Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Blue Goes For Down Part 2: The Fun Begins!

I was out early this morning, checking the indigo vat.  The forecast was for thunderstorms, then wicked heat, then more storms later today; since I didn't want water pouring into my vat and adding oxygen, I thought it wise to do a test run with some fibres I had soaked for a few days. The vat was much darker than I expected, but I had done everything according to the instructions, so away I went. I skimmed the bloom from the vat, set that aside and began to dip:

Skeins of hand spun Churro singles soaking with washed Corriedale.

With an indigo vat, you do everything possible not to introduce oxygen into the mix.  You work slowly, introducing the fibres gently, holding them below the surface of the vat as you work the solution through your yarns and fibres. I was working alone, so I had no one to record the magic which happens as I pull fibre from the vat: the fibres are a sickly yellow green as they come out, but as soon as they hit the air, they begin to turn blue:

Churro singles after 1 dip and 5 minutes of oxidation.

I find that short, but not rushed, repeated dips are much better for the wool than fewer, longer soakings. (Various sources disagree on this; check the "crocking" link below.) Even though I'm not using lye in the bath, washing soda is not protein fibres' friend. Too many dips or too long in a dip and wool can get brittle very quickly.  Unless you are looking for light colours, you do need several dips because much of the dye is deposited on the surface of the fibres.  That surface dye doesn't bond, so washing can remove an incredible amount of colour. This bath seemed very strong:

Churro after 3 dips.

Corriedale fleece after a single dip.  The lighter colour on the right was the solar dyed goldenrod fibre, which was a disaster. Not enough dyestuff and too long a soak gave nothing but a stinky mess.

The fleece after 3 dips.
Next up was some cotton fabric which I had stitched with nylon thread for Shibori/resist dyeing (commonly known as "tie dyeing").  The cotton shows the colour shifts which happen with oxidation.  This is a single dip; I immersed the cotton 5 times as the chemicals do not harm cellulose fibres:

The dye won't penetrate where the fabric is stitched.
Since everything was going so well, I put more fibres to soak, including a skein of commercial alpaca yarn, 2 skeins of commercial wool yarn, a skein of hand spun Romney which had been dyed with marigolds, some white Romney locks, white Gotland lamb fleece and some commercial wool top. The commercial skeins and the marigold Romney were dipped twice, as was the fibre.  I barely wetted the wool top, which should give a resist effect to the fibres.

After everything is dipped for the final time, protein fibres go into a neutralizing bath of vinegar and water. Everything gets repeated washes with soap and countless rinses until the water runs clear.  It takes more time to remove the excess dye than it does to do the dyeing and I'm not done yet.  The dye still rubs off on my hands (crocking).  While this is considered an attractive feature in countries where indigo is indigenous, it doesn't look so lovely on my skin, nor will I be happy if I turn blue every time I weave or knit or spin with the stuff. The fibres must be finished with a simmering bath of water and Synthrapol. Either that, or I can follow Michele Wipplinger's advice and put everything in a dark closet for a year before using it, which actually works quite well and may happen yet.

This is today's work. (The Gotland, Romney and wool top are still soaking in the neutralizing bath.) The fabric is quite lovely and the darker colours are a true, deep, rich indigo blue, although my limited photography skills don't do them justice:

On the left is the goldenrod soaked Corriedale, with the white Corriedale to the right.
As long as the bath is well-maintained, it can last a very long time, so I added more thiourea dioxide, returned the bloom to the vat and sealed it up for another day.

Just as I finished cleaning up this morning, the skies opened with a thunderous, flashing downpour of rain.  I tell myself that it was Sky Spirit, weeping at the beauty of the colours she had given to the people of the Earth.  For that, I am most grateful.


No comments:

Post a Comment