I was lucky enough to attend an indigo workshop a while back while researching for my book Indigo Isle. What a treat that was to be able to learn more about indigo’s history in my home state of South Carolina and to learn the entire process of making indigo. During the workshop, we harvested the pigment from the plant and then used the pigment to dye silk scarves.
Shibori is resist-dyeing, aka tie-dyeing. We were shown several techniques on how to fold, tie, clamp, and even braid the fabric to get different designs. The fun part is that you really have no idea exactly how it’ll turn out. If the folds are too tight, the pigment won’t reach the inside layers. If you don’t follow the accordion folding technique, then your patterns won’t have much pattern to them.
About a dozen of us prepared and dyed scarves, and every single one turned out completely different. We all followed the same directions and used the same dye, but each scarf varied. Some of the attendees seemed disappointed in their outcome, saying it looked nothing like what they had expected. That got me thinking about how life is so very similar to this. We put in the work and followed directions to a T, yet the end results are not what we expected. There are only two choices when this happens: Try again or accept the unexpected outcome.
I think those silk scarves changed my perspective. Before, I would be the one to trash the first outcome and try again—only to get more frustrated when things still didn’t turn out the way I wanted. But I have come to realize there can be beauty in accepting the unexpected.
Typically, life doesn’t turn out the way we expect it to. Yes, that’s frustrating and can be quite scary, but . . . that’s life. I can’t help but think about that saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s all about our approach to difficult times. I know when I huff and puff about something not going my way, my poor attitude only makes it worse.
You want to know another way to make something worse? Impatience. I’m a people watcher, which comes with the author territory, in my opinion. So, the day of the indigo workshop I spent a lot of time watching the other people work on their shibori projects. Some were done lickety-split while others took a good bit more time to prepare their scarves for dyeing. Truly, each scarf looked like art when complete, but it was easy to spot the scarves that had been meticulously folded or tied. The patterns were more precise and intricate. Some of the impatient participants commented that they wished they’d taken more time with preparation. Darned if there isn’t a life lesson in that too, am I right?
I’ve heard that 2023 is the year of indigo, so what better time to discover more about this fascinating pigment. Learning more about indigo and shibori is really just a YouTube video away if you’re unable to attend a workshop. And dye kits can be purchased online. I highly recommend giving this art medium a try and perhaps reflecting on my musings here while you do so.
T. I. Lowe is an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories. She is the author of nearly twenty published novels, including her recent bestselling and critically acclaimed novel, Under the Magnolias, and her debut breakout, Lulu's Café. She lives with her husband and family in coastal South Carolina. Find her at tilowe.com or on Facebook (T.I.Lowe), Instagram (tilowe), and Twitter (@TiLowe).
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Author photo by Jordyn Strickland, copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.