Maiwa in Peru - Indigo workshop.

by - Monday, November 08, 2010

Indigo yarns freshly pulled from the dyebath.

In 2009 Maiwa connected with the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco (CTTC) when we presented a lecture, event and workshop by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez and her sister Antonia. The meeting led to an invitation to teach two workshops and to participate in Tinkuy: A Gathering of Weavers held in November 2010. The lectures and workshops that made up Tinkuy were organized by CTTC with Nilda overseeing all the details.

Workshop participants were given a set of  printed notes which they added to as the workshop progressed.

Nilda approached Maiwa to teach a vat that would replace the indigo vat that they use. You will understand why - they use a urine vat. The women need to collect huge quantities of human urine. It takes six weeks working with the vats daily to dye the yarns. The dyers don't like the smell of the vats, working with the vats or the smell of the dyed yarns.

Students take notes during the workshop.

We thought an ideal replacement vat would be Michel Garcia's fruit vat. We approached him and he was happy to share this information. In fact he spent additional days with us in Vancouver testing and modifying the vat for the fruits and conditions of the Peruvian dyers.

We arrived in Chinchero three days early to do some prep. First test the waters. Second, set up five test vats to determine the sweetness of the local fruits. This vat requires over-ripe fruit, so we needed to find kinds that were appropriate, in season, and cheap. We did this prep with our translator Carolina Concha Huarhua (a weaver and member of CTTC) so that she would have a good understanding of the process.

Charllotte Kwon working with weavers and the translator in the days before the workshop.
Our workshop opened with 27 weavers who wanted to dye 15 kilos of yarn. Based on our tests we made five production-sized vats: peach, mango, bananna, pear, and ferrous (iron).

Many hands crush ripe fruit.

Skeins of wool are placed on the ground for drying and to oxidize.

When the workshop was complete we got some feedback. These vats gave stronger colours, clearer colours with more control over the depth of shade. What took six weeks with the urine vat could be completed in a single day with the fruit vats. Most importantly, the vats had a delicious smell as they were prepared and worked. The yarns smelled of a combination of indigo and cooked fruit.

Finished yarns showing a variety of shades from the different vats.

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  1. Where may I read more about this technique? I would like to learn more on using the fruit sugars with the indigo. Thank you in advance for any information. regards Deb McClintock, Texas USA

  2. I am looking for a recipe for an indigo fruit vat - any suggestions?

  3. We have had many requests for the fruit vat recipe. We will be returning home toward the end of November and will then prepare a post with the details and various recipes. Thanks to everyone for such strong interest.

  4. thank you so much for making the information accessible!

  5. So is the dying question then "piss or vinegar??"

  6. I was wondering if theres been any more development in a process that could be duplicated here in the states. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the wonderful colors obtained with the fruit. Amazing. I'd like to try it here with my indigo.

  7. I want to use our cactus tuna from the prickly pear as the fruit fermentation portion.....I hope that any type of recipes referred to above will be available to adapt to our region's particular fruit. Hopefully by Aug/Sept 2012 as that is when my cactus fruit ripens! I appreciate the historical research that went into this type of indigo pot and hope to use it with my area fruits. regards Deb Mc


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