WAYFINDR: Natural Dyer Maggie

Loomstate has partnered with Maggie at the Rockaway Herb + Dye Garden in Rockaway Beach, NY on a limited edition collection of naturally indigo dyed shirts! Each was carefully dyed by hand with indigo, grown in New York. Read our interview with Maggie, co-founder of the Rockaway Herb + Dye Garden, to learn more about making natural indigo, the dye process, and what it's like being a young urban gardener...
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye
Rockaway Beach Natural Indigo Dye


Where is the Herb + Dye Garden?
Our primary grow space is on Edgemere Farm which is located in the Edgemere neighborhood of Far Rockaway, Queens. Short answer, the third stop on the peninsula via the Far Rockaway bound A train.

How did you first get into dying?
I studied natural dyeing in school at Parsons with Laura Sansone. I'm a painter with an interest in textiles and an obsession with the origin of my materials. The process of seed - to soil - to plant - to dye - to garment is time consuming and detailed but exciting and fun to share with people.

What are some other dye plants that you grow?
Im making an effort to grow plants that yield a lot of color for our small space, while maintaining a diverse color palette, AND making sure the space is nice to look at from the outside. Indigo and flowering plants like Marigolds, Coreopsis, Bidens, and Bachelors Buttons have been satisfying this first year, giving us flowers and great colors for dyeing. Some plants like Madder (red) and Hollyhock (purple) take two years to mature but it's worth the wait since they yield strong color.

How do you turn a plant into a deep dye?
The deepest dye usually comes from a concentration of plant dye-stuff and often the mordant that is added to the fiber or dye bath. I try to use dye colors and mordants that are fairly easy to grow in bulk or forage for like goldenrod, queen annes lace, sumac, and acorns - food scraps like onion skins or carrot tops are always welcome at the farm too! Indigo is a naturally deep dye although the plants respond well to being picked over, this summer the color of our indigo leaves has gotten deeper - but it takes time to pick every plant and it's better to just go for concentration.

Where does indigo naturally grow?
There are a few types of plants that yield the blue indigo color. We're growing Japanese Indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) this species looks like knot weed. Japanese Indigo is mostly native to Easter Europe and Asia. True Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) is a legume and native to warmer climates.

What was the dye technique and process for the Loomstate Ts?
We used an the Arashi Shibori technique for dyeing the Loomstate T's. The Arashi (meaning storm) lightening pattern is achieved by wrapping the fiber around a pole then scrunching it. The shirts were dipped twice, soaked for 30 minutes then aired for another 30 minutes.

Possible for someone to try this growing/dying at home?
I'm eager to know someone in warmer climates who uses True Indigo as a cover crop. Growing indigo is relatively easy but it can take some commitment for create a vat. Botanical colors sells a great dye and dye kit - which makes the process a lot more straight forward.

Do you have workshops? Any plans for expansion?
We are expanding our flower growing space through out the farm next season. We currently run a flower CSA using our dye plants and herbs - expanding production means more color and more flowers for everyone! We will have a few more workshops in November in Rockaway then starting to grow again in March. This Winter, were looking forward to expanding and collaborating with amazing dyers and flower people throughout the city.

How to best care for a naturally dyed garment?
Treat naturally dyed garment as you would treat intimates. It's natural for dye to fade but some treatments and plants are more permanent than others. Wash them by hand, use cool water in the machine, or throw them in the freezer.

We only have a limited supply, so don't wait! Shop the Indigo Collection >