Mood Indigo

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with two different dyeing techniques: Indigo and Deconstructed Screen Printing. These techniques are far removed from one another, but at the same time, work as wonderful cures to my recent creative malaise.

This post will focus on the indigo results.

I bought ProChemical’s indigo starter kit when I was enjoying the Houston Quilt Festival, this past November. With just a few things from the dollar store and Home Depot, I was off on my blue adventure.

I can’t stress how simple this process was to get the dye vat started. It’s just mixing some chemicals in a certain order, letting the vat sit for a few hours, then having a blast dyeing all kinds of fabrics in the blue wash. I will say that the smell can be a bit noxious at first, but if you just stay down-wind of it, you’ll be fine. I did this in my garage and never felt like the odor was too over powering or harmful. It has an obvious whiff of ammonia, so if you’re sensitive to that smell, you might want to do this outside. Regardless, it’s too easy not to try it. If kept well, the vat can last for a while.

As I rarely ever want to make jeans, I figured the most fun to be had with this process would be to work with stitched and tied resists. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I tried a few different ideas and got some rather interesting results. Please note that the pictures will never do the blue color any justice. It’s a rich rich blue that gets deeper with every submersion in the liquid.

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You see that one small piece on the lower left that is green? That is the color the fabric becomes when removed from the indigo bath. It is this insane green that when exposed to oxygen, oxidizes and becomes the familiar blue we all love. It’s magic! Well, it’s chemistry, but still…

You can dip your pieces as many times as you want, after each oxidation process, to get as deep a blue as you want. They do rinse out about a value lighter than the wet results (NEVER TRUST WET DYE) so just keep that in mind if you are looking for a particular color.

The funny thing about rinsing the fabric, is that it gets rinsed in Ivory soap flakes. I’m not sure what this does to the indigo dye, but I will say that the fabric came out with a soft hand.

If you work with indigo, you’ll notice that it feels different than working with traditional powdered dyes. There is a soda ash activator involved, but, and this was something that really shocked me, you hardly use any to keep the vat going. Also, I re-read the instructions like 5 times to make sure that the amount of pre-reduced indigo was correct. It honestly didn’t seem like that much for 3 gallons of water, but low and behold, it works beautifully, so just trust the instructions and you’ll be fine.

Since I associate indigo with resists, for some reason, I wanted to try something I’ve never really had the patience to try, but still felt compelled to attempt – Shibori. Working with plastic beads and some strong thread, I tied off about a half a yard of white cotton into a flood of small starbursts. I love the results, but don’t think I’m going to try this again for a while. It is painfully time-consuming; however, the finished product is a sight to behold.

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These are the 12mm plastic beads I used. I’ve had them for about 12 years and finally found a use for them!

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Here is the yard of fabric all tied and ready for the bath.

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This is the piece out of the indigo bath, rinsed once and ready to be untied. It is still damp at this point.

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This is the finished piece, after being untied but before final rinse and pressing.

So, in conclusion, indigo was just what the doctor ordered to help me through a creative funk. Not sure how long I’ll keep the vat going, but for now, I’m just going to have fun.

Here are the results of my colorful labors:

If you have any questions, just ask away in the comment section.
I’ll be back soon with my Deconstructed Screen Printing adventures.

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4 thoughts on “Mood Indigo

  1. Geez Louise! For being in a creative funk you really did some fabulous creative fabrics. I love them. I probably won’t do my own, but I love seeing these. They would make fabulous Japanese influenced quilt or wearable art designs.

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