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Indigo blue - growing, harvesting, processing and marketing indigo dye plants  RSS feed

 
master steward
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Wow, what an amazing thread! I wish I were able to grow my own woad or indigo and have the time and patience to create my own dye. You all are inspriing!

My guy asked for one thing for Christmas - navy blue organic cotton socks. The problem is, Paul's feet are size 15. The only organic socks I have found in that size are natural or black (his/our favorites are at Maggie's Organics). He doesn't like black socks, so I looked for dye. He assumed I'd just use a chemical navy dye on the natural colored socks, though I searched and found an indigo dye at Knitpicks.com! As R found and tried with her dye kit, it did come with some chemical fixatives (? I really didn't pay attention to what they were). This kit came with gloves, though unlike R's experience, the dye did not burn my skin when I got the dye on my skin despite the gloves.

This kit recommended repeat dippings (as I called it) to increase the color intensity, though I see that others will leave the fabric in the dye for lengths of time. And the kit said the dye would be good for a couple of days. If I recall the instruction correctly, the reason for the "dipping" - just squeezing the fabric in the top liquid of the dye bucket, doing your best not to oxidize the dye too much - was because the dye powder would settle or be uneven in the bottom. In retrospect, that would be important for a lighter color, not for the dark color I was going for. I dyed the socks right before Christmas - and only had time for 2 or 3 "dips" so the color was not as dark as Paul wanted. So a week or two later, I tried two more "dips" which didn't seem to darken the color much, if at all.

I found this thread because I wanted to share this 3-minute video "The Link Between Japanese Samurai and Real Indigo." I tried to read through the thread to see if these attributes of indigo (flame resistance! anti-bacterial!) were mentioned previously though I didn't see it.



So now we say that Paul has Samurai socks!

While I had a 4 gallon bucket of dye for less than a dozen pairs of socks, I had two formerly white shirts of my own, that were now that dingy off-white (complete with yellow armpit stains!) from loads of use and no bleaching, but the fabric was still fine. So I "dipped" them in indigo to give them new life. The picture below came out very dark and dingy - the lighting was really bad - but you get an idea of how much better they look!

Paul still wants his socks darker, so I've ordered more dye and will try again, since I'm not sure if the first batch works any more (it oxidized, perhaps?). (FWIW, I tried giving him Darn Tough socks, figuring trading buy-it-for-life for organic made some sense, though the nylon in them makes his feet sweat which is not a happy thing. See permies.com threads on Darn Tough socks here and here.) I'll try to get better pictures to post here with the next round on the Samurai socks!


indigo-shirts.jpg
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indigo shirts that were formerly dingy white (bad lighting pic)
 
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Jocelyn, I think the 'trick' is in the quality of the indigo vat itself, the number of dips and also the duration of each dip.
Catherine Ellis says:

I often receive questions about indigo dye that fades very quickly on a textile. When I ask the dyer how long the textile was immersed in the vat the response is usually “1 or 2 minutes”. That is not enough time! Each immersion in the vat needs to be long enough to permit the indigo to penetrate into the fiber: at least 10-15 minutes. Otherwise the dye simply sits on the surface of the textile, making it susceptible to fading and rubbing off.

  (from her blog Here )

Her 20 hour dip cotton sample is fairly dark at only  one dip.
I've only dyed once with indigo...others had prepared the vat and I only came to dip my hemp warp a few times.  The results were very pale and I thought I might not have washed/scoured the yarn well enough but now think I didn't dip for a long enough time...it seems like we were drying in between dips?  I don't know...my woad adventure was a pale blue also.  I'm anxious to try woad again with enough to ferment first.

I can't pass up another example
Vintage, handwoven Mossi indigo cloth from Burkina Faso.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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That is a gorgeous cloth, Judith!

I will try letting the next dip sit in the indigo for some hours. Until then, here's the "before" picture, which really doesn't do the color justice (what IS with my camera?!). These aren't all the socks, just the ones that were in the current load of wash. The socks were dipped 4-6 times (I lost track) and the shirts were dipped just once, if I recall correctly.

Paul had hoped for a navy color closer to the navy cloth hanging next to the socks in the second picture. I think the indigo color is far nicer, so was pleased to hear he's a little less disappointed now that he knows they are "samurai socks!"


indigo-dyed-shirts-socks.jpg
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indigo dyed shirts and socks
indigo-socks-next-to-faded-navy.jpg
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indigo dyed socks next to faded navy cotton knit
 
Judith Browning
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Jocelyn, I think you got excellent results...that is a beautiful indigo blue!

