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End of Season Indigo Chores

25 Oct

We have frost in our Hill Country weather forecast this weekend. With my recent back surgery I can’t go into physical overdrive but with my husband’s help I can pull in both indigo species seeds for drying and trim some Indigo Suffruticosa leaves to dry.

The Japanese Indigo seeds below are set out to dry before separating from blooms. There is another leaf bed to harvest but I am saving those for a John Marshall study group project. Hopefully, the freeze is just a forecast not a reality.

Above are the banana shaped Indigo Suffrucitosa seed pods. See the black seeds peeking at you?

And finally the leaf stripping station. Truly high tech, I strip the leaves off the stems. Easier now rather than later. The fresh leaves will be weighed and after drying I’ll weigh the yield. Like that back brace? It will be my friend for the next 90 days while my bone grafts heal. Oh goodie.

This batch will go into my leaf drying mesh bag and left out for a couple of days. By then the bugs will decamp and I can transfer the batches to rubber tubs for long term drying indoors.

These tubs show dried batches from earlier this year. All are Indigo Suffrucitosa except the lower right hand which is Japanese Indigo.

In the end the process is easy to fit into my lifestream and I can focus on growing the indigos, dry them and run dye pots later. Its all about focus at the proper time. I’ve been collecting quantity stats to see what amount of color I can expect each season. The indigo left on my plants today will probably be my freeze dry stash for the year. We trimmed the plants for the winds so here’s hoping for a dry hard freeze when old man winter does hit.

Here is a photo from last year’s freeze dry experiment. It worked! 100 grams yielded this color on 340 grams of silk. Granted it is not a dark blue but I am testing the process for my Indigo Suffruticosa that works for dried Japanese Indigo. It worked well enough that next time I am cranking up the dry leaf quantity to see how blue I can go with dried indigo, more words on that in another blog entry. And of course, these skeins will go in to get darker.

In the larger scheme of dye life it is about what colors you can grow, the easiest process to use what one harvests and how to get darker colors and fitting it into your daily rhythm. We do it because we can. Enjoy your harvest.

Image

Dried Leaf Japanese Indigo Process – Take 1

14 Sep

One of the frustrations of a small producer of indigo is the limited amount available to dye things blue at one time. Of course, one can buy dried indigo powder from India or South America, but when one has stepped firmly over the edge into growing your own Japanese Indigo you look beyond the obvious and want to work within your own garden boundaries.  

Drying my Japanese Indigo appears to be the solution for me. Below is a photo of my first experiment with 100 grams of dried indigo leaves after neutralizing with vinegar and washing with Orvis. Three articles (1 cotton and 2 silk)  were dipped twice each for 5 minutes. The extra skein on the lower left is a blender fresh Japanese Indigo skein left overnight in a fresh batch and is provided just as an example of the different color way you get with another method using your Japanese Indigo.  Consider the fact that I can and will run another batch of dried indigo and continue to dip these items to continue to darken their color. This first test batch I stuck close to John Marshall’s recipe (c-Background below) and kept track of measurements. For those who like #’s, here you go:

  •    The cotton t-shirt weighed 150 grams
  •    The scarf weighed 25 grams
  •    The silk skein weighed in at 48 grams
  •    Total of 223 grams for total substrate dyed

So the ratio is 100:223 or 1 part dried indigo to about 2 parts substrate. Impressed with the color obtain at that ratio? I am.
This means I can harvest and dry my indigo over the growing season and have my indigo on hand when I have time to enjoy the dye pot process. With the violent weather and winds that we can have in the Texas Hill country it is very attractive to be able to harvest and dry part of your harvest and protect it from unpredictable climate.

Some additional #’s for you, each of my indigo plants have at the beginning of their peak and thru their main growing season 10-12 stalks ready for cutting with an undergrowth of new plants coming up. Remember I am located in Central Texas and irrigate my plants with well water heavy in calcium. Other geographical locations will have different growing conditions. Go ahead, run out and count your plant stalks. I’ll wait! Put in the comments where you are located and what # of stalks your plant is putting out.  I go thru my Japanese Indigo bed and pick the plant stalks without blossoms for my drying bundles. My bundles usually hold 20-24 stalks for drying. Below are photos of my drying method. I secure my bundles to protect them from the birds and bugs AND the wind. I don’t want an unexpected gust to send my leaves somewhere I cannot retrieve them. 

 After about three days in my Texas heat the stalks have dried down enough for me to strip them off the stalks and let them continue to dry.

In the interest of providing more #’s for those who want some guidelines here is more data:

  • 6 bunches yielded 129 grams dried Japanese Indigo
  • 4 bunches yielded 70 grams dried Japanese Indigo
  • 2 bunches yielded 37 grams dried Japanese Indigo

As I type 5 more bunches are drying and now that our humidity has dropped after some much needed rain I will go out and continue to create more bunches for drying. 

 I know if you have read this far you are looking for the dried leaf recipe. My source is John Marshall’s limited edition Dyeing with Fresh-Leaf Japanese Indigo (link below in Background). Below is John’s recipe that I modified to use Soda Ash I had on hand rather than the Washing Soda called for in John’s recipe on page 16 of his book. I used the basic assumption that it takes 3 parts washing soda to equal 1 part Soda Ash. I am very grateful that John took the time to put his experience and the translation of different masters into a usable document for indigo dyers.

