Best way to manage the blues

Yesterday I hosted a “Good Day to Dye 2013” at our home here in Glen Valley. There were five of us in total, all with varying degrees of experience making an indigo dye pot and doing the actual dyeing. Each dye pot could dye approximately two pounds of fibre. So we made three dye pots.

You start out by making the dye stock: that’s what’s below. After you make it you have to let it sit for an hour to “reduce”. In that process it turns from being a stunning deep indigo to a lime green.

After the stock reduces, you carefully add it to the five-gallon bucket of water (which has a wee bit a lye and ivory detergent in it). You can’t just pour the dye stock into the water, because you can’t let the dye hit the air. When it hits the air, it oxidizes and turns dark blue/indigo and expires the dye.

So you carefully lower the entire jar of dye solution into the bucket and empty it without letting it hit the air. Then you let that sit for another hour.

There’s a lot of down time as you wait for the stock to reduce, then wait for the dye to settle in the dye pot. So we entertained ourselves with good food, beverages and spinning. 
When the dye pot was ready, we added the wetted fibre and skeins to the dye pot – and then let that sit for half-an-hour. After that we carefully lifted it out of the dye pot, making sure to squeeze the liquid out of it while it was below the surface. The skein below was once white. When it’s lifted out of the indigo pot it looks light greeny-blue. But within moments, as the air hits it, it starts to turn a lovely blue. It’s a magic moment. You can do repeat dippings if you want to make the colour more intense. Just let the fibre/yarn sit in the air for half-an-hour and then toss it back into the dye pot.
The grey and white skeins below were added to the dyepot. Here’s what they looked like after they were spun and washed. 

The five skeins below are 1) a white skein, 2) the two grey skeins featured above, 3) another white skein and the last one will be explained further on. The fibre on top is the fibre we are going to be using in the sheep-to-shawl demonstration at the Aldergrove Fair Days.

Once you see the magic of the indigo dye pot, you get Dyeing Fever. That means you start to look around for all kinds of other things you can throw into the dye pot. I’ve had this lovely skein of hand spun blue-faced leicester (Sweet Georgia Yarns — Yellow Curd) in my stash for a while. It’s lovely and I have nothing against yellow, but I was curious what would happen if it went into an indigo pot. Here’s the before photo:

And here’s the after shot. I was surprised at how much indigo this absorbed with only one dipping.

However, once the dyeing is over, you let your fibre/yarn sit for minimum of 24 hours and then you give it a final rinse. So I may lose some of the intensity and see a bit of green.

And here are the results of my dyeing efforts. The rack was completely full yesterday with skeins and fibre from five gals. But this is my stuff after everyone left. Later today I’ll rinse it out and if there’s a dramatic difference I’ll do an update.

 It’s a beautiful process and I’m hooked.

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