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
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).
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.
And the final results are in!
The magic of INDIGO & Shibori
The science of an INDIGO dye bath…..
All you need to know about INDIGO
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!