The frustration of fugitive fabrics

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Indigo drying on linen (left) and wool

IMG_4230Kim and I joke that, to maintain a garment dyed in indigo’s deep, luscious hues, someone needs to follow us around with a water spritzer. Truth is, some fabrics simply don’t take indigo. When wet, they may start out an inky azul, and we get smug. Then, by the time we crack open the wine, the material fades to the color of your mother’s dungarees, c. 1977—a baby blue that looks like the pale sky I see out my window right now.

The white linen sleeveless dress, pictured here, is a perfect case in point. I have dyed it no less than a dozen times, over numerous days and successive years. I’ve tried everything: left it in, dunked it repeatedly, dried it between dips, dipped it in quick succession. No matter what I do, it doesn’t take. Once it dries, it’s boring baby blue. Blah.

So, what’s the reason? Bleached linen might be too processed to accept dye. Note, I’ve had terrific success on raw linen, below (see navy near Kim’s nape). Experts say, and our own experience confirms, that protein-based fibers—wool, mohair (!)—are a dyer’s dream.

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Then again, silk—also a protein—can also fade to nada. And, yes, we’ve tried to “set” the dye using baths of either salt water and white vinegar. More experimentation on fabrics is definitely in our plans.

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