I dyed a cotton warp a few years ago in uni and absolutely loved the outcome and wanted to try it out again but this time using wool, so I decided to buy an Indigo kit and try it out.
- 1 large jar with lid, approx. 1 litre
- Stir sticks with at least one able to reach the bottom of the dye bath
- 1 large dye bath with lid
- Rubber gloves; apron or old clothes
- Sink or tub for rinsing with water supply
- Clothes line for airine
The method I used is off the George Weil website, a very easy step by step instruction manual, this can be found at : https://www.georgeweil.com/blog/dyeing-with-indigo/
Making a Stock Solution using Spectralite
This solution is for up to 3 kg fibre.
- Mix together 25g indigo dye powder and 15g spectralite in the jar
- Gradually add half a cup of warm water to make a paste
- Let the paste stand, covered, for 10-20 minutes
- In a separate container add 150g of soda ash (sodium carbonate) slowly to about 1/2 litre of water, stirring until it is dissolved.
- Add the soda ash solution to the indigo dye “mix” in stages. This is when the dye vat should be tested for the pH level, a pH of 9 is best for wool and silk while a pH level of 11 is best for cotton, linen and viscose. Stop adding the soda ash solution when the correct pH level is achieved.
- Replace the lid and let the solution stand until the liquid clears. This usually takes 30-60 minutes. If possible keep the temperature of the solution around blood heat.
- Test the liquid by dipping the plastic rod. As you pull it out, the liquid should be yellow-green, turning blue in around 30 seconds. If, at this time, there are white specks on the plastic rod they should be dissolved by the addition of a small amount of soda ash (sodium carbonate). If blue specks are seen, the indigo dye solution still contains some oxygen and needs a little more spectralite
Preparing the Indigo Vat
This process requires good ventilation, preferably outside.
- Fill the dye bath two thirds full with water (approx. 6-8 litres), heated no higher than about 50°C (140°F.)
- Add ½ teaspoon spectralite to the water and stir. Cover and let the spectralite reduce the oxygen in the water; this takes about 20 minutes
- Gently add about half your stock solution of indigo dye to the vat. Any white precipitate in the stock solution may contain undissolved indigo, which won’t help your dye in the vat, so avoid disturbing this layer if it has formed.
- Stir very gently to avoid introducing oxygen and cover the vat for another 20-30 minutes.
I’d made a Merino warp to dye, and a few hanks to weave with. The merino warp became quite tangled and fluffy as I think it felted slightly due to the temperature of the dye vat, also I think I put the merino in too soon, should have let it cool down a bit… However I’ve managed to get the warp onto one of my looms and will begin weaving on it soon.
It was amazing watching the hanks turn from a greenish yellow to beautiful tones of blues once it hit the oxygen in the air.
I decided to dip-dye some of the hanks to give two different depths of colour, which might make weaving with the yarn a little more interesting.
These were my samples I produced using a dip-dyed indigo warp, the colour was a lot deeper in this warp, I presume this is due to the dye bath being made for us at University, my measurements were a bit of an estimate (who really follows the instructions step by step?) However I’m sure with practice I could achieve the same deep dark Indigo, though I am happy with the colour I achieved. I don’t know if the yarn types makes a difference in the depth of colour. Not knowing exactly what colour you’re going to get is all part of the fun!
The outcome of weaving with an Indio warp!
WOW! What an outcome! I loved the red against the blue in my old sample (see image above), so thought I’d try this out again, with me new indigo warp.
I ended up using a red, an orange and a hot pink yarn. Against the indigo warp the colours stand out amazingly and almost create a two toned effect on one side of the scarf. Also the structure used makes the scarf extra thick and warm. Certainly a happy experiment!