Indigo Play Days

Last week, I had the pleasure of taking an indigo class from Jay Rich.  He had just returned from ISEND 2011 and an indigo class with Michel Garcia.  Prior to this class, I’d primarily worked with a chemical vat using indigo, thiourea dioxide, and washing soda.  I had set up an fermentation vat a couple of summers ago but it was difficult to keep at the right temperature in my location.  This was my first experience with the organic vats that Michel Garcia has researched.  We set up 5 different indigo pots.  In four cases, we used Indigofera Guatemalensis.  The last pot was using woad extract.  The woad extract and one of the indigo pots was a chemical vat – thio, washing soda …  The results from the Indigofera Guatemalensis with the chemical assists were darker than what I normally get, but that can be attributed to the indigo source.  The woad was interesting as it was almost turquoise on silk.  The other vats we tried were organic vats with fructose, iron, and henna.  All of these materials are used as reducing agents.  Lime is added to increase the alkalinity.   The general proportions were 1 part indigo, 2 parts lime (calcium hydroxide, we used pickling lime), 3 parts reducing agent.   When these were mixed together, the reaction was immediate.  It was quite impressive.  Items were dipped as usual for an indigo vat.   Use multiple dips to increase the depth of shade.  I had always assumed that the organic vats involved fermentation.  That was not required.  The vats were ready within an hour or so if combining the ingredients.  The only difficulty was keeping the pots warm enough on the cold and windy day we had in Denver.  The expert,  Michel Garcia will be teaching at MAIWA this fall, if this topic is of interest.  He found the information by researching old dye texts and experimenting with it.  The iron vat is discussed in Liles book.  I will also be discussing it in my indigo class at the Taos Wool Festival.

Mixing the indigo, reducing agent, and lime:

These are pictures of the vats.  I will post pictures of the results in the next few days.


3 Responses to “Indigo Play Days”

  1. Helen Melvin Says:

    Hi Diane many thanks for giving me the link..
    I have done the iron vat which is in my book on indigo not but had not come across the use of fructose so many thanks.

  2. Deb Says:

    Diane, did you use different reducing agents based on the substrate type? I am amazed at the short time for the vat to come into play. Wouldn’t the iron impact your wool?

    • dyeing2weave Says:

      As it was a class, I used everything on anything just to see what happened although I did not have wool in the mix. During class, I reread Liles – he does not recommend using the iron on protein fibers. I did use it on silk but you have to be careful about rinsing it and keeping the iron away from other objects and pots. There was some discussion that the reaction between the iron and the oxygen would neutralize it but I’m not enough of a chemist to comment on that.

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