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When one experiments

22 Aug

I was trying for indirubin red with Japanese indigo….no success…yet!

Fresh leaves-chopped

Bring to boil in double boiler-will push to grey

Add the cloth as water bubbles, cloth should turn red as bubbles hit cloth.

Notes also said add more vinegar to push the red.

Now….no red but a very good moss green. Lightfastness still to be tested.


V= left overnight in vinegar

O= left overnight in JI stew + vinegar

Right hand sample pulled from pot & rinsed immediately.

Negative research is good. I will try again with a different method. This recipe boggled my mind as I don’t think of a process of Japanese Indigo with boiled water.

July 2019 Japanese Indigo Harvest

24 Jul

It is time to harvest my Japanese Indigo before the Texas August heat. I am definitely a small grower, dependent on irrigation & sun shield fabric. My indigo bed is about 3 1/2 feet by 14 feet, it is not huge because my shade & irrigation lines limit productive garden. Plus I have to protect from “the diggers”, armadillos. Hence my desire to dry leaves, it is works for my pace. As an aside you can see my madder root which has a reckless disregard for the Texas heat & armidillos trying to breach the indigo fort.

I prepped 10 bundles to dry. This week’s weather is perfect for drying, hot, no rain & moderate wind.

My dye patio shelving does double duty as drying rack. The green fabric protects the “greens” overnight. We have racoons. In a couple of days the bunches will be dry enough to strip the leaves easily and store in bins for final drying for storage.

The bed has been watered and resecured. More will grow & I will harvest again in late September.

New tools-Dried Indigo

27 May

I’ve shared photos of my Japanese Indigo leaf harvest before so some of this is repeat for some readers. For other readers this is worth repeating. My Japanese Indigo crop sprouted in February, way early for the Texas Hill Country. Sprouts came from discarded seeds and root stock left on the ground last season. This bonus crop is now in the way of planting new seedlings. So time to try new harvesting tools and drying methods with this bonus crop. I can tell by it’s height and leaf size as it goes to seed it is not as vigorous as new annuals. So it needs to clear the way for this year’s seedlings.

I have electric clippers that I use in garden trimming (arthritis slows me down). Will they work faster than scissors? Caution….

The clippers worked well. I tried drying the leaves in the same set up I have for a different Indigo but I went back to my bundle and hang method. Why? The May winds blow over my temporary setup. For now, I’ve secured it to a gate. There is no wind to contend with in August and September when I usually harvest. Remember….bonus crop due to the Texas rains last fall & late winter temperatures.

A couple of days will render these bundles to a dry level that will enable me to easily strip off the leaves of the stems. But one always looks for alternatives in one’s circumstances and environment.

Don’t tell my husband…

9 May

Comparing window screens on hand to the traditional Japanese Leno gauze for paste resist. Of course, the traditional gauze works flawlessly…

The component is thin and really open at 18 squares across an inch.

The spare aluminum screen worked but left large screen lines. The redeeming factor was the large working area for several commercial stencils to be laid down.

It came in at 18 squares across the inch but the component used to weave the screen is thick and leaves its mark in the paste resist.

My Pella window screen won the commercial screen test.

It came in at about 17 squares per inch with slightly thinner component. One must remember to spray well to soften the paste resists so it settles into place on the textile after you lift the screen.

The final test is the indigo bath…more to report.

Work Before the Dye Pot

3 May

“When Life Spirals Out of Control” series

You carve & create the stencils

You create the paste resist from bran & sweet rice flour & steam it. That was yesterday’s project.

You prep the fabric, should have done this while paste was steaming.

You lay the paste down, carefully & slowly.

And go on to the next piece….notice I am not to the dye stuff yet. That was grown, harvested & dried last year.

Will allow to dry overnight, then on to dye pot.

San Francisco Beginner Dye Talk

2 Apr

Inviting my California digital dye friends to come hear my dye talk in San Francisco to the Textile Arts Council at the DeYoung Museum.


Presented by Deb McClintock
Saturday, June 15, 2019, 10 am
Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Gasp…Japanese Indigo in mid-March in the Hill Country

24 Mar

Truly unusual, indigo in mid-March. When I left on my travels in mid-January I noticed that, for the first time my Japanese Indigo had sprouted on its own. In January. I figured it would freeze back, but come mid-February it had grown well and was holding it own. I left the country again thinking our late February or early March freezes would put it in its place.

Well, I am home now, my husband did defend the plants thru one deep freeze (serious husband points) and the indigo is thriving, even blooming. Normally this time of year I would be turning the soil, enriching it, placing the drip hose and eyeing the seeds figuring out when to start the seed packs.

So, now what do I do? Let it continue to grow till it hits a foot and harvest it? I am tempted to do a pigment extraction. I usually dry & hold. Suggestions are welcome.

This is truly a bonus crop from last year’s seeds left in place. We still have cricket season in the near future. If I do see cricket chomping I will harvest. In the meantime I will dig out my seeds and prep my seedlings to drop in between these early bonus plants.

Winter Garden Chores

12 Jan

Temps here in Texas are just weird this season. Japanese Indigo seeds are sprouting early. Never have they sprouted in January.

