Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Leave a comment

Tai Chi Uniform: Cutting out and first sewing steps

After the Lander trousers interlude I am now back with my Tai Chi uniform. I deliberated for a long time before I bought the fabric as I wasn’t exactly sure how much I needed and the Mind the MAKER cotton twill isn’t exactly a cheap fabric at £22.99 / metre (ouch!). In the end I bought 1.7 m and prayed that my skills at tessellation would suffice. I know this quantity will be enough for the two front and back pieces and I just hope that I’ll manage to get the pockets, facings and collar out of this as well.

The cutting out was therefore a little stressful. I was worried that I would accidentally cut out two left fronts, or some such error, and therefore use up all my fabric. The right side and reverse side of the fabric are very similar, but not identical. There is a slight sheen to the right side so I suspect that if I had got this wrong it would have been truly visible in the finished jacket. To make sure I didn’t mess up, I went really slowly, checked and checked again, and labelled all the pieces as I went along. (You can see my label pinned on to the jacket front on the picture below). Labelling was very useful as it meant I didn’t “forget” that I had already cut a certain piece.

I was incredibly relieved when I had all four pieces cut out. I then cut out the pockets. There are four of these. They are all patch pockets, but the bottom two are larger and are slanted at the top.

My next dilemma is that I have no instructions for the construction. Well, obviously, as it is self-drafted, so I had to have a good think about what to do first.

My first steps have been as follows:

  1. Join two back sections together at centre-back seam, press, finish seams.
  2. Construct front patch pockets
  3. Attach pockets to front of jacket

And that is where I am at the moment…..I think my next step will be to add the facing, but I may have an obstacle here. I haven’t cut the facings out yet, as I think I am going to struggle with the amount of fabric I have left. Admittedly, on the original jacket, the facings are cut from a different fabric, so I could do this, but of course, that will probably need a trip to a fabric shop, unless I can find something suitably neutral in my oddments stash.

Tai Chi Jacket: Starting to add the front pockets to the jacket

In the meantime, I could take a look at the frog fastenings, which I think I’ll probably save for my next instalment.


6 Comments

Red True Bias Lander Trousers: Finally!

I think the Lander Pants, as they are called, came out in 2017, or thereabouts. I have probably had the pattern since then, but this is actually the first time I have sewn them. So what has held me back? After all, they do have that seventies vibe that I really go for. I suppose the first thing is that I had a vintage 70s pattern with a button fly already and I had already perfected the fit on that. I have made two iterations of that pattern, and I love them both; here are the blue jeans and here the brown corduroy trousers. Then I suppose, I noticed that the waistband isn’t graded so I knew I would have to swap that out. All in all, it was just laziness that prevented me for getting on and making some Lander trousers. I have seen so many fantastic examples online, I eventually convinced myself that I really must be missing out and set about making my own.

The fabric

I purchased the fabric from Like Sew Amazing with some vouchers I got as a Christmas present. The fabric is a slightly rust-like red in a stretch cotton twill. The Landers don’t necessarily need a stretch woven, but the stretchiness of this fabric will work out fine with this pattern.

The construction

As with all trousers patterns especially one with pockets and top-stitching it is all a lengthly process. I used some remaining fabric from my The Serpent-inspired top for the pocket lining. In fact, I think that the top will team up well with these trousers.

I made a small change to the pattern. I took out some of the rise (roughly 2 cms of both the back and the front. This meant that I changed the gap between the buttons on the fly front otherwise they would have been spaced unevenly.

I deliberated for a long time about the buttons. I knew I wouldn’t find anything that would match colour-wise, so I chose these contrasting buttons.

Lander Trousers: the button fly

I swapped out the Lander waistband for the curved waistband from the Grainline Moss Skirt. This pattern piece has been used so many times and not always for Moss skirt making purposes, and is looking really tatty. I must remember to re-trace it!

I followed the sew along on the True Bias website for a couple of things just to make sure I got them right. This included the pocket construction and the fly construction. I suppose I have made quite a few trousers now, so this was just to reassure myself, but they are worth following as they have more detail that the instructions provided.

I have to admit that I didn’t go full top-stitching and jeans look on these. I just fancied making these more trouser-looking than jeans-looking in the end. Does this mean my love affair with top-stitching is over? Certainly not! I’m sure my next trousers / jeans will include loads of top-stitching. I think I just wanted a plainer look this time.

