Thursday, June 12, 2014

You know you're obsessed with indigo dyeing when...

You know you're obsessed with indigo dyeing when...

1) You smell the cats' litter box and wonder if you can extract the urea from the clay and use it as a reducing agent.

2) You look at the plastic hose attached to your hand-held shower head and think it might make a good resist for tesuji.

3) You start trolling the internet for a hundred-quart or larger stainless steel kettle to use as a dye vat.

4) You consider trying to cultivate indigo or woad in your backyard.

5) You imagine that it wouldn't really be that hard to install running water, heat, and industrial grade ventilation in the garage, so that you can turn it into a year-round dye studio.

6) You decide there's no better reading in all of world literature than the entry on "Dyeing" in the 1792 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

7) You do your first stoichiometric calculations in almost 30 years and start pricing pH meters and balances accurate to 0.001 g.

8) You stay up past midnight because you found an article in the Indian Journal of Fibre & Textile Research on the chemical conditions for dyeing synthetics with indigo.

9) You watch Youtube video of a shibori craftsperson tying bazillions of tiny kanoko knots at lightning fast speed and think, "That looks like a good idea."

10) The following sentence makes perfect sense to you: "I'm not obsessed with indigo, I just can't think about anything else."

Feel free to comment and add to the list!


  1. 11) You look at the list and think "What's wrong with that? Makes perfect sense to me!" :-)

    I admit I haven't done number 8, but I have attempted to use a plastic shower hose as a resist for a felt nautilus, rather than tesuji. I don't have a cat, so number 1 doesn't apply, but I've considered using my own urine as a mordant for other dyes rather than indigo (apparently young boys' urine is supposed to be best!). But I'm not sure that would appeal to my customers. :-)

    As indigo doesn't need heating, you can use a plastic dustbin as a vat (point 3).

    1. Congratulations on the repurposed shower hose! And thanks for the good laughs (and tips) on the wonders of urine as a mordant.

      I've heard mixed messages on indigo and heat: that some vats need heat, but not others (such as the ferrous vat), or that an immersible aquarium heater is sufficient for reheating. Have you had success with a room temperature thiox bath?

    2. Indigo vats do work better when they're warm. I guess in Vancouver you have similar temperature problems to me in the winter (or even in the summer!). I think synthetic indigo vats are better in this respect, whereas I suspect a fermentation vat is probably more sensitive to temperature (I haven't tried one of those for this reason).

      If it's really cold I put mine in the bath or sink and surround it with hot water to warm it up a bit.

  2. Hello, would you have the link to the YouTube video with the bazillion knots? Thanks!

    1. Here's the link, for all who are curious: The kanoko tying part begins around 6:15 and is pretty amazing! I also found another video in which the artisan works more slowly, and you can see more clearly what's happening: