Today is my day for dyeing with indigo. I'm using the indigo dye kit from Maiwa which is pretty simple to use. Okay, simple to use, but not so simple to understand because there's some pretty major chemistry going on. But the instructions are good.
Indigo isn't like other dye. It requires a complicated chemical process to transform the blue dye particles from stable particles into a yellow, water-soluble substance. By removing oxygen from the vat, changing the PH, stuff like that, we can dip the cloth into the yellow/copper liquid and when the item emerges from the vat, the molecules react to the oxygen in the air and turn blue. Pretty nifty stuff.
There are lots of different kinds of vats. Fermenting, chemical (which is the one I'm doing today) and something else I can't remember. You can also make a similar blue colour with woad.
Woad grows really well here with zero inputs, on moderatly crappy soil. It's actually great for breaking up compact soil because it has long, penetrating tap roots.
I'm just obsessive compulsive. If it's about yarn, I wanna know it and try it and grow it.
Of course, most everything else is beyond me. Last week I learned the difference between a smartphone and my cell phone. Here I was thinking my phone was smart because it could remember more numbers than me.
I just came in because I ran out of yarn. This vat is much stronger than normal. Everything is the same, except this time I used hotter water. I wonder if that's the key to get darker dyes in fewer dips (we have to dip the fabric several times to get a dark colour blue).
This yarn is actually for one of the rewards of my upcoming Kickstarter (If I ever get this stupid video made - I hate video). I'll weave it into towels. Not everyone knows what to do with yarn, but everyone needs more towels. Douglas Addams understated the importance of always knowing where your towel is.
I just discovered I could use woad seeds to make a pretty dye colour, so I might take a break and do that... but really, I should start on those towels. But the woad seeds are taking up space I want to use for drying garlic. Decisions, decisions.
Names are so difficult. There's so much regional variation. I suggest for use for hands or dishes or anything you like. Some people just keep them for decoration, but that makes me a bit sad because they are so much nicer to use and longer lasting than commercial made towels. These ones I'm planning to make about 18"x28" which are really good for hanging off the oven handle and drying hands on. Or covering bread. Or anything you like.
There's a really interesting article is the current Spin-Off magazine, about how the ph of water affects dyes. And how it affects color-fastness. Basically when dyeing protein fibers like wool, vinegar is our friend both during dyeing and afterward.
But indigo is a whole different ballgame, so maybe with all the things we have to use (chemical vat) ph may not be such a huge factor.
I find that about half the people who buy the towels I weave out of cotton or linen, do what you said: don't use them to dry with. But they look at them more as table-runners or dresser scarves, so still putting them to good use. (a sales hint for you there, multiple uses to suggest to customers)
What a great picture of your dye day! Thanks for sharing. There is no blue quite like indigo, it's such a quintessential dye.
Oh, and for indigo inspiration, look up Roland Ricketts, he teaches art over at IU, an hour or so from here. He is all about indigo.
Seriously, it's his life's work, and he is a young guy relatively speaking, so I look for much more to come from him. He grows it here in Indiana, is a weaver as is his wife, studied indigo in Japan, etc. & creates contemporary textiles that are stunning. He exhibits nationally on a regular basis.
I wish indigo grew here. I even tried growing it in my greenhouse last year, but no luck. Too cold at night, I think.
But woad loves it here. I'm hoping to try a woad dye vat this week, but first I need some more yarn.
The more I use the chemical vat, the more it bothers me. The point of this farm is to find low impact ways. Ways that don't involve buying harmful chemicals or stressing over how to dispose of them when we're done. Every time I do one of these vats, I end up with lye burns.
A fermentation vat might be the way to go. I understand there are no gloves required unless one doesn't like blue hands.
I'm also experimenting with woad balls. That's where I want to put most of my effort this year.
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