Archive for September, 2008

Indigo vats and landing in fields

About twenty years ago I was taking a “commuter flight” – that is a really small plane, brown bag carry-on lunches – from New York City to Washington DC. The two guys in the seats in front of me were swapping air plane stories which always seemed to end with “and then we landed in a field”. This is somewhat like my Indigo vat dyeing experience except that my stories would end with “and then the vat didn’t work”.

indigo vat start 1incorrect indigo vat landing in a field

After my beginners luck Fennel experience Indigo put me in my place. I’ve taken enough extension anthropology and archaeology classses to be aware that textile technology goes really far back in human history. Indigo is one of the more technologically complicated processes – reduction – and I frankly can’t imagine how we came up with it.

(As an aside see Elizabeth Barber’s “Prehistoric Textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages”. Interesting quotes from angry Sumerian business women proving that freelances have never been paid on time since the dawn of history. And, we have spend alot of time either killing each other or dyeing cloth.)

 Indigo dyed wool and cotton dryingWool and cotton dyed and overdyed with Indigo

Two major mistakes which hopefully will save someone else time and tears.

First: use the right chemicals. I misktanly used Urea instead of Spectralite. (Vat doesn’t work.)

Second: DON’T get the vat too hot. Wierd scum on top of vat. (Vat sort of works.)

End of Fennel Season

Endofseasonfennel

Dye plants work on their own time tables, ignoring (my) schedule, day job hours and other relivant interruptions which may be why I prefer using dry-ables. The Fennel seems to be going into its die-off cycle. Fortunately its one of those dye plants that seems to work just as well fresh or dried and I have enough stocked up for what passes as Winter in California. And, about the time that the Fennel is finished the Oxalis will probably be reappearing.

It would probably sound great to say I grow all my own dye plants but I certainly don’t – lack of space for starters. I probably have sufficient garden space to grow dye to cover sock toes. The Fennel (yellow dye), until I transplanted it into the yard, I used to chase around town ahead of the weed abatement people. The Oxalis (the other yellow) appeared on its own and refused to leave. Since both of these work well fresh or dry I can save and dry for the season and have enough to dye beyond the sock toes.

Otherwise I rely on things that are going to be tossed out – Onion peels, lawn grass and Eucalyptus leaves for example. I have grown Maddar but again its hard to grow enough for an extensive dye project so I buy that dried. I have to Woad plants going this year but again that probably toe coverage so the Woad and Indigo are also purchased dry.

2sockStart2

My little overdye experiment – the Knitpicks sock blank – has some Oxalis (yard), Maddar and Indigo. This is also my first time knitting toe-up, two-at-once socks.

Lastly, this is the new wordpress version of the dye blog.

 

Knitpicks Sock Blank and Dye Plants

After following the Knitpicks sock blank knit-alongs and dye-alongs  I decided to try one myself using dye plants. 

Sockblank01

Knitpicks sock blank. Starting with an overnight soak and standard Alum bath.

Sockblank02_oxylas

Start with Oxylas. The sock blank soaked up the dye incredibly well. I underestimated the wicking effect and lost the white spots.  For the next one it mgiht be interesting to try with some dry areas.

Sockblank03_addMaddar01Sockblank03_addMaddar02

Overdye with Maddar.

Sockblank04_afterBath

Some ‘saddening’ with Iron and Copper to tone down the yellow.

Sockblank05_indegoDip

Last the Indigo overdye.

 

2sockStartToes22sockStartToes

I am a total convert to the Magic Loop method of sock knitting but have never tried two at once or toe up. The pattern is good but I was somewhat confused at the beginning. Once over that hurddle I think the rest will be fairly straight forward.