I had one previous experience dyeing with indigo, and it was truly magic because a textile dipped in an indigo bath will actually turn blue when exposed to oxygen. So, after pulling them from the dye bath, you sort of wash them in the air before they transforming blue. It's not the easiest way to achieve blue, but it is a very unique and special process.
Our adventure in indigo was a bit less magical in that we had not grown very much indigo. So, we were only able to dye an ounce of fabric, and the results were a little meh. BUT, Pat's face lit up when the color began to change, and that was worth it. Moreover he is psyched to plant more indigo next year in hopes that we can have better results.
Begin by plucking the leaves from the indigo plant and stuff them into a jar. (pictured above)
Weigh your fabric. This one is an antique cotton napkin.
Seal the jar and place in a pot of water to simmer. Cover with just enough water to prevent it from floating.
Simmer the jar at 170 degrees, not any higher, for a couple hours until the water in the jar turns a maroon or brown.
Empty the contents of the jar into a bowl. Squeeze the excess water out of the leaves.
Then, slowly pour the indigo bath from bowl to bow for about 10 to 15 minutes until the bath turns a yellow green.
Once the dye bath has turned colore, stir in the dye remover.
Meanwhile prepare the fabric by submerging it in the simmering water.
Then, squeeze the excess water from the fabric and gently submerge it into the dye bath. Let it sit for 10 minutes, pull it out, and expose it to air. Watch the magic happen before your eyes. (Note, I squeezed the excess dye bath from the fabric, too. This seemed to help the process along, but the instructions did not explicity say to do so.)
I repeated this process 3 times to try to deepen the color. I didn't seem to work very well, though.
Hang your finished fabric to dry.
In the end, it seems like we achieve a pistachio green more than indigo! Ha! BUT, Pat thinks it is because we didn't have enough leaves. It could also be that we didn't continually stir the dye remover after we added, or it could be the cotton itself being a used fabric instead of a virginal product. Who knows? We will have to wait an entire year to give it a second chance, but we will start growing indigo this Spring--just months away!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.