How I fell in love with INDIGO!

05/28/2014 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

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I had the time of my life recently at an Indigo Dyeing Workshop sponsored by WARP (Weave A Real Peace) at their annual meeting in St. Louis, MO.

In addition to indigo dyeing, we also had the opportunity to dye whatever we brought with a cochineal, black walnut, camomile and eucalyptus bath.

Here you see me “stained” with live cochineal bugs that were squashed into the palm of my hand.  I’m always game for a new adventure!

Blue, blue, blue and more blue

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There was blue everywhere as WARP members dyed skeins, silk scarves, old sweaters, fabric and more.

 

My Indigo Experiment

I chose to just test how different cotton yarns would react to an indigo dye bath.  I skeined up four, then a fifth skein while everyone else was washing their projects (I got so excited about the results that I wanted to keep dyeing).

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My test skeins include from left: Aurora Earth 8/2 natural, Aurora Earth 8/2 Maize, 5/2 Pearly Perle White, 5/2 Pearly Perle Natural.  I wonder how they will look after they dye in the indigo vat?

What’s so great about dyeing cotton with indigo?

Unlike with other dyes, cotton needs no pre-treatment when dyed in indigo, so all I had to do was wet the skeins and dip them in the indigo dye bath that was ready to use. 

Here goes!  I'm immersing the 5/2 Pearly Perle white into the Pre-Reduced Indigo Crystal Dye Bath from Dharma Trading Company.

Here goes! I’m immersing the 5/2 Pearly Perle white into the Pre-Reduced Indigo Crystal Dye Bath from Dharma Trading Company.

I wanted to see what I'd get if I dyed the Aurora Earth 8/2 Maize yellow in indigo

I wanted to see what I’d get if I dyed the Aurora Earth 8/2 Maize yellow in indigo

 

That's NOT BLUE! It's true.  When you pull the skein out of the reduced (oxygen deprived) dye bath it is yellow; when oxygen hits it

That’s NOT BLUE! It’s true. When you pull the skein out of the reduced (oxygen deprived) dye bath it is yellow; when oxygen hits it, the yarn turns to blue!

All four skeins changing from yellow (no oxygen) to blue (oxygenated)! How fun!

All four skeins changing from yellow (no oxygen) to blue (oxygenated)! How fun!

There we go. After a few minutes in the air, the greenish skeins turned blue!

There we go. After a few minutes in the air, the greenish skeins turned blue!

 And the final results are in!

INDIGO SKEINS

And this is how I fell in love with Indigo! My next project is to weave these up and see how they look. Be sure to sign up for Cotton Clouds’ Talk blog so you’ll see the results!

The magic of INDIGO & Shibori

 

The science of an INDIGO dye bath…..

All you need to know about INDIGO

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Indigo is a very unique dye.  Unlike other dyes, it does not form a chemical bond with the fiber, rather, the dye molecule is physically trapped in the fiber molecules.  

When an indigo vat is prepared, it must be fermented or reduced to eliminate all oxygen.  This reduced indigo is called indigo white, and is soluble in water. 

You enter the yarn very carefully, introducing as little oxygen as possible into the vat.  The indigo white solution works its way into the yarn fibers.  When the yarn is removed from the vat, the indigo white immediately oxidizes to indigo blue, which is insoluble.  The indigo blue is trapped in the fiber molecules, effectively dyeing your fiber blue.  What does it all mean?  It means that when the fiber is physically worked, some of the blue indigo molecules become untrapped, and rub off (or crock). 

Jeans were originally dyed with indigo, and that’s why the high-abrasion areas like the knees and butt would lighten first.  Should you be worried about yarn dyed with indigo lightening too much?  Jeans are a pretty extreme case, most knitwear wouldn’t stand up to that kind of abuse anyway!  A typical piece of knitwear won’t be subject to enough abrasion to lighten significantly.

courtesy of Carrie Sundra of Alpenglow Yarns

Get blue this summer!

This is an excellent and very fun project to do outdoors this summer and especially with kids (aren’t we all!).  You can dye almost anything in indigo: cotton t-shirts, silk scarves, old sweaters, all those ugly-color skeins of yarn you don’t know what to do with, lots of Cotton Clouds yarns.  Try our Rainbow Ends 6# Assortment or our Pearly Perle 5/2  yarns for a fantastic summer top!

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Cotton Dyeing New to Spinning Cotton

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