Red Lander Trousers: Worn with Grainline Driftless cardigan and blouse made with vintage pattern Simplicity 8924 

The Outcome

I have a feeling these trousers will be a bit of a workhorse in my wardrobe. Sure they are red, which isn’t a common colour in my wardrobe, but I can already see that they gel well with my numerous blue makes and I’m looking forward in Me-Made-May to trying these out with loads of combinations. I can attest after a day of wear that they are also very comfortable. I’m sure to make more of these; it looks like I’ve discovered finally this real indie sewing pattern classic.

Red Lander Trousers: Wearing sandals for the first time this year!


4 Comments

Drape drape 2 no 4 t-shirt in blue

My previous Drape drape burgundy top, or to give it its full name The No4 One-piece Scoop Neck Asymmetrical Top has been a firm summer favourite of mine. I have long harboured plans to create another one in bamboo jersey, but in another colour. As soon as I spotted a range of cotton-bamboo blends in Like Sew Amazing I knew I had the combination of my dreams. I picked the petrol colour which is unfortunately now out of stock but the plum and rust are still available. The fabric is perfect for this design which requires a light-weight jersey with plenty of drape.

The Drape drape 2 No 4 top amongst the daffodils

I had already traced the L/XL size and made the same size again. Sadly, the sizing is rather limited . The L/XL roughly translates as a size 10 /12 women’s size in the UK, so this pattern is far from size inclusive. Not only that, because of its weird shape and design, it would be quite a challenge to size it up.

Asymmetrical top from Drape drape 2 book by Hisako Sato

The construction is incredibly simple and I ran this up really quickly. I did try out a new product though. In Like Sew Amazing they are selling Guttermans Maraflex thread. It looks just like normal thread, but is in fact slightly elastic, in a firm kind of way. Given my perennial problems with hemming using my old Singer, which seems to pull thread ridiculously tight, no matter what settings are selected, I was willing to give it a go. It has definitely given my hems a bit more give although given the loose fit of this top, it isn’t necessarily a critical factor for this make. I’ll try this thread out on more jersey makes and report back.


5 Comments

Vintage Seventies Simplicity 8924: blouse with a mahoosive collar

Every now and then I see a pattern envelope from the seventies that looks completely awful. It looks dated (and not in a cool retro way) and best relegated to the bottom of the drawer. This is Simplicity 8924, a wardrobe pattern printed in 1970. The wardrobe includes a skirt, trousers, a blouse and a sleeveless jacket. I found this pattern lurking in a box at Like Sew Amazing. It was in fact being given away free, so let’s just say that it was a profoundly unloved pattern.

Simplicity 8924: an ugly duckling of a pattern from 1970.

Let’s look at the artwork on the envelope:

From the left, model 1 and 4 wearing the blouse, matching vest and skirt – I think these are probably the only two ensembles that I would consider wearing, so almost cool? Model 2 wearing the trousers and Model 5 with the big scarf somehow seem a little too office-ready for my taste. Model 3 with the stripy blouse and corduroy vest and trousers just oozes the 70s, but the look seems a bit costume-like to me and dressed-like-a-crayon model 6 just doesn’t appeal, although I do like the idea of adding a belt.

However, despite my less than favourable opinion on the styling, somehow the pattern still spoke to me. I looked at that big-collared blouse and an idea was born! The blouse has a real statement collar – very on trend at the moment, I suppose. And, even though I can see that the collar is huge, in real life, as I discovered, it seems to take on an extra dimension!

The fabric

I chose a geometric print which has a very retro feel to it for this project. The fabric was from Minerva and comes in a variety of colourways. Just thought I’d share a tip here. I seem to find it difficult to find fabrics again on the Minerva website, but I have discovered that each fabric has a unique code, which is printed on the swatch label, which is very handy for finding out the details again (and providing a link for the blog, you’re welcome!). I chose the blue-brown combination, which I’m sure will fit well with other items in my wardrobe, but there is also brown, red and mint. The fabric is a stretch woven viscose. Strangely, I haven’t sewn much with stretch wovens this light-weight, but it was a very easy fabric to sew and I do like the feel and texture of it.

The construction

I didn’t make many alterations to the fit from the standard size 12 pattern that I had. I made the sleeves a little shorter and although I cut the body length as directly I make the zip aperture a little shorter to fit in with my higher waist and then lopped off a bit of extra length once I had tried the blouse on.

