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Indigo blue dye day

1068 Views 13 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  fibrefarmer
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.

Does anyone want to chat indigo?
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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.
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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.
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