Summer Blues

Summer Blues

When Cathy (Luvswool) and I went to the Midwest Fiber Fair a couple of weeks ago, in our conversations I mentioned I had an indigo dyeing kit I’d like to try.  With some discussion on the forum about the smell indigo produced, I wanted to try to do it while the weather was still nice outside.  Neither of us had used indigo before, so, I invited Cathy to join me in a day of dyeing.

I didn’t have a plan for what I wanted to dye or any specific projects in mind to use the dyed materials.  But Cathy came well prepared with plenty of roving and fabrics to dye.

To save some time, I had set up the buckets for wetting and indigo along with the plastic coverings before she came. It was an overcast day to begin with with a nice breeze across the yard.

set upWe followed the instructions, mixing the indigo, then the chemicals and stirred it in then let it sit for an hour.  But there was no bloom as described.  We reread the instructions and stirred again; then decided to skim the top and begin.

After the first batch, we returned the runny bloom back to the bucket and let our fabric oxide.  It all looked fine, so we continued the process with the rest. Once the first batch was fully oxidized we tag teamed and I washed and rinsed while she dipped the next batch. Strangely enough after the first batch the bloom began to grow.

With a brief break for lunch, we managed to get everything into the pot we both had to dye along with the breaks for letting the pot sit after stirring.  It was a busy day with the dyeing, rinsing and washing. And the day got hotter and sunnier as we worked.

Cathy had spent the evening before rubber banding a large piece of cotton gauze.

Cathy tied corks

Cathy cork cloth

She also brought along a big pile of Domestic 56s roving, some kid mohair yarn, nettle and lace table cloth, miscellaneous bits and pieces of fabric.

Cathy domestic Cathy yarns rovingcathys laceI dyed two blouses that were old, but stained, a very old handkerchief with my name on it, yarn, mulberry silk, pencil roving, thick and thin yarn, a linen doily, some merino and cheviot roving.

sleeveless blouse







silk and thick n thin stuffI had wadded up some cotton voile and rubber banded it all around.  The end result is the piece draped on the chair.  I like the random patterns it produced.

cotton gauzeCathy brought some corks with her, so I used the corks on a piece of silk gauze.

silk n corksShe also dyed some old thrift store “lace” bedspread pieces, an old linen pillow case, a piece of muslin and a cat mat.  

Since it was getting late in the afternoon and Cathy had a long drive home, we packed up her goodies and she finished rinsing and drying some of her items at home the next day.

We were pleased with the outcome of our “Summer Blues” and the opportunity to give some old items new life and others some pretty blue color.

22 thoughts on “Summer Blues

  1. Wow, they all look really good! It looks like you had a long, busy day 🙂
    What is the ‘bloom’ and why is it important?

    1. Thanks Zed! We did have a great day. It was a lot of work, but worth the experience. I’m not a chemist, but I’ll give the explanation a go — in order for the indigo to dye it requires a chemical reaction. Once the chemicals are mixed in and the vat with the indigo dye and stirred a bubbly bloom forms in the center and the vat turns yellow. It’s removed in order to have access to the vat. When you pull the fabric out if the vat it is yellow green, as it oxidizes it turns blue. Quite fun. If anyone has a better explanation jump right in. 🙂

  2. Thanks Judy! While I don’t have asthma, I made the mistake if mixing the chemicals in the house. I won’t do that again. Once it’s mixed and out in the vat there is no longer an odor, at least that I was aware of. If I did try it again, I would try the shibori. I like that effect.

  3. I also have asthma, Judy, but I forgot to bring my mask and did have a bit of breathing difficulty later that eve. Live and learn. Overall it was a terrific experience, a beautiful sunny day, and lots of blue goodies to play with now. Of all the results, I like my shibori-dyed cotton gauze using corks best of all.

    Thanks again, Marilyn!

  4. Nice work! Did you dip each piece just once?

    The bloom, or foam, is indigo, which is actually insoluble in water. To make it soluble in order to dye, you have to add some kind of reducing agent. When indigo is reduced (oxygen taken away) it becomes leuco-indigotin (also known as indigo white), which is soluble – this is the greenish yellow liquid that makes up most of the vat. When you pull the fabric out after dipping it, the oxygen converts the leuco-indigotin back to indigo, and the fabric turns blue..

    The bloom forms on the surface because this is where the oxygen is. 🙂 Some cultures remove it before dyeing and then replace it afterwards, presumably to help prevent more oxidation on the surface of the vat.

    1. Thanks Kwinter! Yes, we dipped each one once. Thanks for the bloom explanation.

  5. Looks like you had a great day. I love dyeing outdoors and I’ve played a little with indigo but not much. I look forward to seeing how all these pieces get used in the future.

    1. Thanks Ruth, we did! I don’t have any plans yet. But I have worn one of the blouses. It’s great it’s got a new life!

  6. Actually, I have already used some of the blue roving and blue tencel for the lake in my first Yosemite landscape. Photos to come soon!

    1. Thanks Ann! We did have fun. ;-). I think I’m still recuperating.

    1. Thanks Carole! Cathy’s already started using hers. I did wear one of the blouses. I think you’ll be seeing indigo for a while in both of our work. 🙂

  7. Fun day! I bet the two of your kept thinking of new things to dye 🙂 Your explanation of the “bloom” is spot on. I do wonder, however, if that lack of bloom you mention explains how your shades of blue are all so similar, did you dip the items multiple times? I got several hues when I played with indigo…

    1. Thanks Leonor! I added a few things at the last minute. We only dipped once. With everything we had to dye, there wasn’t enough time or energy for multiple dips. 🙂

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