I could tell that this is a pattern of some vintage just because of the the construction techniques used. First of all, there is a long zip that runs down the back of the garment; to be honest it makes the blouse seem reminiscent of a dress. I’m not sure if I made this again I would bother with such a long zip, it isn’t even necessary for putting the blouse on. I could probably get away with the centre-back seam sewn up until a few inches from the top, leave that open and add a little button and thread loop at the neckline. In fact, I find the contortions needed to do up the zip irritating, but I suppose I haven’t worn a back-zipped dress in years so it isn’t surprising that I would be annoyed by this.

The other “vintage” construction features include the use of an elbow dart. I mean, when was the last time you saw one of those? I have seen them on bridal wear and on leather motorcycle suits, when the sleeves are worn tight against the arm and the darts enable movement, but on a casual-ish blouse?

Being a pattern of some age, of course there was a great deal of hand-sewing involved too. I skipped some of this, for example I just machine-hemmed the blouse. I also left off the hook-and-eyes from the collar. I really have a problem with these small metal hook-and-eyes. Just a warning here, as I’m about to relate a rather revolting story! When I was a teenager I used to sew and craft on my bed at home. One day I was scratching at my ear when a large lump of wax and dried blood fell out onto my lap. After picking at it (sorry, I said this was a revolting story!) I found that at the centre of this lump that had resided in my ear-hole, goodness knows how long, a small metal hook (one half of a hook-and-eye). It may be that the hook had been from a bra, or a skirt or something, but I suspect sewing on the bed was the most likely culprit. I suppose the moral of the story is not to do craft activities on the bed! And as you can imagine I have entertained an aversion to these hook-and-eye things ever since.

The construction itself was relatively easy although it did expect me to have some knowledge. There were no instructions on how to insert the invisible zip, just “follow the manufacturer’s instructions”, but there was precision in the pattern. There were a great many useful notches and markings so everything, the collar, the neck facings, the sleeves all lined up beautiful when I inserted them. There were lots of reminders to trim seams and under-stitch too. In fact, the pattern and its instructions were superb for getting absolute precision.

Not quite the weather for this outfit yet, but look at that huuuuge collar!

The Outcome

Do I like this blouse? It is a hard question to answer. I’m not so happy with the long zip down the back, but I suppose I could get used to the fight with the zip that’s necessary when I put it on. I am pleased though with the sewing and I do like the statement collar; somehow it looks even bolder in real life than on the pattern envelope. Have I turned this ugly duckling of a pattern into a swan-like garment? What do you think?

About to trail my cardigan in a puddle?

I’m now thinking about how this will work with my wardrobe, and will probably need to pull out a few items to see how they look in combination.


3 Comments

Tai Chi Uniform: Selecting the fabric

I haven’t been able to visit many bricks and mortar fabric shops so far this year. For this reason, I decided that I needed to order some swatches to select an appropriate fabric for my Tai Chi uniform.

First of all, let me try to explain the original fabric on the jacket I am copying. The fabric is a poly cotton blend in navy blue, with quite a smooth surface texture. It is quite crisp in nature, but crinkles smooth out relatively easily. It is quite light-weight too and I am guessing when I say that my inclination is that it is made of something like poly cotton sheeting.

I ordered four quite different cotton fabrics from Minerva crafts. I was keen to avoid a poly cotton blend and chose cotton fabrics only. I imagined, even before I ordered these fabrics that they would be more substantial / thicker than the fabric of the original jacket. I liked the idea of a thicker fabric, particularly as we have been practicing Tai Chi with the doors open for months (and some sessions I hardly seem to get warm despite an hour and a half of exercise). However, I didn’t want this concession to compromise the drape or flexibility of the design.

The fabrics were as follows:

  1. Sevenberry Kobe Cotton Twill Indigo
  2. Mind the MAKER Stretch Cotton Twill Indigo Night
  3. Soft Duck Canvas Navy
  4. Klona 100% Cotton Navy

Unfortunately it looks like navy blue photographs as badly as black so you’ll have to take my word about them all being different! The links to the Minerva site should provide more of an idea about these fabrics.

Four samples for my Tai Chi Uniform: clockwise from top left: Sevenberry Kobe Cotton Twill Indigo, Mind the MAKER Stretch Cotton Twill Indigo Night, Soft Duck Canvas Navy, Klona 100% Cotton Navy

Straight out the packet I noticed that the four fabrics were very different; colour, thickness, softness all varied, so I made a grid to assess them. I assessed the colour on the basis of its proximity to the colour of the original jacket. With drape, I screwed the fabric up to judge how crisp it was and also looked to see how much the crinkles were retained when I smoothed it out again. For the surface texture, again I visually judged how close this came to the texture and weave of the original.

