Indigo dyeing

Last week I got together with my friend Judy, another OCA student, for a day of indigo dyeing.  Both of us have had a tiny go at this before but always within a class structure where the vat has been pre-prepared.  This time Judy hosted and bought the supplies.  We used synthetic indigo which was very carefully put into the measured water so as not to introduce any oxygen – the enemy of indigo dyeing.  The other relevant chemicals were added just as carefully.  The pot was left to stand for an hour whilst we prepared various cloth samples.

Indigo-1Top left: dye pot showing deep purple surface where it oxygenated.  We gently stirred and you can see where we disturbed the top, but as we watched it soon became purple again.  Quite fascinating.  Bottom left: carefully lowering the fabric in so as not to capture any air and form bubbles under the surface.  Middle: We had the sense to attach string lengths to a corner of each fabric so we could easily lift the samples out.  We pulled them slowly up the side of the vat so that excess dye would run down the fabric back into the pot without dripping or splashing.  Everything comes out an amazing green.  Right: watching the piece turning blue in the sun.

Indigo-2We prepared paper as well as fabric.  Left: my layered paper with resists inside and out, hoping to get something to make into a book.  Right: Judy’s piece, beautifully folded, after dyeing.  Unfortunately the dye didn’t penetrate terribly well.

Some of the fabric manipulation and surface techniques we tried included:

  • Folded fabrics between cds and perspex shapes, tying them with string.
  • Marbles tied in with yarn
  • Twisted fabric tied into a sausage with string
  • stitched resist techniques
  • fabric pulled into multiple peaks and wrapped with elastic bands (ends up looking like an octopus)
  • oatmeal resist (note: give this one a miss)
  • cold liquid wax resist
  • layered, tied and ruched fabric
  • overdyeing other coloured fabrics

The majority of what we used was either cotton or silk, although I had something indeterminate which was a synthetic and it picked up a bit of dye.

Indigo-3Left: I wound silk chiffon round plumbers pipe and ruched it.  Oops, during pre-wetting it picked up a bit of dye from a pink fabric.  Right: coming out of the dye bath.

Indigo-4 Above: various resists and patterns (not necessarily related to each other)

Indigo-5Above: tied fabrics – my octopus and worm.

And some of the results once hung, dried and washed clean: –

Indigo-6My beautiful unwrapped octopus – and then I ironed it!  Next time there’ll be no ironing and I’ll combine the piece with other fabrics to create dimensional sculptures.

Indigo-7Left: sorry about the angle, I was squashed into a tiny corner to take this picture.  My paper sheets.  Right: Silk paj originally dyed brilliant yellow.

Indigo-8Above: some of the results having used tying and folding techniques.  The left hand image shows clearly where the original brilliant green dupion silk has lost some of its colour when picking up the indigo.  I believe the sodium hydrosulphite we added can also be used for discharging colour.

Indigo-9Clockwise from top left:

  1. overdyed yellow silk paj.  A stencil was used to apply fabric medium as a resist.  I read that depending on how thick you paint the medium the effect can either grab more dye or resist it.  Seems to have grabbed it here.
  2. overdyed yellow silk paj.  Cold liquid wax was painted on by brush, and dried, before putting in the dye bath.  It partially dissolved but the resist is still very strong.
  3. silk noil painted with cold liquid wax as previous sample
  4. silk noil with fabric medium through a stencil as per sample 1.

Despite plans in advance to do either multiple dips or different lengths of time in the vat for various fabrics to gauge dye pick-up, Judy and I were flat-out just keeping track of what we had happening anyway.  Most fabrics were in for 5 minutes but I would like to see some pieces that have been in around 15 minutes because all my cloths (except for the velvet, not shown) have come out a mid-blue and I’m keen to see some deep, rich coloured pieces.

A great day and you can read what Judy has to say about our experimenting here.

I hope to use some of the paper during my OCA printing course.

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About Claire B

A passionate embroiderer, a printmaker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I'm a perpetual student and love learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, Print 1: Experimentation, Workshops & Classes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Indigo dyeing

  1. Pingback: Sketchbook: Indigo | Fibres of Being

  2. Pingback: Indigo dye day | Fibres of Being

  3. Pingback: Book-making with Liz Powell | TactualTextiles

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