Thursday, September 5, 2013

Indigo Dyeing Adventure!

I really enjoy the dyeing process!  It is involved, takes a LOT of time, is messy and sometimes disappointing, but ALWAYS fun and interesting!  There is nothing like (at least to me), taking fabric out of the dye bath and being surprised at what you find!

I love research, and so have been spending some time researching different dyeing techniques.  My "snooping", took me to indigo dyeing.  Clearly as I read, getting the "real" indigo and preparing it for dyeing wasn't an easy task.  You have to use lye----and since I am a nurse (who has witnessed physical disasters from "adventures") with asthma, and a clumsy one at that, I didn't think that was a safe technique for me to try for the first time.  I was going to be doing this alone, and it just seemed a risky venture.  I searched some more and came upon this "kit" for indigo dyeing.

You could purchase it in two sizes, but in reading the contents of each, they honestly seemed to contain the same things, so I opted for the "mini".  The literature said you could dye 15 t-shirts, so I was sure I would have enough "stuff" for my first try.  I couldn't find it at any local stores, so I ordered it from on-line.  In the meantime, I continued my research to make sure I had everything on hand for my first attempt.

You needed a "indigo pot", so I again searched for sources and found that my local Home Depot had just what I needed.

I got the 5 gallon size (actually I got 4) with tops.  They will be great to dye large pieces of fabrics and the little $1 store ones are tearing up.  You must have a bucket (suggested 5 gallon) with a top because it is important to not allow a lot of oxygen to get into your "pot".

The day finally arrived (yesterday) and my kit arrived!  I had a small bolt of PFD fabric that I prepared and tore into half-yard pieces.  I also had some t-shirts left over from a dyeing adventure last summer that I put into my pile.  I purchased new gloves, made sure I had a long stick (you must have that) appropriate for my large "pot" and out into my dyeing studio (AKA the garage) I went.

You really need two people to help you since you must stir and pour the chemicals in at the same time (remember I am clumsy).

This is what is in the kit.  I preferred to purchase better gloves since the ones inside the kit are thin latex.  I didn't want to risk making a hole in my glove and ending up with indigo hands, or worst yet, a reaction to the dye.  There are rubber bands and two pieces of wood as well.  My husband poured chemicals while I stirred (complaining about how bad the smell was) .  Although the directions don't say you have to wear a mask, I did because of my asthma.  I continued to wear it  as I dyed the fabric because the husband is correct, the solution has a horrible smell!  It is a natural dye, but I suppose the reaction with the chemicals make it smelly.

After I followed directions and stirred, I prepared my fabric and shirts.  I used rubber bands, some shapes and clamps--trying to vary the way I folded and secured the fabric to get a variety in dye patterns.

The directions say allow your pot to rest for about 30 minutes.  I think mine was longer but I really wasn't looking at the clock.

I took off the lid and had a perfect "flower", at least compared to the pictures I found on-line, mine look like the one pictured.  The directions say you should scoop the flower into another container.  I tried but didn't get the whole thing, so you have to push the "stuff" aside as you add you fabric or the directions say you will get dark spots on you finished product.

Unlike the other dyeing, you can't just drop you fabric into the pot or let it touch the bottom.  You are suppose to gently lower it into the solution and manipulate it gently keeping everything under the fluid line.  The solution is warm, so this was a very "hot" process and I wished I had turned on a fan before I got started.

When you first remove the fabric, it is a bright green that slowly turns blue with exposure to the oxygen in the air (oxidation).  The directions give you the impression it is an instantaneous process, but it does take time.  If the blue isn't deep enough, you can return it to the solution which I did.  I put all but two of the pieces in twice.  I wanted to see the difference, if any.

After they had set (the directions say 20 minutes) again mine sat longer---until I saw only a little if any green color.  This is where the directions get a little skimpy. It says to rinse, which I did in cool water.  As I unwrapped the pieces I noticed green inside, but it also turned blue with exposure.  I decided to rinse them all and then lay them out on the grass to make sure all the reaction occurred with all the pieces.

This is actually my favorite piece. It was originally a green dyed piece I didn't like.  The solution turned the green a really pretty yellow and then with the indigo, it is really an interesting piece.

  All the pieces lying in the yard.  I dyed one piece a solid indigo----I like the effect, so next time I think I will dye a couple more pieces a "solid".

I found that there wasn't a lot of color run off when I rinsed them as it is with the traditionally dyed fabric.  I hope that means most of the color will stay.  The pieces are wet so I know the color will fade a little in the wash.  The directions say use a "mild" detergent but I used synthrapol like I do with my other dyed fabric.  Some where I read to put vinegar in the final rinse, but I forgot to add it so I will just wait and see since it appears not every one does that and still got good results.  I did put in a couple of color catchers to protect the areas that have white in them.

Well, I am excited about my first venture.  My pot is still good!  When my husband saw the shirts he wanted one, so I am going to Wally World tomorrow and get him a shirt and my grandbabies each one.  I also think I am going to stop at Goodwill and get a white shirt to dye.  It would look smart with jeans I think.

I will let you know how they looked after coming out of the wash, drying and then with a good ironing.


  1. Way cool!! I love your sense of adventure. Lane

  2. I love your dyed fabrics and shirts!! Makes me itch to do some more of my own, too. But I'm holding off, because I need to get my umpteen tops quilted first.


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