Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yellow + Blue = Green

Running a bit behind as usual. Life happens, eh? I spent an inordinate amount of time today in the garden. The weather has been lovely but not super-hot. My favourite summer weather. A cooling breeze along with the bright sunshine. Gotta love it! I’m able to accomplish a lot outside without melting into a pile o’goo. The garden is looking much better after being neglected during our Manning Park Campout. However, now I am very tired. The good kind.

Backing up to Thursday (also a lovely day) my friends from my Spectrum Study Group came over and we made yellow, blue and green with my home-grown weld and Japanese indigo:


I’ve discovered the secret to Japanese indigo that is different from woad is to cover the leaves with cold water and heat slowly until the leaves look cooked. This can take as long as 2 hours and the temp shouldn’t go much above 60 degrees Celsius. After that, instead of lowering the temp to 50 quickly, just carry on with the soda ash and oxidation steps right away. Somehow this works. Japanese indigo has a lot more blue in it than a similar amount of woad and is very easy to oxidise with only a few minutes of whisking.

We also did a weld bath, extracting the dye from 500g of semi-dried plant parts and dyeing an equal weight of fibre that was already mordanted in alum or alum acetate. I also added 4 flavourless Tums for the requisite alkalinity. The results were a brilliant lemon yellow. Then the exhaust bath got several silk and cotton scarves popped in for a lighter butter yellow. Weld is so easy compared to getting blue out of the indigo leaves!

The first dip in the indigo vat was very dark but quite streaky. Unfortunately a second dip lightened the shade on all but the wool skeins. It did even things out some though. I don’t know if there was too much thiox which was stripping the blue back out again? It was my usual 2 tsps and there was quite a lot of indigo in it for a fresh-leaf vat. Who knows. Every vat is its own story. I’m still trying to achieve a really dark blue but it seems elusive. Especially when we stuff a whole bunch of skeins in madly! Perhaps one day I’ll keep an indigo vat all to myself and see what happens. Usually though I don’t mind sharing.

I also want to try freeze-drying the Japanese indigo – once it grows back from the haircut I gave it. The theory is that you pack the fresh leaves into a sealed bag, freeze it overnight, then take the frozen leaves out and dry them. Later they can be used as for fresh leaves. It would be fabulous if this worked so that I can make a dye vat from my home-grown indigo in deepest winter. I certainly don’t have enough of a crop to even attempt to make sukumo, the traditional composted indigo.

Some of the yellow weld-dyed skeins were overdyed in the indigo for a bright lime green. Here’s most of the skeins hanging up to oxidise:


So pretty, aren’t they? I find it so fascinating that I can get these intense pure colours from my very own garden plants. Who’d a-thunk-it? Exciting and satisfying in a way that I have a hard time explaining to non-fibre folks. Doesn’t stop me from trying…

Tomorrow I’m off downtown to participate in a street demonstration by my weavers’ and spinners’ guild at VIVA Vancouver. They’re closing Granville Mall to traffic and scheduling a number of free entertainments. I’ll be spindling up a storm by our tent on Granville St. between Robson and Georgia, 11am – 5pm. Drop by if you can. I may  not stay the whole time but I should be around for at least the earlier half.


Heather said...

It's all fantastic! Where did you get your Japanese indigo seeds? And stopping traffic with spinning - hooray! Hope you will have pictures.

pao said...

Just amazing - the colors of the fabric you were able to get. I just can't even imagine doing it. VIVA Vancouver sounds terrific, I'm sure you'll have a great time.

By the way, I did end up using your draw string, patch pocket idea on a pair of capris I refashioned. I haven't posted a picture yet, but when I do I'll give you the credit for my inspiration!

Nancy Dorrell said...

Can you give more information on freezing the fresh indigo leaves and drying them? Did you read about this somewhere?
I am glad to see your plants are doing so well this year. I have lots, and am trying to precipitate and dry powder, as well as make sukumo, but the freezing sounds interesting.
My plants are starting to bloom now, here in Virginia.

Louisa said...

Sorry to leave your comment in limbo so long, Nancy! Hope you see this reply. Unfortunately, I honestly can't remember where I saw the idea of freeze drying the indigo leaves. You'd think I would have written it down, huh?

neighbor said...

I was looking on google about freezing fresh indigo leaves, and was directed to your post (again) and just now saw your response to me (Nancy Dorrell). Since we are leaving town for several days, and cold weather is threatening, I am rushed to harvest, so I am going to try your idea with some of the leaves, as well as dyeing with some tomorrow, and drying a bunch. I also have SO many seeds, so tell your friends if you know people who want to grow their own indigo.

neighbor said...

I am sorry if I just commented twice.

neighbor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.