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.
What is Indigo?
Indigo is the ONLY naturally occurring blue dye.
Indigo is a pigment found in several plants around the world including Indigofera tinctoria (grown in India), Indigofer guatamalensis (grown in South America), Isatis tinctoria (woad, grown in Europe), and Polygonum tinctorium (Japanese Indigo).
Indigo pigment is not soluble in water - so in order to turn indigo pigment into dye, you have to create what is called a vat. To successfully create an indigo vat, you need three things or conditions (in addition to water):
- Indigo pigment that has already been extracted from the plant
- An alkaline such as wood ash, lye, or lime
- You must remove the oxygen from the water ('reduce' the vat)
In other words, you need to create a solution that includes indigo, has a high pH (base), and has very little free oxygen. Once those conditions have been met, you have a yellow-ish liquid that can dye cellulose or other natural fibers various shades of beautiful blue.
There have been many methods throughout time for putting a vat in a reduced oxygen state. Historically, this has been done through fermentation. Fermentation can be a long and very stinky process. Our society doesn't tend to favor slow processes, so other approaches were developed that use chemical reactions to remove the oxygen - including the use of sodium hydrosulfite or thiorea dioxide. These chemical methods are much faster, but have a strong chemical smell.
My mom and I attended an organic indigo vat dyeing workshop this past weekend hosted by the Canton Spinners and Weavers Guild and brilliantly taught by Catharine Ellis and held at the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center in Minerva, OH. This was such an incredible workshop, that I have enough material to make several journal entries. Today, I just want to give a little overview and outline what I would like to cover in the next several entries.
First, let me tell you that aside from playing with 'dyeing' with rust, copper, and staining, I have not done any dyeing - not even tie-dyeing. So, I walked into this workshop knowing virtually nothing. Many of the other students have done some dyeing and some had even done some natural dyeing in the past.
Based on what people have told me, it is really rare to have a dyeing workshop where you actually learn the skills you need to go home and replicate the process in your own studio - but that is precisely how Catharine organized and taught this workshop. She began by demonstrating how to create and organic indigo vat using 1 of the 4 methods we were each going to do on a smaller scale - by creating a 5 gallon class indigo vat. She then guided us through producing the same vat on a smaller scale in a 1-quart mason jar.
It was so empowering to be given all the information we would need as well as hands-on practice to produce an indigo vat that we can scale up in our own studios.
In future entries, I would like to explain what I have learned from Catharine Ellis about
A great time was had by all during the Western Reserve Spinners and Weavers Guild guided tour of the Kent State Museum on March 16.In attendance were Jan Gibson, Debbie Henry, Lisa Davis, Linda Zieter, Robbie Grodin, Diane Wantz, and me.The Kent State Museum is in the old University Library built in 1927.The museum was established in 1982 through the donation of dress collections, decorative art objects and books from designers Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rodgers. Since its establishment, the museum’s collection has expanded to nearly 40,000 objects.It is one of the foremost collections of historic and regional costumes in the world.
The exhibit currently on display include “Resist: A World of Resist Dye Techniques”, “Fashion Timeline: 200 years of Costume History”, “Glass: Selections from the Collection”, “Fandemonium” (an exhibit of hand-held fans), “Raiment for the Liturgy: Vestments in the Museum Collection” and “Undress: Shaping Fashion and Private Life.”Our guided tour included all of the museum’s current exhibits, but our main focus was on “Resist.”
Resist is incredibly beautiful and informative showing exquisite examples of resist dyed cloth, garments, etc. from around the world and throughout time.The exhibit is divided into 3 areas to highlight different resist dying techniques: mechanical, chemical, and ikat.