On our first dye-day of 2017, Kim and I posed the question: How to de-uglify a tablecloth? We spent Sunday exploring the possibilities while sampling the popular 1-2-3 method.
The 1-2-3 vat is credited to Michel Garcia, a natural dyer and a visiting artist guru at the Textile Center. Other dyers also praise it, including Jenny Dean, Catharine Ellis and Annabella Sardelis of Indigo + Snow.
As natural dyer Catharine Ellis writes: “Observe carefully.
One must be patient with the indigo vat.”
In years past, we had been pleased with the intensity of our blue obtained through James Liles’s Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing indigo recipe, which calls for tiny amounts of lye, along with sodium hydrosulfite (color remover) and washing soda, to deoxygenate the vat. But participants at the World Shibori Network conference in Oaxaca, which featured workshops by Michel Garcia, convinced us his method was the one to try. So we bought a kit at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and gave it a shot.
1-2-3 stands for:
- 1 part indigo
- 2 parts lime
- 3 parts fructose. Remember it with the (not) handy mnemonic ILF.
Because the kit was stingy on its fructose, we also made a vat using succanet, a natural sugar found at the co-op.
After assembly and ample time waiting—taking care to not rush the vat while we ate leftover Easter ham—we dipped in our tablecloths and another project for our friend, Kris. We dipped and we dipped and we dipped again. All we got was a dusky blue, best captured on Kris’s shirt torso.
So we revived last year’s vat by goosing it with color remover, and…
Voila! Some bad cloth-management handling, yes, but a blue as deep and intense as the ocean. Which is the indigo dyer’s quest. At least, it’s ours. We won’t give up on Garcia’s 1-2-3, but we won’t apologize for choosing the method that pleases us best.