Create Your Own Indigo Scarf

A Note from Rose: Today we welcome a guest post from Jeane Hutchins, editor of PieceWork magazine. She introduces us to Cynthia LeCount Samaké's recent article on the history of the exquisite indigo dyeing process. With a little folding, hand sewing, and an indigo dye kit, you can make your own one-of-a-kind scarf by following Cynthia's instructions below.

Ceramic pots and bowls used for indigo baths in Mali, West Africa.
All photos by Cynthia LeCount Samaké, unless
otherwise noted.
The hands of a man stitch-resisting on cloth in Mali, West Africa.

Cynthia LeCount Samaké's stitch-resist scarf.
Photo by Joe Coca.

Fabric folded.
Fabric showing diagonal folds.
Fabrics showing completed
stitch-resist before being dyeing.
Left circle: diagonal stitching.
Lower circle: rubber band.
Right side oval: vertical stitching. 

Blue jeans, blue moon, Rhapsody in Blue, Colorado sky blue, "Blue Suede Shoes," Texas bluebonnets, cerulean, the Caribbean Sea, lapis lazuli. Blue can be striking or soothing. Royalty and religions have used the color for millennia as a symbol of power.

From ancient Egyptian socks to stitch-resist cloth in Mali, the July/August issue of PieceWork is dedicated to the color blue. Among the fascinating facts I discovered while putting this issue together is that tie-dyeing cloth with indigo was introduced to the world long before the 1960s!

Here are a few more facts from Cynthia LeCount Samaké's article, "Indigo Dyeing in Mali, West Africa":

For many centuries, indigo blue was not only the principal dye used in Mali but also an important product of trans-Saharan trade. In fact, both cotton and indigo have been grown and used continuously in parts of West Africa for the past one thousand years. In the fifteenth century, sub-Saharan Africa helped fill Europe's insatiable demand for indigo.

Indigo-patterned and plaid textiles found in tombs dating from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries have been attributed to members of the Dogon ethnic group.

Today's Dogon women wear skirts or tops of indigo cloth typically decorated with stitch-resist geometric designs.


Make your own indigo stitch-resist scarf

by Cynthia LeCount Samaké


– 100% cotton white scarf 15" x 60"

– Size 3 sharps needle

– Dental floss

 – Indigo tie-dye kit (Be sure to use the mandatory rubber gloves.)


Fold and Prepare the Scarf

– Fold the scarf in half lengthwise and iron full length of the fold. Open the scarf out flat.

– Fold each outside edge inward, aligning with middle crease. Iron folds.

– Starting at outside folds, fold each side toward the middle into four lengthwise sections, accordion style.

– Holding all pleats together, fold diagonally three times at intervals about 3" apart.

– Iron the folds and draw a light pencil line along these fold lines on the front side.

Stitch the Diagonal Folds

– Thread the needle with 24" of dental floss. Double the thread in the needle and tie a large knot at the end.

– Open each side of the scarf out from the middle. Fold each side diagonally again and backward along the pencil lines.

– Starting at the end closest to the hem, begin whipstitching along the penciled folds, making stitches about 3/8" long and 3/8" apart. Stitch through all fabric layers on each side . Pull thread as tightly as possible and knot tightly at the end of stitching.

– Continue folding on the diagonal and stitching, until six side sections are complete.

– About 1-1½" up from the last diagonal stitching lines, gather the pleated cloth evenly with your fingers and wrap a rubber band tightly around the cloth.

– Repeat the stitching process about 4 to 5" up from the rubber band.

– Whipstitch the folds together lengthwise, starting about 2" from the second rubber band and for about 2".

– Repeat folding and stitching in the above manner for the other end of the scarf.

Dye Your Scarf

– Carefully follow the directions in the indigo dye kit to dye your scarf.

Happy stitching!

Jeane Hutchins
Editor, Piecework magazine

Enjoy your scarf and your connection with this historic dye process and find out more about PieceWork so that you can stay in touch with inspiring stories and projects from around the world.

It's the hand stitching that gives this scarf its distinctive look. Are you doing more handwork these days? Let us know on the Sew Daily blog.



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6 thoughts on “Create Your Own Indigo Scarf

  1. Hand sewig to me, is very relaxing, and I do as much as my arthritis will allow. A hand sewn item or hand embroidery is personal, with the artists’ soul in each piece.

  2. LL, I’m with you when it comes to hand sewing. I used to resist it and try to force as much of each project as possible through my sewing machine. I’ve recently come to enjoy the hand sewing details–and sometime hand sew something that could be done by machine.

  3. I checked with Jeane Hutchins, and she said that Dharma Trading retails the Indigo Tie Dye Kits from Jacquard—; (800) 542-5227. Would love it if you posted some pictures of your projects!