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.
So inspired by wonderful March workshop with India Flint; sometimes [rarely] a class can be life-changing: having already been starting to learn to construct simple wearable pieces with cloths woven on the Saori loom, India’s Second Skin class taught me that I can make simple garments stitched by hand with lovely natural or recycled fabrics, then dye them in the ways I have been learning to do, with plants and natural mordants; a meditative and gentle process that feels totally right to do, and causes no harm. So I find myself enjoying wearing the garments that I am making; I love the comfort of them, and the ethos of them, they make me feel connected to the earth. Community awareness of the destruction the textiles industry is inflicting on the environment, and the exploitation of its workers, is growing; as with food, it is impossible to un-know the realities of mass production and of the inherent problems with the toxins in synthetic materials once we understand them; and the power we have is to individually change our own approach first.
Have spent a week here in our holiday cottage stitching some simple dresses, skirts and tunics with Marion’s lovely silky merino [Beautiful Silks at Allansford]; and now the cauldron is simmering with local eucalyptus leaves and bits of metal [the Daylesford market is a treasure house for old metal discards!] and garments being bundled with autumn leaves, eucalyptus leaves and sundry other mark-making bits and pieces…………..as the garments come out of the pot it is always a surprise; the beauty of this method is that if the surprise is not entirely positive, there are always ways to cut/patch/cover/re-dye!!
In between the stitching and the dyepots, lots of long walks in the glorious autumn landscape; a beautiful environment to work in and be inspired by:
The experimenting has been going on for months, but I have found eco-dyeing to be quite a humbling process; just when I think I have nailed a process, the next lot of fabric comes out of the pot murky, dull or just plain awful! Some notes to self at this stage:
- My dad used to quote: “Blunt pencil better than sharp memory” ………
…and he was right, when it comes to eco-dyeing experiments, often the best results I have had seem to be the ones where I have lost track of the process I used, and that can be a bit frustrating; am trying very hard to at least scribble down some notes before I put pot on stove
- PATIENCE PAYS……… definitely; am learning to let dyed fabrics sit and cure, I dry them, even iron them, and then wait as long as I can [at this stage a week or two but I am sure longer would be better….] then when I wash them out there seems to be very little colour coming out of them and the results are much better.
- There is a LOT of info online and in books. Reading about other people’s experiences can be very helpful, and save a lot of grief repeating mistakes that seasoned dyers already know about; on the other hand it can be also very confusing, as there are quite a lot of diverse opinions. So I will keep reading, but also keep trying some things out for myself especially when there is debate.
- Playing with mordants, after-baths, combining different dyestuffs is addictive, time consuming but definitely worth it….which is where point 1 comes in!!!
- I can get lovely colours from powdered natural dyes, but it is not nearly as satisfying as getting them from my own gathered plants, even though the results are much less predictable and often need over-dyeing. Also not at all happy about not knowing the provenance of a lot of the powered dyes…..
- Overdyeing can work beautifully …..it gives the opportunity for complex patterns and colours to emerge……
- Every new day in the dyeing space is an adventure , new experiments planned and new gifts emerging from the dyepots…
- I have started attempting to dye garments at last, until now it’s been bits of fabric for slow stitching………….love the process, ethos, practicality of eco-dyeing clothing; India Flint’s books are an inspiration, wealth of info and need to be read again and again to absorb everything she has to say. Workshop coming up soon……can’t wait!!
Still hoping for: strong red markings ; I have had trouble finding the right eucalyptus plants but have had a small taste with a few small pieces I’ve used in my Eucalyptus Cloth [work in progress!]…..
also still looking for stronger prints on the garments I have dyed so far….but the process is magical, addictive and so much fun.