Possibly there is something that could be added to 'sadden' the blue and it would be closer to the navy t-shirt if it is necessary to have a blacker blue...I wouldn't though.

I think they are wonderful samurai socks!

Do the directions have you do a vinegar rinse at the end?

I love the blue of the blouses also...you've done a lovely job
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Judith Browning wrote:Jocelyn, I think you got excellent results...that is a beautiful indigo blue!

Possibly there is something that could be added to 'sadden' the blue and it would be closer to the navy t-shirt if it is necessary to have a blacker blue...I wouldn't though.

I think they are wonderful samurai socks!

Do the directions have you do a vinegar rinse at the end?

I love the blue of the blouses also...you've done a lovely job



Aw, shucks, thanks Judith! The color really does have more depth, more green undertone to it than these photos show. It's really a more vibrant indigo like in the videos and other photos in this thread, not just flat variants on denim.

(And now, as I'm looking at my haphazard photos, I see I didn't even smooth out or straighten the crumple-y line-dried socks for a better picture. Ah, well. )

I did soak all the newly dyed items in vinegar plus salt in an attempt to set the dye. The directions didn't mention any kind of dye setting, and my Google results for dye setting were kind of all over the place. I'm open to dye setting suggestions!


 
Jocelyn Campbell
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By the by, since that Samurai indigo video suggested that indigo dye imparts fire resistance up to 1500 degrees, plus other added protective benefits, Paul wondered about dyeing raw tipi canvas in indigo for our RMH tipi. Wouldn't that be kinda cool?

 
Judith Browning
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I did soak all the newly dyed items in vinegar plus salt in an attempt to set the dye. The directions didn't mentioning any kind of dye setting, and my Google results for dye setting were kind of all over the place. I'm open to dye setting suggestions!



I've used vinegar with other natural dyes and rarely measure (like never)...usually a few glugs in one of the near last rinses and a soak for awhile.  I wasn't sure if indigo needed that but looking around it seems so....there is mention of heat treatment also but I would want to check into that more thoroughly. 
Catharine Ellis says in her Blog

All samples were neutralized in a vinegar/water solution and “boiled” to finish and remove excess dye.


I'm not sure what 'boiled' means, being in quotes like that?
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Judith Browning wrote:Catharine Ellis says in her Blog

All samples were neutralized in a vinegar/water solution and “boiled” to finish and remove excess dye.


I'm not sure what 'boiled' means, being in quotes like that?


Interesting. Maybe "boiling" means agitating in the vinegar water, maybe without so much heat. Or perhaps it means adding near-boiling or boiling hot water to it without actually boiling it in a pot over a heat source. Hmmm.

 
Judith Browning
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Here's a link to a blog post about dyeing with fresh indigo leaves. 
John Marshall is leading the experiment so it has to be good

https://www.tienchiu.com/2014/10/dyeing-with-fresh-indigo/
Tien Chiu says...

I’m up in Covelo, where the three of us are studying katazome with John Marshall. But we’ve been doing a lot more than that! Since the katazome paste needs to cook for quite awhile, we spent a good chunk of yesterday playing with fresh indigo leaves from John’s back yard. (Luxury!)


She has a great series of photos to show the process at her blog...here's just one to show the beautiful color achieved...

There is also a definite green tinge to the finished cloth. John explained that fresh indigo used this way produces a distinctly turquoise color, as opposed to the navy/slightly greyish blue from a conventional indigo vat.



 
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Awesome thread! I’m trying to find Indigofera tinctoria seeds/plants (not persicaria or isatis) I’m not having any luck 😩 Does anyone know of any resources?
 
Judith Browning
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Ruth Cook wrote:Awesome thread! I’m trying to find Indigofera tinctoria seeds/plants (not persicaria or isatis) I’m not having any luck 😩 Does anyone know of any resources?



Hi Ruth...welcome to permies!

Richters.com has indigofera tinctoria seeds.    Their seeds are always good quality, I've grown a lot of them although not the indigo.

 
Ruth Cook
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Judith Browning wrote:

Ruth Cook wrote:Awesome thread! I’m trying to find Indigofera tinctoria seeds/plants (not persicaria or isatis) I’m not having any luck 😩 Does anyone know of any resources?



Hi Ruth...welcome to permies!

Richters.com has indigofera tinctoria seeds.    Their seeds are always good quality, I've grown a lot of them although not the indigo.



Thank you!!! I ordered them!! Im so excited!!!
 
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