Nankeen Indigo

The Nankeen indigo dyeing technique, dating back 3,000 years, is native to China’s Jiangsu province. Known also as Lan Yin Hua Bu (蓝印花布) and Blue Calico, the craft is still practiced traditionally today. Using hand-cut paper screens, soybean paste thickened with lime, and natural indigo dye, artisans print contemporary versions of ancient patterns on locally-grown cottons and linens. 

First, a thick soybean paste is applied to the fabric through a hand-cut oiled paper screen. When the soy paste has dried and hardened, the fabric is submerged in a natural indigo bath. The dried paste creates a hard, protective barrier through which the indigo dye cannot pass. This is called a resist, much like wax batik. Upon oxidation, as the fabric comes out of the indigo bath and is exposed to the air, the indigo-saturated fabric gains a vibrant blue, and is set to dry in the sun. The paste is carefully scraped away to reveal crisp prints, and the cottons are laundered to remove excess dye.  

Nankeen indigo dyeing has recently become the first textile craft nominated to China’s renown Intangible Cultural Heritage list by the Ministry of Culture, a big honor for a humble tradition. 

LuRu Home’s contemporary Nankeen cottons and linens are produced by hand using natural, chemical-free indigo outside of Shanghai by a family-owned workshop where generations have passed down the tradition.