FabricColourDrape*Weave / Surface TextureTotal
Sevenberry Kobe Cotton Twill Fabric Indigo2327
Mind the Maker Organic Stretch Woven Cotton Twill fabric Indigo Night44311
Soft Cotton Duck Canvas Navy Blue3216
Klona 100% Cotton Fabric Navy1146
Comparison of different jacket fabrics *see crinkle test above

As you can see there was an overall winner. The Mind the Maker cotton twill comes quite close to the original fabric. Strangely, it is described as a twill fabric, but the weave is quite fine so this is not particularly evident at first glance. My only reservation with this fabric is that it is a stretch woven, unlike the others. Perhaps this will in fact improve the comfort of the finished jacket, and hopefully won’t be too obvious.

Looking at the uniform I will also have to order the frog fasteners and some contrast fabric for the facings and cuffs.

Tai Chi Uniform jacket: Note the contrast cuffs and the frog fasteners.

My next step will be to order my fabric. Of course, drafting your own pattern means that I will have to work out how much fabric I need too. No handy envelope guide here!


4 Comments

Tai Chi Uniform: First thoughts on designing the pattern

I was intending to crack on with sewing more of my #makenine for this year, however a new make has jumped to the top of my schedule. I have practiced Tai Chi for some while with the Wu Tan Tai Chi school.

My teacher has long been nagging me to sort out my clothing and wear something more “Tai Chi”, but knows I do make my own clothes. So, she has lent me some jackets to try on that I can use as a basis for a sewing pattern.

Tai Chi uniform

Naturally, I decided to also purchase some more Swedish Tracing Paper, which I reviewed here. I have used it previously and really liked using it. It has the added bonus that it behaves more like a fabric than a paper so you can sew it and try it on!

My first dilemma on trying on the jackets is that to me they seem quite restrictive in the shoulder. The grown-on sleeves actually pivot downwards. This means that with any movement of the arm at shoulder height or above, tends to make the bottom of the jacket ride up and all movements quite restrictive. I suspect that my square shoulders are contributing to this problem, because on less square shoulders I’m sure that the fit of the jacket would be fine.

I decided to investigate if there were any Chinese jacket or Tai Chi uniform patterns on line. My search revealed various different arm shapes, some with sloping arms and some with completely horizontal arms.

This is a wrap design, which isn’t what I’m after and the arms are too flamboyant, but it does have the horizontal arms.
This is the Chinese Jacket #114 from Folkwear patterns. This resembles the overall design of my jacket, but does include the horizontal arms too.

My first step is to make a sewing pattern using the Swedish Tracing paper. As I already have the sloping arms, I will make this pattern with horizontal arms and see if it improves the fit for my shoulders. The jacket is made of a quite light-weight cotton. It looks like and feels like a high-thread count sheeting. I don’t know if I will be able to get something similar (and I don’t want to use poly-cotton sheeting). I suspect that I will end up purchasing something heavier weight, so any restrictions in movement will be exacerbated by this.


2 Comments

#MakeNine2022 Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 Underwear Part 3

The Simplicity 8229 by Madalynne is the only bra I have made and my first attempt was made using the pattern in kit form. This made the whole process a bunch easier as I didn’t have to source all the fabrics and findings from scratch.

Fabric and other supplies

For my new bra, I sourced all my supplies from the Sewing Chest as individual items and not as a kit. I decided to go for a cream / off-white colour scheme and selected lace and findings accordingly. However, it did seem like I spent an age on the website trying to figure out what to buy. If you have a look on the site, you’ll just see how many pages there are of little coloured rings! I don’t think I made the best choice with the rings and sliders (they are supposedly “fawn”), but I don’t think I did too badly with all the other components.

Pattern adjustments

Although I can say that the original 8229 bra fits, after some wear I have come to some conclusions on suitability of the style. I have a very short torso, and as such the extra fabric under the cups just bunches up and settles at the level just under the breast and above my stomach. I wouldn’t say this causes any discomfit, but it doesn’t look right. For comparison, here is a (very old and comfortable) RTW bra (black bra in photo below) that I wear compared to the Simplicity 8229 (white bra in photo below). As you can see there is nothing below the underwires on the black RTW bra, whereas the Simplicity 8229 has extra fabric in this area.

Comparison of two bras. Top Simplicity 8229 (white), Bottom RTW bra (black) – note the extra fabric between the bra band and the underwires on the white Simplicity 8229 bra.