Madder root are poking new shoots out rather than going dormant. Mid-January is just not the time for this dye plant behavior.

Being the weather opportunist I had Emerald Landscape local folks out to pull a large perennial flower bed which was past its prime, weed & layout a pad for an indigo pot work area. More to come on this pot install journey later.

After 10 years here our rosemary had gotten old and overgrown and needed to be pulled. Since John & I have also gotten older as well the day of garden muscle help was most welcome.

Since I did not have to wrestle rosemary bushes out of the ground I used this wet day to trim back madder root away from acanthus bushes and save the roots for dyeing. I hate to toss red roots. The gardeners think I am nuts.

Here are the roots after cleaning. I will let them dry for a couple of days and then cut them smaller for further drying.

The garden bed is now prepped for the 3 year root harvest. It has been 4 years since the last harvest. More to come on this harvest later. Where’s my pitchfork?

Life Interrupted By Dementia

2 Dec

I don’t post my finished product much to this blog. I tend to focus on “the process” but here is an exception. Much gratitude to Linda Haddock at EchoInJohnsonCity for her generosity in creating a salute to Dementia Awareness Month. My natural dye block woven rug which she purchased via the Hill Country Science Mill Auction is featured in her store.

A brief tour of the Echo Art Front Board

Salt Rub Tadeai (Japanese Indigo)

21 Nov

Lately a video shared via a Facebook Indigo group caught my eye. A hilarious Japanese woman was shown using salt as a tool to extract color from a Japanese Indigo variety with apparent success. I’ve dubbed it the Indigo Salt Rub method. I’ve never seen it written up anywhere in historic literature.

Here’s that video link! I claim no credit but just sharing the info…Enjoy.  Skip the ad!

For those who speak Japanese here ya go, please let me know in the comments if you glean more info if you read thru the blog.   Here is the  website, it looks like the gallery has a blog where more info is embedded.

My experiments are below, a reminder that this works with this species of Japanese Indigo because of the beta enzyme that causes the indigo to bind with the protein fiber. It is a short-lived enzyme so one must work the material quickly before the benefit dissipates with exposure to oxygen.

In October I decided to give indigo salt rub a try as demonstrated above and also add a twist with my dried Japanese Indigo. I don’t have much fresh indigo this year due to the strange weather so I thought this would be a noble cause for dried leaf sacrifice.

Below are my results with appropriate labels. I did use tight spun organize silk sourced from Bhutan. My control amount was 30 grams since that is what my prepared skeins weighed. My personal impressions are:

  • Salt rub with Japanese Indigo does give you a truer blue than the blender method. This was the case with JUST Japanese Indigo as a base rub.
  • It is great for small items where you just want use a few leaves for color. In my case, I harvested to dry my indigo for later use and used the leftover leaves that I stripped off the stalks for hanging for the salt rub method. Keep some silk blanks around to use or some tight spun protein silks that can take the rubbing. Remember the mechanical process is rough on the material.
  • I would not do this with wool. The effort to rub the leaves would most likely felt the wool. The blender method is much more sane.
  • It is not a high production method, it takes time to smash the leaves and rub the color evenly thru the skein.
  • I used ordinary table salt, some folks online have suggested using rock salt for better pressure points to break the leaves down. It appears that the teacher in this video used some type of larger salt crystal. Since I was rubbing silk skein I opted for limited salt impact and more time/muscle.

Once I saw how the color took on the straight salt rub I wondered if it would work with my dried indigo. John Marshall in his Singing The Blues covers a method, Cooked Raw Leaf and Enzyme Bath, in his “Singing the Blues” book (p. 27). That method worked nicely if you have a good amount of indigo and need to spread your work over a period of time. So I tried a couple of approaches.

Fresh Leaf Indigo Salt Rub – worked as reported, it did take time but yielded a blue. I used 30 grams of fresh leave to my 30 gram silk skein. The color yielded was not as dark as possible only because I was not willing to give up my leaves I am drying for future use. This became my basis for comparison to the next two skeins.

Fresh/Dried Leaf Salt Rub – I added 30 grams of dried leaves to 30 grams of fresh leaf and rubbed away. It was not successful. I had hoped that the beta enzyme in the fresh leaf would kick off the dried indigo to bond.

Fresh/Soaked Dried Leaf Salt Rub – keeping in mind that straight dried did not work with the kneading, I tried soaking to soften the leaves. I soaked 30 grams of my dried leaf for a couple of days to break down the cells and added that mush to my fresh leaf mush. This soaking did not yield a darker blue than my control skein. Overall it was fun to try this experiment but in my region I just cannot grow enough Japanese Indigo to take advantage of this rubbing method.

And I have taken my fresh leaf and dried leaf remains and formed patties to air dry.  I plan to see how these patties work in part 2 of a Rowland Ricketts recipe for extending the use of my leaves after they have been dried.

The salt rub method with the Japanese Indigo gave a truer blue than the traditional blender method.
The blender method combining both the Indigofera Suffruticosa and the Japanese Indigo provided the best blue for the least effort and use of fresh leaves of methods tried todate.
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