The tradition of indigo dyeing lives on.
The history of indigo production in South Carolina goes all the way back to the birth of our nation and a very special lady named Eliza Lucas Pinckney. The wife of a prominent statesman, Pinckney oversaw the first successful cultivation of South Carolina indigo in 1744. By 1748, indigo was second only to rice as the colony’s commodity cash crop.
Daufuskie Island residents Leanne Coulter and Rhonda Davis run Daufuskie Blues, an indigo dying company that honors this South Carolina tradition. They create eye-catching designs and patterns on scarves, cloth, and other fabrics. The ladies of Daufuskie Blues like to take their show on the road and teach indigo dying workshops around the Lowcountry.
Prior to the late 1880s, the only way to obtain blue dye was with the indigo plant. Leanne and Rhonda take great pride in sharing the history and methodology behind the indigo dying process. Ridgeland’s Morris Center is one of the sites for these classes. The Blues ladies first discussed the history of indigo growing wild on Daufuskie. They also grow it for production. The plant’s leaves are broken down in a reduction vat to make it water soluble. Once the dye is prepared, folded, stitched, twisted or cinched fabric is placed inside the vat. The dye first turns the fabric green. Exposure to the air creates a rich blue hue.
After the final soak and rinse the fun really started. Fabric was released from its bindings and all the beautiful patterns were revealed. Each piece was a unique work of art.
Indigo dying classes can be found at Hilton Head’s Coastal Discovery Museum, Walterboro’s Colleton Museum and Ridgeland’s Morris Center. You can also head over to Daufuskie Island and visit with Leanne and Rhonda at their store. Workshops can also be scheduled by appointment on Daufuskie Island.
Daufuskie Blues is currently located in the historic Mary Field School, built in 1933, where Pat Conroy once taught. The island and his experiences teaching there inspired him to write his first book The Water is Wide, which was made into the motion picture Conrak. Daufuskie Island is only accessible by boat or ferry. It is one mile south of Hilton Head. Daufuskie Blues is open Tuesdays – Saturdays, from 11 am – 4 pm.
203 Schoolhouse Road
(843) 707-2664, (843)368-3717
For more information about Daufuskie Island history and attractions, visit southcarolinalowcountry.com/daufuskie-island.