4 types of indigo vatsPlease see a previous entry for additional information about the Organic Indigo Vat Dyeing workshop taught by Catharine Ellis.

We made 4 different types of organic indigo vats under Catharine's guidance in this workshop that we were able to take home and continue to experiment with and keep alive. For the first several days at home, feeling a little intimidated, I simply stirred each vat each day.  By Wednesday, I decided to dye additional fabric samples in the vats to see how they were performing.


Sugar vat: The sugar vat was the fastest of the vats to reduce and be ready to dye with.  The class vat was made using this method.  The sugar vat uses fructose sugar that we dissolved in water.  For our test vats that were made in 1 quart jars, we used 5 grams of indigo.  While the sugar vat is the fastest to get started, Catharine warned us that it functions like a sugar high in our own systems - there is also a bit of a 'sugar-crash' and it may not last as long as a vat and/or might require more care and feeding to keep it going.

Side by side are 2 photos from Wednesday, the first one shows the sugar vat in the morning and the second one shows the same vat at noon after 'feeding' the vat half a teaspoon of fructous and giving it a good stir (then waiting for it to settle back out).

Sugar vat - Wednesday AMSugar vat - Wednesday Noon

Fruit vat: The fruit vat we made by boiling VERY ripe bananas to make sugar water. The sugar water was used in place of fructose. For this test vat, we used only 2.5 grams of indigo for the quart. The two photos below show the fruit vat Wednesday morning and again at noon.  Once again, this vat was fed and stirred after the morning test and before the noon one.

Fruit vat - Wednesday AMFruit vat - Wednesday Noon

Henna vat: Henna is an antioxidant and as such, can be used as a reducer in an indigo vat.  We used the highest concentration of indigo in this vat with 10 grams for the quart.  It could be mixed with a lower concentrations of indigo - but I have to say, this produced a really pretty deep blue with only one dip.  I really enjoyed the way that the henna vat smelled as we mixed it.  You might think that using henna (a substanced used as a hair and skin dye) would change the inherent color of the resulting blue dye - but in fact, as Catharine explained, the henna is used in a chemical reaction... and therefore, does not fuction as a dye itself.  I did notice that before the samples are fully washed up, there is a ghost of auburn color - but that is fully washed out of the samples.  Below of photos of the henna vat Wednesday morning and again at noon.  This vat was also fed and stirred between tests.

Henna vat - Wednesday AMHenna vat - Wednesday Noon

Ferrous/Mineral Vat: The forth type of vat that we made is with ferrous sulfate. This chemistry of this vat must operate a bit differently because, while I could mix the other 3 vats together - this one must stand alone.  The previous 3 vats can be fed any of those reducing agents (sugar, fruit, or antioxidants) but this one can only be fed more ferrous sulfate.  I would like to learn more about this type of vat because I am incredibly pleased with the color of blue it is producing.  We used 4 grams of indigo in this quart-sized vat and I am getting almost as deep a blue from this vat as I am getting from my henna vat with 10 grams/quart of indigo.  It also forms a really pretty pink color in the vat that we enjoyed observing during the workshop.  For photos of this pink effect, check out this album.  While this vat was stirred between AM and noon tests.  See photos below.

Ferrous vat - Wednesday AMFerrous vat - Wednesday Noon


From left to right: Sugar Wednesday AM, Sugar Wednesday noon, Fruit Wednesday AM, Fruit Wednesday noon, Henna Wednesday AM, Henna Wednesday noon, Ferrous Wednesday AM, Ferrous Wednesday noon.

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