay resist, and rice paste resist
  • Over-dyeing indigo with other colors to make green, purple, and brown


Sara Goodman

Tools + Materials

Students should bring:

  • Students may bring 1 or 2 pieces of their own clothing for embellishment, over-dyeing or up-cycling

Material Fee:

  • $50.00 includes fabric for samples, all dyes and assists, notebook of recipes and instructions paid at time of workshop
  • Bandanas $2.00
  • T-shirts $5.00


  • Please read our COVID-19 Policy prior to registering
  • We are honoring each instructor’s specific COVID-19 safety requests. For this workshop, your instructor reserves the right to require masks depending on the state of the pandemic at the time of the workshop

Housing + Meals

Housing and meals will be available on-site in 2022. We will let all registered students know when housing registration is open. Spots will be first-come, first serve. The option to choose meals will be open to all students. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

$300.00 / per student

This Class


7097 Sanborn Road
Loudon, New Hampshire 03307

Call Us

(603) 435-7314


May 5 @ 9:00 am
May 7 @ 5:00 pm
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Sanborn Mills Farm
7097 Sanborn Road
Loudon, NH 03307 United States
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