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.
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
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?
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?
- France Pastelle
- England Woad, Saxon Blue
- Scotland Woad
- Viet Nam Miao
- China Mud Silk?
Ah, so much to learn…….
One thought on “Evolution of an Indigo Vat Recipe”
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…