I've always been very good at going off on major project tangents, particularly when I have loads of things to finish in a small amount of time. Which is precisely how I found myself embarking on a massive dyeing quest in my final week of holidays: instead of plugging away at x number of unfinished knit and sewn garments, I rustled up a vat of indigo dye and spent a solid five days dyeing anything I could lay my hands on. Which did absolutely nothing to advance any other project whatsoever, but I can now say that indigo dyeing is the. most. fun. ever!
Not being an actual dye expert, I used one of those all-inclusive indigo dye kits, which turned out to be super easy to use because all you do is dump the contents of various pouches into a big pot of water and voila: instant indigo dye vat! While it did it's thing over the next half hour, I set to work preparing my first two pieces of fabric: these were accordion and triangle folded, then clamped on all three corners before being placed in the dye for 10 minutes (results shown in middle right photo). When I first unfolded it, I actually thought I'd messed up, because all I could see was a kind of yellow/green residue and no pattern. Obviously, I had no idea about the oxidization process, but holy sh*!, was it ever magical to behold: within seconds, all that yellowy-green deepened into various shades of blue, revealing the pattern you see above (reminiscent of an especially chic 50s kitchen lino, right?).
From there, I experimented with different fabrics and resist methods: tying plastic covered chickpeas for the polka dots, clamping a single wood block in the center of square folded fabric for the grid, simple twice-dyed scrunching for the piece at the bottom right. Not pictured are a few pieces of scrunchy dyed chambray destined for a colour-blocked Archer, as well as some plain overdyed voile to be used for facings, etc. The results were a mix of pieces made with specific projects in mind and a few that are still open to interpretation.
All in all, I am really pleased with both the pieces and the process. It's true that my apartment smelled rather *unpleasant* during the week I had the vat going (for some reason, I was expecting the dye to smell like India ink, which I actually find rather pleasant, but such was not the case). If at all possible, I would urge anyone thinking about delving into indigo dye to do it either outside, or at least in a basement or open area away from the kitchen (which is where I had mine set up).
Here are a few other quick tips I picked up:
- fabric is infinitely easier to fold when it's wet.
- wetting the fabric beforehand will also result in a sharper pattern if you're using resist techniques.
- you really need to have all your tools set up and ready to go before you begin.
- it's best to have a plan for where and how you're going to oxidize and dry your fabric. I laid out some old sheets for the fabric to rest on while it oxidized, then rolled it in old towels to get out any excess moisture post-rinsing. This step prevented my bathroom from being covered in blue drips while the fabric dried on the shower curtain rod.
- for fabric I had picked out for specific projects, I cut out pieces that were roughly the size of the actual pattern before dyeing them. Smaller pieces are easier to handle and dye, and it also prevents wasting the dye on bits you won't end up using. I wouldn't recommend cutting out the pattern pieces to actual size though, as fabric can warp during the dyeing process. For any fabric I didn't have a specific plan for, I left it in one big piece.
There's probably more, but those are the big ones that stuck in my mind. So now the question is, what do I do with all this new fabric? Well, like I said, a few are already spoken for, and should be showing up on the blog within the next month or so. The fabric I used is mostly on the lighter side (rayon voile, tencel, chambray), so not really suited to the current northern hemisphere weather. Nonetheless, I'm pretty excited to start working with it, so I may just get a jump on this year's spring/summer wardrobe :)