I thought that I could make another version with some adjustments that would make the bra more in line with the style that seems to work better on my body. These adjustments included:

  1. Making the bottom band come directly under the underwire
  2. Reducing the height of the back band and front band at the top too
  3. Adding bones where the front band joins the back band to prevent the fabric “scrunching-up”

Another problem that seemed to occur is that the straps were always falling off my shoulders. I really don’t know what caused this. I don’t like changing things unless I know they will make a difference, so I’m not sure the adjustments here will work, but I hope so:

  1. Decreasing the length of the straps (yes, I adjusted them to fit, but there was a double thickness of the elastic for virtually half the length of the strap)
  2. Making the strap elastic wider
Simplicity 8229 – note the stupidly long strap. This is adjusted to fit me (just shows how short my body is!)

Construction

I remembered to look at the short video that Madalynne provides online. It’s not really a sew-along, however it helped me improve the finish of the bra, with lots of tips on how to hide raw edges etc.

It has been a long time since I made the original bra, and I don’t remember whether I used Wonder tape to the extent I used it this time. Anyway, it was brilliant for holding straps down where using a pin just wouldn’t work.

I felt sure that I would have lace left over for a pair of knickers, but sadly I seemed to use it all up making sure that the bar cups were cut symmetrically.

Verdict

It looks great; every bit as good as underwear from a shop. I wouldn’t normally be flabbergasted that this is the case, but being still a novice at bra-making (and definitely a novice at selecting the right components for bra-making) I am delighted with the way it looks. I haven’t worn it yet, but will do tomorrow.

Cream Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 bra: very pretty!


3 Comments

#MakeNine2021 Flo-Jo Knicker Kit Review. Underwear Part 2

After a fallow January, at least I have now sewn something. They may be small, but I can’t argue that these knickers aren’t a useful addition to the wardrobe. To make life easier, I decided to use a kit to make them. The useful thing about underwear kits is that you get all the necessary fabric, lace with a pattern and a set of instructions. It is often the case that to make underwear you need to buy things from different shops, so kits are really handy in this respect.

The kit

I bought my kit from Flo-Jo fabrics in Bristol. I picked the rainbow fabric with straight lace. The kit comes in a handy box and contains enough fabric and lace for one pair of knickers. There is also a small length of ribbon to make a bow and a label. The pattern and instructions are also included. I paid £15 for the kit. I would say that the price is about average for this type of kit. Obviously, just making one pair of knickers using the kit works out a bit steep, but if you intend to re-use the pattern, then it can be a good investment.

Flo-Jo Stretch Knicker Making Kit

The pattern

The pattern comes in sizes 6 to 22, which is a reasonable range. I used size 10 and with some very careful pattern tetris I managed to get two pairs of knickers out of the fabric. Of course, there isn’t enough lace to finish the second pair, but I was delighted that I was given such a generous amount of fabric. This wouldn’t be possible with all the sizes, but it does mean that if you wanted to pattern match, it would easily be possible. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone looking that closely at my underwear, except me when I take it out of the drawer! Although I love things to be pattern matched, I’m not that obsessively devoted to pattern-match my undies!

The kit unpacked

The instructions

I really appreciated the way that the instructions guided me through making the gusset, which does require making sure that you have the pattern pieces correctly orientated. I was very pleased with the neatness at this point. However, I felt there wasn’t much guidance on how to add the lace trim. How much overlap should there have been? I may have overlapped a little more than I should have and then trimmed the fabric back to get a neater finish. It worked, but then I suppose I have sewn knickers before. I also made a change to the side seams. I finished these with the overlocker as I think this tends to make the side seams more durable. However, it is perfectly fine to finish them with a zigzag stitch as instructed.

The fit

I would say that my size came up on the snug side and I wonder whether I should have gone with a bigger size. I had compared the pattern pieces with knickers currently in my drawer, before I sewed and the pattern pieces came up bigger. So, I suspect the fabric doesn’t have the stretch that my other knickers have. The favourite knickers in my drawer are those I made with a bamboo knit, and I will definitely use this pattern to make more of those. I like the style of the knickers as an everyday classic.

The finished rainbow knickers…..or almost! I realised that I hadn’t added the bow after I took the photo, so please excuse me!

The verdict

Definitely a winner! I love the fabric, who wouldn’t feel happy when they pull some rainbow-coloured pants out of the underwear drawer in the morning? They are a practical basic pair of underpants, that will get plenty of wear.


