Friday, July 19, 2013
Natural indigo dyeing has been something that I've been wanting to do for a long time and finally my friend Elizabeth rallied me into doing it. The kids were off at camp, the weather was beautiful, and we had a whole day set aside for our indigo madness.
The above photo shows the supplies that I ordered from Dharma Trading company. I decided to use the pre-reduced indigo crystals as apparently it is much easier than reducing the indigo yourself. I wasn't quite sure how much I would need so I ordered 2 packages of 3/4 oz (21 g.) of indigo, 2 packages of Thiox (Thiourea Dioxide) of 2 oz each, and 1 package of Soda Ash which only comes in a 1 lb. package.
The other materials that I needed were gloves and a 5 gallon bucket with a well fitting lid. I also ended up using a stick to stir it with and smaller container to put the "flower" in. More on that later.
Here is what I was planning to dye, a hefty pile of Cormo from three years worth of New Hampshire Sheep and Wool festivals, and an old dress I never really loved that I thought would benefit from overdying. I'm not motivated to knit with white yarn, unless it's part of a colorwork design, so I'm hoping that indigo blue will give me the kick to use this yarn.
We mixed the brew outside because you are supposed to do this in a very well ventilated area. It does have a very particular smell but I didn't find it offensive. Plus, it's pretty messy so it seemed like the backyard was a natural choice. For directions I used the ones on the Jacquard website as they were the easiest to follow.
1. Put 4 gallons of warm tap water in the bucket.
2. While stirring, mix in 100 g of Thiox (2 oz. packet) and 150 g if Soda Ash into water.
3. Add 1 package of pre-reduced indigo crystals into water, stir.
4. Gently but thoroughly stir the vat going in one circular direction creating a slight whirlpool. Once the vat is well mixed, slow the whirlpool by dragging the stir stick along the outer edge of the dyebath before slowly removing it. This will cause the bubbles or foam, called the “flower”, to become centered in the bath. The flower is the result of the oxygen escaping from liquid and rising to the top.
5. Let the bath rest for an hour before using.
6. After the vat is settled, remove the lid. The top of the dye bath will be covered with a layer of foam called the flower. Gently push aside the lower to check the color of the liquid. The dye bath should be a clear yellow or yellow-green. If not, wait a little longer (ours was seemed plenty ready after an hour).
You can see that the flower has formed in the last photo, it was bubbling and moving like crazy. We weren't that great about getting it centered in the middle. Before you dye, you want to remove the flower so that it doesn't leave residual dark spots on the fabric or yarn. I just picked it up with my gloves and put it in an old tupperware. We weren't that concerned about streaks though, we were open to any cool "mistakes" that might happen during the dyeing process.
Before dyeing, the fabric or yarn should be thoroughly wet and squeezed out. I dipped the pieces into the indigo for really only 10 seconds, it doesn't take long. When it comes out of the dye, it is a bright green color. I wish I had gotten a picture of this but my hands were too dirty to use the camera. Then as it oxidizes, it turns blue. The oxidizing happens quickly, 20 minutes max.
When the indigo bucket isn't in use, it should be covered so it doesn't keep oxidizing.
After 20 minutes, you rinse out extra indigo and then lightly wash with gentle soap. If it isn't blue enough, you can dip it into the bucket again. I was surprised at how much color it gets it such a short amount of time. Some of the color did wash out in the rinsing process but it is still a lovely medium blue.
There's the after photo of my Cormo, I love the way it turned out. The bottom picture is a better indicator of the actual color. There were three different batches of yarn there with slightly different twists and whiteness and they all took the color in a little different way. I rinsed and washed the yarn after dyeing. I'm thinking the yarn might turn into a sweater and a scarf. The fabrics we dyed all took the color differently too, it was very cool.
One nice thing about an indigo vat is that as long as it's covered it will keep for a long time. It can also be perked up by adding small amounts of chemicals and dye. The are great directions on how to do this on the Jacquard site.
After a first batch of fabric and yarn, Elizabeth and I got the fever and started pawing through our closets for more things to dye. I dyed two shirts, another old dress, a skirt from a thrift store, and bought three yards of natural colored linen that got dunked straight into the dye for a Sonya Philip A-line dress. Elizabeth dyed some scraps of fabric, t-shirts, and silk ties. We dyed A LOT with one bucket of indigo. I wanted to dye all the things, I could wear indigo every day.
Above is an old pale pink dress that I dyed on the second day. The flower on the vat was definitely a bit diminished at this point but it still dyed very nicely, I can't even tell that the dress used to be pale pink. It went through the washing machine and didn't lose much color at all. Elizabeth came by on the third or fourth day of the vat and did her dying, the blue was much lighter by the time she was done. There was about 1/2 a bucket of liquid left and we probably could have perked up the vat, but we decided to let it go at this point. I have enough chemicals to make a second batch if we want, it's easy and so satisfying to do.