Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to the vat

I did another round of indigo dyeing over the weekend, with what ended up as the "yes, but" vat, as in yes, I like many of the results, but at the same time, things frequently didn't turn out the way I had imagined.  First of all, the vat itself was actually rather frustrating.  I wanted to use less indigo and get lighter blues in the initial dips, but still get a gradation to dark blue by the end of the day.  I didn't cut back on the thiox (the reducing agent) enough, however, so the first three dips resulted in pretty much the same pale blue.  I managed to fix that problem with more stock solution in a different formula, but that meant it was mid-afternoon before I started getting a decent range of shades.  In essence, I was starting over again after about four hours of hard work.  Even so, I couldn't get more than a deep medium blue after 8-10 dips.  The vat started fading around 6:30 p.m.  I tried recharging with a bit more thiox, which seemed to help, but in the end I'm not sure if the problem was insufficient reduction or just not enough dye left in the vat.  Or maybe with the lower concentration of indigo, I just needed to keep going up to 15 or 20 dips, or even more--I just don't know.

On the plus side, I improved my itajime technique.  For the pieces in which I wanted a lot of resist, I clamped more tightly than before and got some beautifully sharp contrasts with relatively little dye running beneath the acrylic resists:

On the but side, when I unfolded the half-square triangle piece, I wasn't careful enough.  My rubber gloves had some reduced indigo on them and left finger and thumb prints:

Glove print: d'oh!
I also worked on better dye penetration in several of the itajime pieces, so that I could get more dye absorption in between the folds:

Contrast those with the "windows" pattern that I tried, but without any extra effort to promote dye penetration:

This nui shibori piece didn't end up with the feathery look that I expected, but it's still attractive:

Indeed, the above FQ is probably the best piece of the day.  I did an extra two quick dips (two minutes each, with 10 minutes oxidation in between) at the very end of the evening, and that was just enough to provide a little bit more of a boost to the darkness of the indigo.  It's a richly colored and striking piece of fabric.

Both tesuji fabrics also turned out wonderfully, although a shade or two lighter than I would have preferred:

I love how the chevron fat quarter of nui shibori turned out, but the mokume (wood grain) piece didn't work as well:

My stitching was too regular on the mokume sample, and the stitches were too far apart, so it looks more like pleats than the wood grain pattern that I wanted.  More even coloration in the solid parts would have been nice as well.  At least the colors on both pieces are what I was aiming for: light blue on the chevron piece, and a light medium blue on the mokume.

Finally, I also tried to get a gradation of 8 solids, 3/8 of a yard each:

It's not too bad, but the final pieces never got as dark as I would have liked, and there's hardly any difference at all between the final two or three.  As I said before, I don't know whether the problem involved reduction or the amount of dye that was left.  I also somehow managed to get some dye spots on the lightest piece--maybe bits of flower--grrr.  The colors are more mottled than ideal as well--perhaps these pieces are too large for my 5-gallon vat, or maybe wringing the fabrics out upon withdrawal from the vat is producing the uneven coloration.  But the good news is that there wasn't too much dye run-off during the rinsing process, so this round of fabrics has a high degree of color-fastness.  And the gradation, while not across as large a range as I wanted, is still rather nice on its own terms.

In short, this most recent spate of indigo dyeing was somewhat of a mixed bag as far as the actual dyeing process was concerned.  But once I got my fabrics rinsed, dried, and ironed, they made me really happy.  Isn't fabric funny that way?

In the quilting department, I did make progress on my MQG challenge quilt (no pictures this week) and have started piecing my letters together for the first side of the quilt.  Did I mention that it will be two-sided?  

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.  Happy sewing!


  1. Ooooooooh! I love your indigo dying so much! Especially the tesuji pieces!! Thank you so much for sharing them!

  2. how fabulous! I have always had a mind to dye my own fabric.......one day!

  3. How long do you leave your pieces to oxidise between dips? The oxidation process is really important in developing the colour. I try to leave at least a couple of hours, and Jane Callender (http://www.callishibori.co.uk/) often leaves her pieces much longer! You may also want to try using vats of different concentrations.

    To minimise the mottling, you can try a couple of things. When you take the piece out of the vat, check it over for any bits of flower, and brush them off. Also (wearing gloves) you can move the fabric about when it is submerged in the vat, using your fingers to gently open out the pleats between the stitching, helping the dye to penetrate more evenly. Be sure that your stitching/thread is really strong and firm though! ;-)

  4. beautiful! i love all the folded pieces.

  5. Wow, what a lot of work! But you definitely got a few gems for your effort. The tesuji fabrics are breathtaking, and the first nui shibori FQ is also gorgeous. I love the darker colour and the blooms in that one. I thought the gradient turned out quite well, maybe it is easier to see in the photo, which I find tends to make the values more apparent.

    Will you be taking a break, or do you have another run planned soon?

  6. Gorgeous, momiji! VERY impressive! Haven't used indigo for ages!

  7. Those are some beautiful pieces of fabric Jessica! Love them!

  8. Love the different patterns and effects.