I have managed to lose myself for quite a few hours over the past two days, pottering about with the dye-pots. It’s no mean feat these days to achieve that sort of peace, and I am grateful for this absorbing interest in natural dyes, slow stitching and making or up cycling clothes that feel satisfying and ethical to wear.
In my short experience with indigo vats I have had very mixed results; I have worked only with fructose vats, because I do not want to use harsh chemicals, but have found them temperamental [maybe reflecting my own states of mind on occasion!] and have been often disappointed with the depth of blue achieved. I’ve also had problems with splodges forming on garments, and with the colour washing out [but not the splodges, sadly !], and am learning to respect every step of the process, and to really build up a close observation and understanding of the vat. And as with all natural dyeing, to be PATIENT…waiting for the reduction to take place, sometimes over several days if it’s a revamp of the vat; and really checking the ph and the colour.
This latest time I decided to try a henna vat, and have been delighted with the depth of blue in my new dress, hand stitched as taught by India Flint in one of her wonderful workshops and made out of silky merino [from Beautiful Silks]: will add some pockets and patches and it will be done!
I am also finding that I could revive this vat a couple of days later much more effectively than I have achieved so far, and am in the process of over-dyeing some other garments…more pics later.
Managing a serious illness in the family, there hasn’t been time for much updating of the blog journal….but I am using the quick format of Instagram to keep a bit of a record of textile potterings, which add a bit of peace and grounding to difficult times. Sometimes just finding time to soak one little piece of cloth in a pot of plant dye, or stitch a row of simple stitches on a small piece of cloth that may one day become a pocket or a patch, can bring some moments of calm and meditation.
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With a bout of what is probably a very common Dyer’s Disease, I went out to dye ONE garment two days ago and ended up with indigo vat being revived, a large brew of eucalyptus leaves/onion skins/walnut hulls and a bit of copper cooking up in another pot, and a large pile of my own stitched or upcycled garments [op-shop finds , some of them altered or soon-to-be!] ready for a cook up. Needless to say the past two days have disappeared in a haze of focused dyeing. There is something about the magic of it all, one thing leads to another “what-if”, the indigo vat becomes temperamental, various garments in the “fail” pile call out to be re-worked………and time vanishes.
Pics below are of some of the results……..plain indigo dyed pieces that will have pockets and patches added;some more circles that may eventually become part of a mandala stitched cloth; a dress that was a dull blue now over-printed with leaves and simmered in the above-described eucalyptus pot, [the blue has not shown up in the photo very well]; a skirt that had been printed and over-printed but still looked very murky, now a bit more interesting I think and will be more so with a couple of embroidered and layered pockets added! and a linen shirt that has been dyed in an onion skin bath, I am playing with patches and pockets for this one, and also altering the size by piecing a panel into the back! again the iphone photo has dulled it off, it is a lovely golden colour that I am very pleased with.
A very promising sight this morning, lovely blue bloom on the fructose vat
And the ph was good at 11.4; so I had high hopes for a good strong colour; but in fact it was a fairly pale result, proving that my vat often has a mind of its own! Nevertheless some multiple dips and some over-dyeing produced some interesting results
And even a couple more misty moons!
I have managed to revive my dormant fructose vat with a combination of methods…. heat, more fructose, more hydrated lime and finally a new starter added in! I find I want to overdye some of the pieces after they dry . Nice pile of garments growing, also small bits of fabric for a slow cloth that i am starting to plan. But most exciting was my first successful moon….
I love the moon circles that Jude Hill uses in her lovely Spirit Cloths, and I have been learning some indigo and Shibori techniques from the Shibori Girl website. I think this will be the forerunner of quite a few moons!
A very fun blue-letter day: my first attempt at an indigo vat. Used the natural 3-2-1 pickling lime and fruit one, used fructose today but will try with bananas next. I muddled along a bit with the proportions and getting the lime to dissolve into the brew, so as I always seem to do, I was learning on the job! but it seemed to follow the general process which all the instructions point to, and I managed to sample -dye a number of pieces of fabric! very exciting, will keep practising with this over the next week or two; a change from my favourite eucalyptus – based dye pots . Will be pleased to see how the fabrics look tomorrow after washing: can’t quite believe it has been so successful and so quick! The vat was very strong, I actually weakened off some of the brew for the lighter pieces but I suspect they will be lighter in any case after washing………..watch this space !!!