Adventures In..., General ramblings

Indigo Blues

March 31, 2016

I have been continuing with my natural dyeing experiments, and after my excitement at all things indigo, I was intrigued to learn about an ‘eco vat’ (or 1-2-3) indigo dyeing technique, developed by Michel Garcia that eliminated the need for chemicals to reduce the indigo.

We are in the process of re-decorating our spare room so that SmallSmall can move in and make use of a bigger bedroom, and I want to dye the purple curtains that are in there indigo blue. So obviously, the most sensible way to start when trying out a new technique is to go BIG, and try and dye 1kg of fabric in one go….
(Note: this is not really a sensible way to start. It is the impatient person’s way to start. And the road to frustration and tears.)

I found a great blog post over on Botanical Colors, and purchased everything I needed: indigo powder (ordered online); fructose (from Holland and Barrett); and Calcium Hydroxide (slaked lime-the only thing I could find locally was a MASSIVE sack from the builder’s merchants-it should keep me going years a while).

I read the instructions, and read them again, and then got ready to go.
I did everything by the book (or blog post), but after the requisite hour it wasn’t looking quite as it did in the instructions.

The picture on the left is from Botanical Colors and shows how the starter solution should look after an hour. The picture on the right is mine :(

The picture on the left is from Botanical Colors and shows how the starter solution should look after an hour. The picture on the right is mine 🙁

I waited a bit longer, and then got impatient (again) and went ahead and made my vat.
I waited another hour for the vat to do it’s thing, as per the instructions, and then dipped in a test piece of fabric.
It came out a yellow-y colour, and covered in sludge.
123 disaster-sludge
I waited again for it to oxidise and turn blue in the air.
It didn’t.
So I popped in another piece, which came out less sludgy. And left this to oxidise and turn blue.
It kind of did. The very palest of blue.

Can you see the blue? I did say it was pale..!

Can you see the blue? I did say it was pale..!

So I went for it.
I dunked one of the curtains into the very sludgy looking vat, and set the timer for 5 minutes.
When I took it out, it looked as if it had been dunked in a yellow-y muddy puddle.
Undeterred, I hung it up to drip and ‘oxidise’ and waited for the blue to miraculously appear.
It didn’t.
It did however start to rain, meaning that I had to move said sodden, sludgy curtain indoors in the hope that with a bit more time, some blue would start to develop.
Whilst all this was happening, I decided to throw in some mini-skeins of yarn to see if they fared any better.
They didn’t.

123 yarn
Not even the merest hint of blue. Just a sludgy yellow-y green colour.
And the curtain? Well, I cut my losses and chucked it into a bath full of water to wash it and try and revert it back to it’s original state.

So now I am despondent (some would say blue, but that would just be rubbing salt into the wound…) and wondering where I went wrong.
I still really want to dye these curtains with indigo, and am tempted to revert to my previously tested chemical method which produced some stunning blues. But I also really want to try and crack this natural method, as it feels much more sustainable, and well, natural.
Has anyone ever dyed with indigo? Which method did you use? Any tips or hints for the 1-2-3 method to save me from more frustration?!

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