Dyeing with Australian Indigo

I’ve been wanting to try dyeing with Australian Indigo (Indigofera Australis) for a long time. I’ve got a small bush growing but it is still too young for harvesting. So I was very excited when some friends offered me clippings from their huge plant.

There are a few tutorials online specifically for Australian Indigo, at Turkey Red Journal and Tinker Maker. But I really wanted to keep it natural and avoid using Sodium Hydrosulphite. I kept researching and came across a method for Japanese Indigo which uses cold processing of fresh leaves. Despite Japanese Indigo (Persicaria Tinctorium) being a completely unrelated plant, I decided to give this method a go. And I’m so pleased with how well it worked!

I followed the instructions on The Dogwood Dyer’s blog, which involve whizzing up fresh leaves in a blender with cold water and vinegar. I strained this liquid then folded and tied some small cotton samples and soaked them in the dye.

Dyeing with Indigofera Australis

After the first soak the cotton has turned this vivid green.

Naturally dyed with australian indigo

The next day I did many rounds of short dips and each time the cotton got darker and more blue.

Naturally dyed with Indigofera Australis

This is the darkest that the triangle got, plus some lighter, greener samples and an Indigofera Australis leaf. Isn’t it magic that these leaves can produce such a dark blue?!

Shibori with Australian indigo

This was my first time trying shibori. It was so exciting to unwrap my little triangle and discover the beautiful patterns that folding and tying had made on this top.

Australian Indigo shibori dyeing samples

And here are a few other samples. I really enjoyed beginning to explore the many hues that Australian Indigo can produce. Now to find and grow more plants!

Shibori dyeing with Indigofera Australis

2 thoughts on “Dyeing with Australian Indigo

  1. Hi Louise, I’ve got both your books and some months ago did an eco dyeing class with Wendi Trulson.
    At that class I met a lovely lady (originally from Hawaii) who specialises in Australian Native Plants. She offered me some Tephrosia rufula which she described as alternative indigo plant. I went there yesterday and we harvested some.
    The plant is just like you describe as your Australian indigo. Lots of small petal like leaves along a thin stem, overall a bit like an acacia leaf.
    What can you tell me about it. I have read your blog. Have you any tips on how to prepare it? I have managed to get 1600 gms of fresh leaves from two plastic shopping bags of branches harvested. Polly

    1. Hi Polly, the easiest way to check its dye potential is probably to try the fresh leaf salt rub method with a small amount of leaves. For this method, squash up some leaves with a sprinkling of salt and then rub this directly into a small piece of fabric. If you get some green colour on your fabric that shifts to aqua over time, this will indicate that it does contain indigo. Then you can process all of the leaves, either in the same way with more salt or by following The Dogwood Dyer’s instructions that I linked to. I have no idea whether it will work as it is not an indigofera and I can’t find any references to it containing indigo. But it is worth a go. Let me know what happens!

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