natural dyeing

So Much Fun with Shibori


Silk scarves.
Cotton jersey

This project has been in the works for awhile.  Actually this isn’t just one project but several.  Awhile ago (well over a year), I ordered an indigo tie dye kit from Dharma Trading.  I wanted to do some shibori-style dyeing on some silk.  I also wanted to dye some cotton jersey a solid blue for an Alabama Chanin dress (more on that in the future).  Finally, I wanted to overdye the mohair handspun that I previously dyed with cochineal.  Since my mom and I love to craft together we decided to do it while she was visiting me.  We had SO much fun with this, I highly recommend it!

Diagram of indigo molecule and reduction reaction. Taken from: Buscio et al., 2014, Materials 7(9): 6184-6193.
The indigo.

Indigo is an interesting dye.  It is a little trickier to use than most dyes because the indigo molecule must be reduced in order to bind to the fiber.  There are various ways that an indigo vat can be prepared, but since I used a kit it was pretty easy.  You pretty much just had to dump everything into warm water and stir.

Adding the reducing agent and base (to create a high pH)

While we waited for the indigo to reduce, we got our fabric tied up.  There are various ways to prep your fabric to achieve different effects.  The kit had a little book with some helpful techniques, but we were mostly just experimenting.

These are just some rocks we found in the garden. We washed then so we could use them for shibori.
My mom tying up her t-shirt.
cotton jersey
This is some quilting cotton that I plan to turn into napkins.
Silk scarves.

Once everything was tied we were ready to dye.  When indigo is reduced it turns greenish.  When you first pull something out of the vat, it looks greenish and then turns blue as it is exposed to oxygen.  A foamy “flower” also appears on the surface.

Since you want to limit the oxygen that is introduced to the vat, we soaked the fabric first.

In it goes!
The fabric right after it emerges from the vat.
As you can see, it is already turning blue!

 We are pretty sure that we introduced too much oxygen to the vat, and by the end it wasn’t dyeing as well.  The last thing to go in, my mohair yarn, came out kind of light and patchy despite being dipped twice.  I actually like the variegated effect, but next time I dye with indigo, I will not use a kit.  I think it would be good to have extra reducing agent on hand to try to get the vat back on track if too much oxygen is introduced.

The yarn and some fabric oxidizing on the line.

All in all, it was a great learning experience, and we had a blast.  In fact, after we finished with the indigo, we decided we weren’t done with dyeing.  I will talk about our second round of dyeing in a separate post.

My mom’s t-shirt, which I love!

Cotton for napkins.
I told her to wave her scarf around, and she was a good sport!

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