Friday, July 31, 2015

Natural Dye Workshop

Last May I had the opportunity to join Sancayarini’s natural dye workshop at Indoestri, a new makerspace in West Jakarta.

It was great fun! I have been a long time follower of Sancayarini since Kanawida days simply because she dyes her fabric using natural dyes. When she introduced Kana Goods I knew it would be stellar in just a short while.

Yes, this is a session I cannot miss. Too much excitement.

Driving to West Jakarta always makes me nervous (congested and foreign) but surprise surprise it only took 45 minutes to reach Indoestri. Spotting Indoestri is not hard; it’s easily accessible from tol Rawa Buaya exit. If you are also going there for the first time, do expect to find a huge warehouse and spot Indoestri’s red sign.

A woodwork workshop was running concurrently, I think they were making wooden stool
Workshop syllabus

The class started with tante Sancayarini explaining about native natural color sources and current trends. Some are easily found in average Indonesian kitchen to name a few: cinnamon (brown), suji and pandan (green), and turmeric (yellow). I love that she only filled the slide with minimum information and full of pictures! She is indeed a living natural dye encyclopedia and obviously doesn’t need those long and detailed slides. This is also a simple presentation trick to keep the participants’ attention.

Each participant received a rami shawl and we proceed to re-boil the dyes. Too bad the dyes were  prepared beforehand so I didn’t get to see the initial process. We experimented with three dyes: jelawe (fruit)-deep yellow/green, mangrove/tingi (wood)-red and ketapang (leaves)-yellow/light. Tingi produces thick red dye and was the most popular color of the day. Most participants were exhibiting their tie-dye slash shibori techniques, which got me awed. I have zero knowledge on this and randomly tied my rami shawl. Next, we left the rami shawls in the shimmering dye for at least 30 minutes.

Loving the rami texture!
Natural dye ingredients

Mangrove (tingi) dye result

Rambutan dye result
We had our yummy lunch at the Indoestri Café while waiting. Too bad I did not have the chance to take photos of the interior but Google will effortlessly guide you to awesome references. I got to spend my IDR 50K voucher for Nasi Bungkus and Thai Ice Tea. Yumness!

Back to the workshop, tante Sancaya Rini prepared three different types of fixator to ensure the color stayed (i.e. superwash): tawas (alum), kapur (chalk), and tunjung (iron). Apparently, each fixator affects the color differently. Alum usually enhances the natural color, chalk lightens, and tunjung darkens. I had fun playing with the colors and got my rami randomly dyed lol I just could not help it.

After the fixation process, we wash the shawl and leave it under the sun for approx. 30 minutes (yes, it was a very hot day hence quick drying process) and voila! While waiting for the (rather quick) drying process, we made our own natural dye color chart.

The end result!
Making rami samples
Look at the vivid and deep colors <3
To be honest when a friend told me about the about-to-open Indoestri last year I was quite curious with the concept but unfortunately they mainly focused on wood, leather, and metal so I didn’t think it’s a good fit for me. I was so excited when they have this guest lecture but Indoestri sets premium price tags for its classes so I was initially a tad hesitated. Fortunately, a veeeeery loyal friend decided to invest and shared the fee.

Thank you Tante Sancayarini for sharing the natural dye love and know-how, and Indoestri for facilitating this insightful and content-heavy workshop! I enjoyed and learned a lot although there were minor confusions and hiccups.

Looking forward for more interesting textile-related sessions! For more stories check this article by Indoestri :D


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I follow Indoestri on Instagram but never noticed anything about natural dyes. I'm an American living in Malang-- an avid knitter, spinner, and natural dyer. Interested to learn more about local plants and herbs in Java and around Indonesia and the colors they produce; this was really inspirational and helpful! Thanks! :)

  2. You are most welcome! Glad to know my random post is helpful in any way. I am also still experimenting with local plants and herbs so I may post them someday :) would love to visit Malang someday, enjoy your visit in Indonesia!