Getting solid colour with indigo

I admit my heart sank when I saw that one of the things we were supposed to do for the second lesson of my online indigo workshop with Shibori Girl (Glennis Dolce) was dye a large piece of fabric a solid colour. I’ve tried this before, and  ended up instead with a lovely pattern, which wasn’t what I wanted!

But now I know that’s because I did practically everything wrong. I didn’t wet the fabric before putting it in the vat, and I just left it submerged for 10 minutes without working it beneath the surface. To minimise air pockets, you’re supposed to lower it carefully into the vat from one end, then keep squeezing and smoothing it while it’s in the vat.

At Morley College we are told always to put the lid on the vat to prevent it deranging. Although Glennis gives advice like squeezing the fabric out below the surface to minimise oxidation, she feels that it is important to keep that vat open while dyeing so that you can help the indigo penetrate the fabric properly.

I guess with your own vat you know how much you are working with it and how much exposure it has had. With a shared vat everyone could be sloshing items around and it would derange very quickly.

Anyway, following Glennis’s instructions, it was much easier to get a uniform colour across the whole piece.

The fabric on the left and in the centre is a light cotton calico, while the fabric on the right is a cotton/linen mix, which came out a brighter blue and much less grey.

Then I had a go at making a “sky piece”, so called because it resembles clouds in the sky. You wet the fabric, crumple it up and tie with string or rubber bands. After each dip, let it oxidise, rinse, then tie and dip again until you’re happy with the result. I did three dips altogether:

Sorry – I clearly didn’t manage to peg them in the same orientation each time!

Finally, I had a go at itajime, folding some very light cotton muslin and clamping it beween a couple of CDs. The sheerness of the fabric and the sunshine (yay!) made this quite tricky to photograph, but you get the idea!

The little blue circles in the middle of the CD didn’t really come out in the central part of the cloth, because that’s the area that was in the middle of the folds where the indigo didn’t penetrate. I used a syringe to make sure it penetrated around the edges; if the syringe had a needle I could have properly injected  it into the cloth!

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

8 thoughts on “Getting solid colour with indigo”

  1. Somehow I can only see the first photo. I wish I could see the others because I’m loving your dyeing experiments. Sounds like you’re learning a lot.

    1. Thanks Lynda. I’m really enjoying it!

      I wasn’t sure how it would work, but it’s going very well. Glennis posts videos, instructions and PDFs on one blog site, and students post their photos, questions and comments on another. It’s very interesting reading about other students’ work all around the globe and comparing their results from the same set of instructions.

      Also, we’ll have permanent access to the site even after the course is finished, so even if we don’t have time to do the work at the time we can always go back and do it later.

  2. I have just had one go at indigo dyeing, and it is an alchemy! I love your results, especially the re-dipped piece.

    Feel this is a whole new area to get to grips with.


    1. Hilary – indigo is very addictive! And it is fascinating watching the colour of the fabric change as the indigo oxidises.

      Have fun with your dyeing – I look forward to seeing the results!

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