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藍染め / Ai-Zome
Ai-zome is a natural indigo dyeing technique originated in Japan. The Ai-Zome process spans over three hundred days, from planting to the creation of the dye pigments.
Artisans are deeply involved in every step in the process, from seeding, reaping, desiccating, and fermenting to make these deep indigo pigments. While most dyeing techniques are seasonal, using raw plants to extract pigments, Ai-Zome pigments use a dried indigo and can be used and made all year round. The dye liquor is free of chemical products as the artisans use only lye and coal in the pigment mixture.
Ai-Zome is traditionally only used on natural fabrics. Usually cotton, the fabric is repeatedly dipped and soaked into the indigo liquor over twenty times over the course of many weeks to bring out the rich color.
Ai-Zome has a particularly exceptional dark blue compared to other indigo dyes. This traditional, natural technique unfortunately has been diminishing by the development of new dyeing techniques. Today, less than 1% of indigo dyed garments are using natural, chemical-free indigo dyes similar to that of Ai-Zome.
Why natural dying is better than chemical? Fabric fibers bond with natural indigo cells, allowing the dye to adhere more effectively. While chemical indigo cells will take, the weak bond creates a dye that easily washes away and bleeds onto other materials. The larger, natural indigo bonds hold strong, and are less likely to transfer through day-to-day use.