Evolution of an Indigo Vat Recipe

Summer 2015 – First, we read and discussed everything we could get our hands on.

We chose a method from Jenny Dean’s “Wild Color.”

Dissolve 1 tsp washing soda in 2-4 T boiling water. Let cool slightly. Add 2-3 tsp finely ground Indigo powder. Mix to paste. Let rest 30 min. Meanwhile, heat water. Add Indigo paste. Add 1 oz Rit Color remover and stir gently. Let vat stand for 30-40 min.

Second try – we refined a bit.

Place a lump of Indigo from Oaxaca in a fine mesh bag . Place the bag in a glass jar filled with enough water to cover. Let sit  for several days (or weeks). With a gloved hand, crush the indigo to help it dissolve.

Heat 3-4 gallons water to very warm but not boiling. Add contents of Indigo jar, bag included.

  • Stir in 1/8 tsp lye (sodium hydroxide), to make the dye bath slightly alkaline.
  • Stir in 1 tsp washing soda (sodium carbonate).
  • Stir in 2 tsp Rit Color Remover (sodium hydrosulfite, sodium carbonate anhydrous)
  • Continue heating gently. Watch for a coppery, slimy, purple, stinky top to form over a greenish yellow dye bath. The Indigo is now reduced.

Don’t Rush the Vat! Let it sit for 30-40 minutes. Drink the wine now.


Perusing Our Early Work -Fall 2015

 Notes on our Recipe

By November 2015 we had achieved our best vat to date.We dyed a bit, with varying results, and put the vats away for the winter. When we fired them up again in May 2016 we revived one vat with 1/8 tsp lye and the second vat with  color remover –amount not recorded. The second vat worked best when we started dyeing.  Here is what we learned:

  • Use stainless steel. Aluminum seems to interact with the chemistry in the vat.
  • Use the indigo ground to a fine powder. A metate

    Metate at work

    works better than our little mortar and pestle.

  • Go strong with the indigo.
  • The color remover is preferred over the lye. Less toxic.
  • Short multiple dips on silk yielded our deepest blues.
  • Best results come when the dyed fiber comes out of vat looking psychedelic chartreuse; not pale yellow, not light blue, not turquoise.
  • Save the vats. They can be revived and fed many times.
  • The blue “schmutz” on top of the vat is the “Flower of Indigo”. Collect and keep it! There is indigo there to be reduced. Thank you, Heather.

We have Questions – June 2016

Fructose?  Mango Skins? Pineapple?


Mango Peel

Diane sent a recipe from Oaxaca! “In case I lose my bag…”

INDIGO RECIPE from Jacobo and Maria Luisa Mendoza-Ruiz:

  • 2.2 lb ripe mango and pineapple PEELS (not pulp or juice) and pits. “The sweeter, the better.”
  • 5% quicklime
  • 4-5 l. h2O, heated to 40 Celsius (20?, heard both)
  • Heat 2-3 hours before adding indigo paste (indigo + h2O)
  • Alt, if ripe fruit unavailable: fructose from Mexico market-
    20% + 5% quicklime
  • Misc: windy day is good.
  • In smaller vat, OK to drop fiber back in.

Find out more about Michel Garcia’s 1-2-3 Indigo Vat Recipe

How does Rowland Ricketts in Indiana do what he does with local Indigo?

How many countries have an Indigo/Blue tradition and what do they name it?

  • Japan
  • France          Pastelle
  • England       Woad, Saxon Blue
  • Scotland       Woad
  • India
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Viet Nam      Miao
  • China             Mud Silk?
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Navajo

Ah, so much to learn…….

One thought on “Evolution of an Indigo Vat Recipe

  1. dxrichard says:

    I’m SO grateful to you, Kim, for this impressive record of our various approaches! I DID lose my notes from Oaxaca! Luckily you serve as my hard drive and rescued them–along with a picture. This account pretty much sums up our indigo doings to date, as it comes to the dyebath prep. Next, how we discovered Shibori techniques…

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