It is the natural instinct of every human to like colors. This led to the discovery and usage of dyes. The history of dyes dates back to the time when people who lived in jungles became refined and civilization was formed. Egyptian mummies were found, wrapped in a cloth dyed from the madder plant. In earlier ages only natural dyes obtained from plants and vegetables were used. Hence the range of colors and their utility were limited.
History of the Royal Indigo:
Of all the colors, indigo dyes are being praised for its color and light fastness. This hue lays in-between blue and violet. The historical journey of indigo is traced even before the time of Christ and is used for more than 4000 years. This color has been in usage since the Neolithic times in Europe. When the Roman soldiers captured England, the country was inhabited by people called Picts. They painted, and tattooed themselves in indigo color. The famous Blue Men of Morocco are a North African tribe who dress from head to toe in indigo dyed fabrics. Indigo was always associated with royal people. Adored as a royal color, it was used only in the costumes of people of high society. This color indicated political power and religious rituals. In Hindu culture; lord Krishna is depicted in indigo blue color. Virgin Mary is shown; draped in a blue garment in Christian art. Indigo color is associated with the Third Eye Chakra that is believed to be located between the eyes and deals with spiritual and psychic power.
Preparation of the dye:
As a natural dye this color is obtained from several species of the leguminous plant indigoferagenus, woad, dyers knotweed, and from the famous Phoenician snails. This plant grows from two to six feet in height, and dye is obtained mainly through its leaves by the process of fermentation. Dye is obtained by soaking the plant leaves and fermenting them in water to convert the naturally present glycoside indicant to blue dye indigotin. The resulting precipitate is then mixed with a strong base of lye. This is mixed with various other substances to produce different shades of purple and blue. Natural indigo was the only source of dye until the 1800s. But currently natural blue dyes are rare. Nearly all the indigo dyes manufactured today are synthetic. One specialty of indigo is that, it is a substantive dye, and does not need a mordant. Mordants are normally used to adhere fabric and the dye permanently; together.
Indigo is an important dyestuff behind one of the worlds ubiquitous fabrics, the denim. It has a contemporary resonance in the manufacture of denim most commonly used in todays fashion world. A recent survey reveals that an average American woman has 18 denim garments in her closet, with majority of them being in hues of blue starting from deepest ocean blue to the palest sky blue. The denim color chart released by Gap shows that most women prefer various shades of blue denims. 39% chose medium blue, 24% chose dark blue and 16% of them chose light blue.
Global influence of Indigo:
Indigo dye is the oldest to be used in textile dyeing and printing. Many Asian countries such as China, Japan, and India are specialized in using this color for centuries. India is the oldest centre for indigo dyeing in the whole world. This fact is reflected from the Greek word indikon, which is an association of indigo and India. In West Africa, indigo colored garments symbolize wealth and prosperity. Blue and while stripped garments were the normal attire for people of Cameroon. In Japan during the Edo period, usage of silk was banned. So they started using cotton. During their times, it was difficult to dye cotton fibers with any other colors apart from indigo. Even today indigo is an appreciated color in the Japanese summer Kimonos. Indigo dyed rayon cloth makes the best mosquito net, because it deters all flying menaces. Over one billion pairs of jeans are dyed in indigo blue color every year. Currently global production of indigo is 17,000 tons a year and almost 40% is produced by BASF in Ludwigshafen.
This color has played an important role in several cultures throughout history. Overall, 80% of the dyes manufactured are being consumed by textile industry. Dyestuff sector is one of the important segments of the chemical industry, as it is linked with many other sectors like textiles, leather, paper, plastics etc. Though natural dyes are present, synthetic dyes are expected to dominate the global textile market. With eco friendly products and safe substitutes used, dyes do have a promising global market.
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