3 Comments

#MakeNine2021 When I can’t sew, I dream….Underwear Part 1

I’ve got off to a very slow start with my sewing this year as some building work in my house has necessitated putting my sewing machines away and the dust being generated means that there is no way I am going to get any fabric out. I have mostly been trying to content myself with planning and preparing for my makes, but don’t want to dream too much in case I get carried away! I’m starting off my Make Nine this year with the underwear. This is where I actually have a need. I confess I have several bras bought in a German department store in the nineties, which still get worn! I haven’t made any underwear for a long time and when I did I didn’t make that much of it. I find making underwear fiddly and time-consuming and as a result other makes have jumped the queue.

Bras

I have made the Madalynne 8229 bra before. It fits well enough, but I need to make the body of it less deep. This is because I have a very short torso and the extra length below the wiring wrinkles up. It bothers me more from an aesthetic point of view than a comfort one. I have bought a few supplies from Sewing Chest and after long deliberation, I selected cream-coloured lace, fittings and straps.

Knickers

I’m also looking at making some knickers. Now that I have the cream-coloured lace for the bra, I think I might have enough left over for the Grace Pattern from Ohhh Lulu. I also found an RTW top, made of silk in my wardrobe. It is too small for me and has been there for forever and a day, but I didn’t want to discard it as I liked the fabric. I reckon I could use this for the Grace knickers too. The combination will look somewhat like the photograph below, as the silk fabric is mostly black.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2022-01-06-at-19.22.15.png
Ohhh Lulu Grace Knickers

For my less fancy knickers, I have had a change of plan. I happened to be passing Flo-jo Fabrics the other day and I noticed that they had knickers kits. These include a pattern, instructions, fabric, lace, ribbon and label. In essence, at £15 I am getting the fabric, lace and a pattern for my money. The pattern, obviously can be re-used, if I like it. My pack contains rainbow cotton jersey.

Camisoles

Actually, I prefer the term “vests”. Camisole is just too fancy a word for this type of garment, that gets worn as a base layer through the winter months! Anyway, I have a metre of black cotton jersey. I have made my own pattern for this using an old RTW garment as my base (I’ll post about how I went about this another time). I don’t really know exactly how much I’ll be able to squeeze out of the fabric, but I hope I’ll be able to make two camisoles, plus one or two pairs of knickers. We’ll see what happens.

I think this plan will add some sorely-needed pieces to my underwear drawer. I’m really looking forward to actually having some fancy, matching undies too!


1 Comment

Soil to Soil Textiles: TED Talk

For some while I’ve followed the progress of the Bristol Cloth and the businesses at the Bristol Textile Quarter. I also enjoyed attending a natural dyeing workshop held by Botanical Inks. Recently Babs Behan from Botanical Inks has presented a TED Talk on textile dyeing. I have found the talk fascinating and thought that I would share it with you. Being a lover of facts and figures I thought I’d add a few science bits I found from my own research too.

A colourful pile of indigo-dyed denim

I was really struck, particularly when Babs talks about how dyes are used in relation to jeans. I had, clearly wrongly, always assumed that jeans manufacture had continued to use natural indigo dyes. I think this assumption had been because I know that indigo has a particular property whereby only the surface of the fabric is dyed and inner layers remain uncoloured. This means that as denim ages and gets worn the fabric takes on that faded look so peculiar to denim jeans. Apparently, indigo has been synthetically produced since the end of the nineteenth century and this is what is mostly used in the textile industry [1].

Chemical formula for indigo

That said, synthetic indigo and natural indigo dye are chemically exactly the same, however there are some differences that are worth noting [2]. Natural indigo can contain impurities like tannins, which some believe make its colour richer and more interesting. Synthetic indigo uses raw materials such as aniline and hydrogen cyanide which are highly toxic [3].

Cloth dyed with mauveine, the first synthetically produced dye

Babs also talks about azo dyes, which are typified by a characteristic nitrogen to nitrogen bond (N=N) [4]. Azo dyes constitute 60-70% of the dyes used in the textile industry [5]. Many azo pigments are considered non-toxic, but some are mutagenic, carcinogenic or provoke allergic reactions. The textile industry discharge large quantities of azo dye effluents (up to 15% of the dye is lost this way), with acute hazardous effects on the environment and human health. There is restricted use of azo dyes in textile and leather articles under UK law, however azo dyes can be broken down by skin bacteria into carcinogenic aromatic amines many of which are unregulated [6].

[1] Dyes used for denim dyeing

[2] Synthetic vs natural indigo dye

[3] Sustainability of indigo in denim production

[4] Azo dyes

[5] Use of azo dyes in the textile industry

[6] Aromatic amines as carcinogens