Sunday, October 25, 2009


In response to a very good question from a follower--what is an illumination?
Discharge style indigo printing begins with a length of cloth dyed indigo. The pattern is then 'discharged out' by printing on the dyed goods with a discharging agent, usually an oxalic acid paste. The result is a white pattern on a blue background. Indigos printed in the discharge style were seen in England as early as 1805. By mid century, this technique was commonly used in Europe and America.

Note the wonderful picotage detail on this print.

An illuminated print has a bright chrome yellow or orange element usually on a dark background. Think of the yellow as school bus yellow and the orange as a good aged cheddar.

Here everyother pin dot is white--bleached out in the discharge style. A discharge paste containing lead chromate will bleach out the pin dot circle and then drop in the chrome coloration for the illumination. Registration on illumination is always perfect--the chrome coloration being part of the 'bleaching' paste.

The underside of both indigo prints.

You can click on any of these image for a larger picture.


  1. Thanks for the illunination about one of my favorite types of fabric! Looking forward to more informative posts.

  2. How exciting that you have this wonderful, informative blog! I will let my quilt history study group know right away!

  3. dianemrose@comcast.netOctober 26, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    I love your new blog! Thank you for sharing your vast wealth of information with us. But, just a reminder, Vermont cheddar is white!

  4. Thanks so much for answering my question. I couldn't see the yellow in the original post, but I can see it in the example here. Fascinating process. And I just love that first indigo print.

  5. Diane you are correct! I just went into the kitchen to check my husband's cheese stash--I have not been able to eat cow diary products for a many years--it is white. The Vermont cheddar was a childhood memory of grilled cheese sandwiches--bad memeory. Thank you for the correction. Margo