It has been a crazy year with lots of things demanding my focus away from fiber arts. Finally today I had a chance to check on my neglected indigo vat. As I suspected, deep, dark, murky blue. Geesh, Why do I do this to myself? I know when it isn’t attended that this will happen. The indigo was totally out of reduction.
Balancing a neglected vat is like starting over. Here are the things I need to coax this back into a healthy vat. Yes, I do a bastard vat, or in other words, what ever works. The most important part of the formula are test strips. The pH has to be right for the vat to be happy and if that vat ain’t happy, mama ain’t happy!
Because my vat is in an opaque container, it is hard to see the color. So the first thing I did was scoop out a gallon of liquid into a jar. I added some magic but nothing was happening. Even though the pH was right, there was no reduction of indigo so no color was going onto the fabric. I heated the gallon of liquid, then added more Rit color remover. Finally, a bit of color change from dark indigo blue to green. There is a little coppery scum on top but no flower yet. It may take a little more tweaking. I know there is plenty of indigo left in the vat so no need to add any more indigo powder.
The big vat is staring to get some copper, no flower, but it is dyeing a healthy green on the first dip. More tweaking but it is starting to sprinkle and Arkansas needs the rain. I will check on my flowers later today to see if there is any change.
My Japanese indigo exploded this year. It has been in this pot for 3 years with a meager harvest. I had to pick tiny bits of leaves at a time to have enough dry to dye with. But this year, WOW! I am ready to harvest this pot and there is still time enough for it to grow for a second harvest.
I think I struck gold! Extracting the dye from dried marigolds couldn’t have been easier. Simply put them into a jar and cover with water. There is almost immediate color. The problem was that in all my resource materials the only marigold dye recipe I found was for fresh petals. So as is common for me, it was a seat of the pants moment.
I soaked 50 grams of dried petals overnight. Then I drained them, reserving the liquid gold. I put the soaked petals into a large crockpot and simmered on low setting for 2 hours. Some natural dyes tend to go brown if the heat is too high so I use my crockpot in the studio to keep the heat low and constant.
I love the variation of colors from the dye pot. The lemon yellow silks are a ray of sunshine. The indigo pieces that were over-dyed got some much needed zip. The eco-printed long sleeved tee looks amazing and I love the splash of color added to the linen scarves. There was a lot of color changed on the indigo scarf, but not as much on the logwood. I think they are all keepers. The bonus is that I still have 2 quarts of dye extract. I will have to figure out a WOF (weight of fabric) recipe for fellow dyers who like things more exact!
It was a mild winter and spring is early. My woad stayed green so I will have a bumper crop this year. I thought it best to use some of the leaves stored in my freezer. A funny thing happens with woad when heat is used. The indigotin present in the leaves turns shades of pink and maroon. When a dye vat is made with woad it is a beautiful blue. This was the blue dye plant in Europe before trade routes opened to the orient for other indigo sources.
2 upcycled silk blouses were layered with frozen woad leaves, then processed in the pressure cooker. The strong dye (indigotin) penetrated all layers of the bundles leaving full and ghost prints. I love the depth created with the leaves this way. Be sure to right click for an enlarged image to see the detail.
Don’t you just love when a problem is solved? We didn’t want to use a foreign color on this piece. All the commercial threads were just wrong. While getting samples ready for a presentation on natural dyeing to the Master Gardeners, I trimmed loose threads. Light bulb moment! The threads are from the same indigo vat we dyed the background in. The stitching can continue!
Ron decided to help me out with a piece that was sandwiched for quilting. He has never stitched with one of my machines before. I am a little under the weather right now so I told him to go for it. He did a great job and since this was one of the shibori pieces we worked on together it is only right that he helps with more of the work. Of course little LuLu decided right away to lay claim to the newest piece of cloth. More in a few days as the work progresses. Linking to off The Wall Friday
My Japanese indigo plants are doing great. An online friend shared seeds she gathered from John Marshall’s indigo garden. The pot is living under my weeping pussywillow tree. It gets filtered sun and it looks pretty happy!
The bottom photo is my woad. I transplanted it out of the pot when it was blooming. SEEDS! I have lots of seeds. I gathered half of them and let the rest self sow in the bed. Originally the bed was going to be weld and woad. Right after i sowed the weld the power company decided to replace a pole right next to the garden. When they were done, all the ground had been turned over and those tiny weld seeds were no place to be found.
Word has it that this lush 2nd year foliage on my woad doesn’t have much pigment. Will that stop me trying it out? Not a chance!