Indigo dyebath with cotton.
Indigo dye bath with cotton.

I love dyeing way too much, I admit, I’m an addict… When my teacher mentioned we could take the indigo dye bath home, I couldn’t resist.

Firstly, indigo is a plantbased dye that cannot be dissolved in water. It is a rather expensive dye and it is gained through a peculiar process where its reaction to oxygen will cause it to form a deposit in the container. It is that deposit that you can buy as being indigo dye.

Dyeing indigo comes with some lovely chemical jargon, like reduction and oxidation. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the theory behind “reduction” is, but with indigo it means that the balance between the dye, the water, the soda ash and the glucose is just right and the bath will turn yellow (as shown in the picture above), this means the dye is dissolved and ready to attach itself to the cotton. When you remove the cotton from the bath, it will start to react with the oxygen in the air (oxidation).

On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dyebath.
On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dye bath.

Time to do it ourselves! I started dyeing a part of my warp as an exercise at school. But since indigo is an expensive dye and it would be a shame to let it go to waste, we could take it home with us. Now I live an hour train ride and a 15 à 20 minute bike ride from school, so when I left school I had a carefully wrapped parcel containing my indigo batch, my indigo dyed warp and my rainbow dyed warp. I’ve never been so careful driving home on my bike, afraid to spill the indigo dye bath all over the inside of my bike bag. Not that my pair of rainpants could get any more blue…

Anyway, I left the warp for another two hours in the heated dye bath last night. This morning I rinsed it, put it in the dryspinner and then left it out on a towel to dry. Then I had this wicked idea, I still had some soda ash left from previous dyeing adventures and I had discovered that agave syrup is basically only glucose and fructose, which makes it ideal for reviving my indigo bath.

You hear me coming, right? Yes, I had another skein of cotton laying around which I prepared with soda ash, I revived the indigo bath with soda ash solution and a teaspoon of agave syrup (which I stirred into the soda ash solution) and put the yarn in the bath (I’ve spun it dry before adding it to the bath).

The reduction was all of a sudden so much more prominent than with the original dye bath! The yarn however is one that dyes a little more difficult and being a leftover bath, there wasn’t that much indigo left in it. But I still managed a light blue with the leftover bath, which is exactly what I wanted.

I sense a little project coming soon with some indigo dyed yarn…


2 thoughts on “Indigo

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