Introduction: Understanding the Indigo Dyeing Process

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The king of blues and until the early 20 century the only blue, but still the only natural blue that will withstand any considerable amount of time. This dye has been being used dating as far back as 2000 BC, found in mummies tombs in Egypt it was highly prized and used regularly as is today yet many people would not realize there wardrobe contains at least a couple of garments and the process has remained the same since these ancient times.

Materials list

3 plastic 1 litre jugs
1 2 litre jug
1 scoop
1 10 litre bucket
wisk
vapour mask

Ingredients
100g salt
30g soda ash
20 g sodium hydroxide
30 g indigo vat grains

Step 1:

MEASURE ALL INGREDIENTS IN INDIVIDUAL PLASTIC JUGS TO SPECIFIED WEIGHTS

Step 2:

FILL 10L BUCKET WITH WARM WATER 3 /4 FULL AND 2L JUG WITH COLD WATER

Step 3:

GET EVERYTHING IN ORDER IN PREPERATION FOR MIXING

Step 4:

DILUTE SALT IN HOT WATER AND ADD TO 10L BUCKET OF WARM WATER

DO THE SAME PROCESS WITH THE SODA ASH AND ADD TO 10L

Step 5:

PLACE MASK OVER NOSE AND MOUTH AND POUR THE HYDROXIDE INTO 2L JUG OF COLD WATER WHILST STIRRING WELL WITH WHISK UNTIL ALL IS MIXED

Step 6:

SCATTER AS IF MIXING FLOUR INTO CAKE, THE INDIGO VAT GRAINS INTO THE 2L JUG OF WATER/HYDROXIDE

Step 7:

THE LIQUID SHOULD TURN THE COLOUR OF PEA GREEN SOUP UNDERNEATH THE BLOOM OF INDIGO FROTH.

Step 8:

ADD THIS TO YOUR 10L BUCKET OF PREMIX, STIRRING UNTIL FULLY MIXED

LEAVE TO SETTLE FOR 20 - 30  MINUTES

Step 9: NEXT STAGE

SOAK YOUR DESIRED GARMENT/CLOTH IN BUCKET OF WATER TO ALLOW FABRIC TO BE FULLY POUROUS

Step 10:

READY TO PROCEED WITH DYEING, CLOTH ENTERS VAT AND IS GENTLY MOVED IN THE VAT FOR 2 MINS

Step 11:

REMOVE AND HANG ON LINE AND WATCH THIS MAGICAL OXIDATION MIRACLE OF NATURE TURN GREEN TO BLUE BEFORE YOUR EYES, THIS WILL TAKE ABOUT 10 - 20 MINS TO FULLY FIX THE INDIGO DYE. REPEATED DIPS WILL DEEPEN THE COLOUR AND THIS IS AN ESSENTIAL PROCESS TO MAKE THE DYE FAST AND LONG LASTING. WE RECOMMEND A MINIMUN OF 5 DIPS,

Step 12:

It is important to understand that this process relies on a vat which has been de-oxygenated and made alkaline by the ingredients. the vat is a delicate thing where the indigo cell requires a peaceful ride, any excess activity, eg splashing removing or thrusting cloth and creating bubbles will bring air into the vat and neutralise the indigo, therefore it is very important not to hurry and to be and to be gentle when moving cloth in the vat, taking particular care when lifting out so as not to disturb its particular balance, if treated carefully and covered at the end of each session the vat will be useful for many days.  the process of fixing the dye substance happens entirely through its exposure in oxygen and rotating and moving pegs or opening folds will ensure an even dye coverage, because of this unique process blocks and folds can be placed onto the cloth to create patterning in resist as anything that doesn’t see sunlight or air stays its original colour the possibilities are infinite, see our next tutorial on shibori, the discipline of folding and clamping.

n.b this mix will give a mid to dark (see pic) indigo blue if you want a stronger shade you need to up the quantity of indigo grains keeping the other ingredients the same quantity. Likewise if you like a duck egg blue the amount of indigo vat grains you would need would be less, approx 5gm. experimentation will guide you.
it is important to stress that despite quantity of indigo in vat you must always dip at least 5 times to get a lasting colour, the Japanese start at 25 dips!!

Enjoy your time with this wonderful dye and process!

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