For me, 2014 was an incredibly exciting year of exploration into the possibilities of indigo dyeing. Here's what I learned by experimenting in my outdoor "dye studio" during the late spring and summer:
1) how to set up and manage a thiox vat
2) improved dipping technique: how to work the fabric to promote even dye penetration, a particularly important issue when trying to dye solids
3) the properties of different fibers and how they take up indigo: Kona PFD, Essex linen, cotton gauze
4) the possibilities of different shibori techniques: itajime (clamp resist), nui (stitched) shibori (especially shirokage, or white shadow shibori, which I think is a particularly exciting technique), kumo (spiderweb) shibori, and arashi and bomaki (two different pole-wrapping techniques)
I was sad to put away the dyeing supplies in the fall, but two Maiwa workshops helped with my indigo withdrawal. Jane Callender helped me to refine some of my stitching techniques, as well as to try Procion dyes for the first time. Gasali Adeyemo provided an introduction to Yoruba techniques, along with major insights about the indigo vat. I also started quilt-making with the fabrics that I dyed during the summer, which will give me the needed indigo fix throughout the winter.
What's up for 2015? A big project at the day job will require much more of my focus, so this year's indigo dyeing probably won't be as intense as last year's. I do have some goals, however.
1) First and foremost, I want to try a zinc-lime vat. The zinc-lime vat offers the advantage of working at low temperatures (down to 60 Fahrenheit) and relative ease of building to dark shades, with minimal waste of indigo. It has fallen somewhat out of favor (at least in the U.S. and Canada--I still see quite a few British dyers using the zinc-lime vat) due to disposal issues.
2) More complex arashi techniques and patterns are on the agenda as well. I love pole-wrapping, and I've only tried the most basic possibilities thus far.
3) I splurged and purchased a special shibori tool so that I can try more intricate knotting techniques. It's still slow going, but I'll see how much prep work I can manage of FQs this winter.
4) I'm not sure I'll have time to explore capping (a method for resisting large areas of fabric), but I've seen so many beautiful samples that require this technique, and I'd like to try it someday.
5) I really, really want to try katazome dyeing, although I don't know if 2015 will be the year. I see that John Marshall will be holding a 3-day workshop in Eugene, Oregon in June, which is highly tempting, but the trip might put too big a dent in my budget. If I'm lucky, perhaps Maiwa will have a katazome workshop that will fit my schedule.
Happy New Year!
*update on 6/16/2015: I looked up the MSDS information on zinc, and the issue is not the cadmium, abut the zinc itself, which is dangerous for aquatic life. I had hoped once the zinc oxidized it wouldn't be a problem, but zinc oxide is also rated as an environmental threat to aquatic life. If you decide to try a zinc-lime vat, you must not pour it down the drain, but instead, let the water evaporate, and dispose of the solid residues properly through a hazardous waste facility.