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Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans [Paperback]

Jenny Balfour-Paul

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Book Description

Sept. 22 2011

Praise for the U.K. edition:
Thoroughly satisfying.
-- Crafts

All those working with indigo or merely interested in the cultural history of that dye must read this book.
-- Textile Forum

Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans tells the compelling story of the world's oldest and best-loved dye, the iconic blue behind one of the world's ubiquitous fabrics: denim. Brilliant photographs and eloquent text describe the process of making indigo dye from plants and how indigo is used. It weaves stories of indigo's producers, its cultural traditions and history, its importance in global trade, and the modern textile artists and fashion designers who are reviving indigo for sustainable development.

The book covers:

  • Indigo's history, dating to ancient times
  • The botanical sources of indigo, including woad
  • Uses of indigo in traditional medicine and religious practices
  • The chemistry of indigo and the technology used to extract it
  • Production and dyeing methods
  • The commercial indigo industry, past and present
  • The health consequences of making indigo
  • Modern and future applications of indigo
  • Indigo's continuing appeal and the iconic blue jean

Indigo tells fascinating stories from the history of the dye, such as the recent discovery of 17th-century Spanish galleons in the Caribbean carrying hundreds of chests of raw indigo, which the author successfully used to dye 21st-century fabrics.

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Product Description


Historical reflections on the cultivation, use, and politics in this world of blues--from India to Palestine to the Solomon Islands to Nigeria.... Stunningly illustrated and richly researched, Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans tells the history of the dye set against the backdrop of an industrial world. (Julie Foreword Reviews 2012-03-06)

This beautifully illustrated volume presents many details on the history, creation, use and significance of indigo dye.... Balfour-Paul communicates her fascination with indigo, and the many compelling photographs are a treat. (Kathryn Wekselman Library Journal 2012-08-01)

About the Author

Jenny Balfour-Paul, an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and a Fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, is a partner in "Silk Road Connect", an exciting educational initiative of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. A renowned authority on indigo, she has been publishing, lecturing, exhibiting and broadcasting on dye and related subjects for well over twenty years.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE reference book on indigo March 2 2013
By Paula Bernard - Published on Amazon.com
A magical topic. Full of fascinating facts and inspiring images from the world over, this is my reference book on indigo. Keep coming back to it for history and ideas on colour, plants and organic processes, dyeing techniques and patterning, cultural traditions. I lost my original copy, and was delighted to find this latest edition has a fascinating new chapter on blue jeans and the future of natural indigo - currently being revived in France, India, Japan and many other countries serious about ethical, ecologically sound, sustainable production. Also a really important education project with young people of Harlem NYC for which Balfour Paul was consultant, initiated by Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road team - connecting everyday blue jeans to history of world trade, including slavery.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans Nov. 23 2012
By Nancy Page - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have ever been interested in how our color pallet came about you will treasure this book. it is a must have to any dyers library
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly researched and documented with references Jan. 27 2014
By Fiberguy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are really interested in the influence this one dyestuff has had historically and culturally, this book is an excellent source. The photographs and illustrations are great and the layout and quality of the printing is quite good.

The writing is academic and a bit ponderous. There are levels of detail that many of us, who just want to become better informed, could do without. There is also very little material on the current state of the art for current indigo usage in industrial production. We are presented a lot of material about native and small lot dyeing that could have been placed into better perspective with at least a photograph and short write-up of a modern continuous denim dye range as a contrast.

An informative book, but certainly NOT light reading!
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK! Jan. 23 2014
By B. Benson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The other Indigo book is much better! Buy Indigo the color that changed the world. Couldn't putti down! This book is too "wordie" needed a better editor

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