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Indigo Hand-dyes

Hand-dyed cotton indigo fabrics from The Gambia

In West Africa, indigo really is 'the king of colours'. These hand-dyed indigos are all created by our friend Musa Jaiteh in his family compound in Sukuta. Musa uses stitching, tying and wax stamping to create a resist before hand-dyeing with indigo. All fabrics are 100% cotton, either damask or a light plain weave, as indicated. 

Note about colour: Because Musa's fabrics are all hand-dyed, there may be slight variations between batches and patterns. See also: Washing African Fabrics

Ordering lengths: Musa dyes in small batches of about 4.5 metres long. Therefore, the longest single uncut length we can offer is 4.5 metres. If you order more than 4.5 metres, your fabric will come in more than a single piece. If in doubt, please contact us.

Plain weave: 100% cotton. 80 cm / 32 in wide, approximately. Fat Quarters are 50 x 40 cm / 20 x 16 in. Dressmaking/craft weight: 90 grams per metre, approximately.

Per Fat Quarter: £4.70    Per metre: £18.80  

Damask fabrics: 100% cotton, damask weave. 110 cm / 43 in wide, approximately. Fat Quarters are 50 x 56 cm / 20 x 22 in. Dressmaking/craft weight: 150 grams per metre, approximately.

Per Fat Quarter:  £5.00   Per metre: £20.00

More: About Musa's indigo fabrics

About Musa's indigo fabrics

We've been working with Musa Jaiteh in the village of Sukuta in The Gambia since 2001.

Musa learned his craft from his father, who comes from the Fouta Djallon highlands of neighbouring Guinea, which is famous for its indigo cloth. In 2016, Musa travelled with us to Guinea to help us research local indigo techniques and buy indigo textiles.

Musa's indigo vat

When he can get it, Musa prepares his indigo vat using the leaves of local indigo plants like the few he has growing near his compound. When indigo leaves are scarce, he augments his indigo vat with synthetic indigo from the local market.

Now here's a little known fact. Synthetic - or manmade - indigo is chemically and molecularly identical to the natural indigo obtained from indigo leaves. They do their job of dyeing fabric in exactly the same way and you can't tell the difference between them.

Musa controls the depth of indigo colour by dipping multiple times into his indigo vat - even as many as eight or ten times!

Wax resist batik

Many of Musa's designs are based on a simple process: wax + dye = batik.

Applying melted wax to fabric creates a resist which dye cannot penetrate. Where there is wax, the fabric stays the colour it was before going into the dye vat. Where there is no wax, the dye colours the fabric.

Musa melts wax in a pot over a charcoal fire and uses hand-carved wooden stamps to apply the wax to his cloth: this is a lot harder than it looks!

Tie and dye techniques

For many of his most complicated and appealing designs, Musa uses various tie and dye techniques to create a resist before dying in indigo.

To create his striped designs, he carefully pleats and ties up to 5 metres of fabric lengthwise before dyineg. He also ties the fabrics in numerous ways to create starburst and sunburst motifs, as well as stunning marbling effects.

Life in Musa's compound

Musa works and lives in his family compound in Sukuta, a village next to bussling Serrakunda, The Gambia's biggest town.

Life in the compound is never dull - or quiet!

Musa, his brother Osman and his extended family are always busy preparing or dyeing fabrics. As soon as school is out, the compound fills up with children playing tag, chasing footballs or picking up scraps of fabric and dyeing them in an old tin of discarded kola nut or indigo.

Using Musa's indigo fabrics

Musa's fabrics are all 100% cotton. Some are on plain weave cotton, others on a subtle damask weave. In Africa, these fabrics are used mainly for clothing and tailoring. Many of our customers use them for patchwork and quilting.

With freshly dyed indigo, you can expect a ruboff of excess indigo, leaving you with blue hands. However, because of its unique chemical characteristics, indigo will not bleed into other fabrics. Over time, indigo will fade - just like your favourite pair of bellbottom blue jeans.

Musa's father and indigo vat in The GambiaMusa's father and his indigo vat in 2002.
Musa Jaiteh dyeing indigo fabric in The GambiaMusa and his indigo vat in 2017.
Musa Jaiteh holding a ball of natural indigo in The GambiaMusa holding a ball of natural indigo.
Musa Jaiteh wax stamping in The GambiaMusa wax stamping his fabric.
Musa Jaiteh tieing fabric in The GambiaMusa tieing a resist pattern into a 'rope' of fabric.
Children dyeing with indigo in Musa's compoundLike father like son: apprentice indigo dyer in Musa's compound.
Musa Jaiteh inspects indigo fabricViola Davis wears Musa's  hand-dyed indigo fabric in the film 'The Woman King', 2022.


Supplying over 300 metres of fabric for the film provided Musa with valuable work in the year that COVID devastated tourism and trade in The Gambia.

Mining mining Indigo Damask
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Dapee Indigo Damask
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Djembe Indigo Damask
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Samaa Indigo Damask
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Muru Indigo Damask
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Bulloo Indigo Damask
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Indigo Damask
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Indigo Stripe Damask
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Indigo Plain Weave
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Indigo Stripe Plain Weave
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Chuti Chuti Indigo Plain Weave
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Indigo Small Ties Panel
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Indigo Tiny Ties Panel
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indigo tie dye panel
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Indigo Tree Cotton Strip Cloth
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Batik Adventure Pack Indigo
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from £24.00AKN103
Indigo Inspirations Large
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Indigo Inspirations Small
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