When I first tried the organic indigo vat, I didn’t have too much success; the blues I got were very pale and faded to grey overnight. However, the above cloth is the cloth I’d put at the bottom of the vat to protect the yarn from the sludge, so I knew that I’d been close.
This time when I tried again I did not use henna but fructose. The ratios are very simple for the fructose vat and I think I had been a bit too ambitious starting with the henna vat. I used, like last time, organic indigo from Botanical Colors, which is also where I got the vat tutorial. The indigo powder is so very, very, dark blue, a color unlike any other color. This time I tried hydrating the indigo rather than just mixing it. Maiwa suggests hydrating the indigo by using marbles in a small container and shaking it vigorously. I don’t have any marbles so I used small smooth stones I picked up from the neighborhood.
This time I did not check the PH but carefully monitored the temperature of the water I used, making sure it was around 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I also used a smaller container to make the starter solution, a mason jar. This made me able to see the color changing. This time the surface of the vat looked very promising– you can see the coppery scum on the surface and the “flower” (bubble cluster).
When the liquid in the jar had turned a clear amber color (I thought I had taken a photo of this but I can’t find it), I dipped a test bit of yarn into the vat and was pleased to see that it oxidized into blue that wasn’t gray like last time.
I then made a larger vat, carefully tipping the solution into the pot and again, watching the temperature, heated it to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, then turned the temperature off and let it sit a bit more. Again I put a piece of cotton cloth at the bottom of the vat to protect the yarn from the sediment.
I let all the yarn I dipped in the vat oxidize in a vinegar-water solution, like suggested. I’m really happy with the results. This vat needs a lot more indigo to make a dark blue, but as I was just aiming for a blue, any blue, I’m not disappointed. The blue is a very clear, sky blue color, and, I think, prettier than the blues I got from the one that used thiourea dioxide and soda ash.
This is on the lovely cormo-rambouillet base, which, sadly, I can get no more of, and I’ve dyed up all I had left. (I am slowly adding it to the shop) I’d like to find something similar, so if anybody has any suggestions there, it would be much appreciated! The biggest issue with these lovely small farm yarns is finding ones that are priced low enough so that I don’t have to charge a fortune. This is difficult because getting these yarns made isn’t cheap for the farmers, so naturally they have to price them so that they can make a profit, or at least break even. I am not at the point to be able to afford to get yarns made myself, or even to buy in large quantities, making the search even more difficult. (One day, when we eventually move out of one of the most expensive places in the country to live….) So again, if anybody has any advice or ideas or connections, do let me know!
I rinsed and dried the cloth I put down at the bottom of the vat:
I think I will try to do this with every vat and when I have enough sew them together to make something.
I will try the henna vat again, because it intrigues me and seems to produce slightly greener blues; I will also increase the amount of indigo; this vat exhausted quickly.
If anyone wants to try the fructose vat, I encourage them; it is beautifully simple. A reader commented on how much less people are inclined to share of their natural dye processes these days compared to the dyers that published so much of their explorations in the older dye books. Having been a dyer for my living these past seven years, I understand that secretive inclination; with so much competition these days it is rather inevitable.
However, I will not be that way with my natural dyeing. There does not seem to be nearly enough information on the web currently about natural dyers’ experiments and explorations, their processes and successes and failures, or at least it seems like it to me. I am so very much in the beginning experimentation and exploration phase, and maybe it will benefit other beginners. I am not very organized or scientific, so you won’t be seeing any precise recipes from me, but I think it is good to share what I learn anyways and maybe others will feel the same.