• You simmer the dried leaves for 20 minutes at a slow boil (honestly, I used an active simmer) and pour off the water. The water has a yellow tinge to it. That is the wash of components that will throw off your blue indigo. If you have ever used leftover blender JI leaves for a yellow dye, the water color is similar to that color. Discard the water. 

• After washing the leaves, I added 4 grams of soda ash and 6 grams of thiorea dioxide to 100 grams of dried indigo leaves in about 2 liters of water. I simmer almost to a boil and stirred as it heated. I did not boil. John says to boil. I could not bring myself to do so. I did not have my thermometer handy, the pot sang but I did not allow it to boil. It took about 20 minutes for first indigo glow to show on leaf and water surface.

• Strained the leaves and put the indigo solution into a separate pot.


  

  • Went thru the process again but only added 2 grams of Soda Ash and 3 grams of thiorea dioxide to 2 liters of water and added my leaves back in, 20 minutes again.
  • Stained the leaves and add the indigo solution into my holding pot.
  •  And repeated the 2 gram/3 gram step again, 20 minutes again. The indigo released was noticably less in the third extraction. The resulting strained liquid is your indigo dye bath.


I tested the PH of this mixture before adding my substrate and was found it registered at only 9. I was using the paper strips, not a meter. I did expect the PH to be much higher due to the Soda Ash and was not expecting the cotton t-shirt to take the indigo due to the low PH. I was surprised.

My items were submerged at 5 minutes each and allowed to oxidize twice. I kept the pot in the sun and the temp ranged from 100 to 120 degrees as I did my dipping and oxidizing.


The magic of indigo oxidizing:

About the only negative about this process is I am still using Thiourea Dioxide for the oxygen reducer. I just do not like the smell of Thiourea. I plan to try the fructose/slaked lime method once I am more comfortable with the Thiourea Dioxide results.

Background:  I have seen mention of dried indigo in books but no recipes to get me started. Of course I am familiar with the fermented indigo, sukumo, made from dried leaves. Being a small grower I was nowhere near producing the amount needed to get a decent blue. Nor do I have the facilities to ferment over a long period of time with winds and violent temperature swings beyond my control. So either fresh leaf indigo extaction, dried leaves or the traditional purchased indigo powder was the path for me.

When attending an indigo class at John Marshall’s studio he allowed us to look thru his Japanese dye book collection. I do not speak Japanese but I could see tantalizing photos of dried Japanese Indigo. John has been a master working with dyes in surface design over the years with his soymilk mordant and artistic mastery of stencil resist. (Yes, I am a serious fan girl) I asked if he could look thru the recipes and help me figure out a dried leaf path.
His side study along with his stencils has been with Japanese Indigo. He recently took the time to put his thoughts and mastery into a reference book based on his experience and the Japanese dye masters. The dried indigo recipe that I used is sourced from John’ book Dyeing with Fresh Leaf Indigo 
The book is pricey but has many approaches and recipes and should be considered as a guild resource and brought into a library where folks can benefit. John has also written about his dried indigo recipe for Turkey Red. It is at the end of his Turkey Red article. http://www.turkeyredjournal.com/marshall.html
Enjoy, Deb Mc

Dye Thrums from CHT 2015

6 Jul

I had the privilege to speak about natural dyeing at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas 2015 Conference in Austin, Tx in late June. As most teachers know, one touches on subjects to make students aware of potential paths but class time constraints prevent one from delving into the details. I needed to stay on the subject of natural dye basics but couldn’t resist mentioning some of these items. One of my students, Fern, was gracious enough to capture a bucket list of those interesting “time sinks” for me.  Thank you Fern!

Below are random references for folks that attended my lecture to wander at will. Take your time, enjoy and thank you for letting me share the joy of creating color with you. What color is in your valley?

My apologies, this blog entry covers a lot of ground and no pictures are within this blog post BUT by popping over to some of the links there is plenty of color photos and information created by some of the most talented teachers I have had the privilege to train with.  Regards Deb Mc

  1. I spoke of symplocos, a natural mordant sourced from leaves. When used it gives a slight yellow cast to your fibers BUT that disappears when you put your base color over it. There is a lot of information in the links below. Consider running some dye pots comparing your mordant choices, alum acetate, alum sulfate and symplocos. Consider the higher cost paid for the mordant as a source of support to the folks who gather the leaves. Also consider the limited nature of such a resource.

Natural mordant from leaves, sourced from Indonesia   http://plantmordant.org/symplocos/

History of use http://plantmordant.org/symplocos/history-of-symplocos-use/

Consider running some dye pots comparing your mordant choices, alum acetate (cellulose) or alum sulfate (protein) and symplocos. The website above has ample instructions on the different ways you can use the mordant for different fibers.

  1. As opposed to gathering natural dye bulk material, natural dye extracts are a good way for those who cannot gather to experiment with natural dyes. Upon occasion folks remark to me that extracts are expensive. Experiment with it and learn the recipes. Focus on one type of substrate (type yarn) and learn the percent that you need to get to the color you want. Learn how to fully exhaust your pot to pull all the color. I’ll give you a couple of sources that have outstanding instructions for extracts on line or available for sale. Not only do they offer extracts but most carry some of the bulk natural dye material. Please understand there are many other retailers out there at your local festivals that sell natural dye extracts. Try to support local merchants but don’t hesitate to use our global economy. You are helping someone support themselves in their village and you can stay in your village and enjoy their colors. The links provided gets you to their site. Take time to look thru these websites to see their extracts for sale, the mordents AND the awesome online instructions.

Natural Dye Extract Suppliers in alphabetical order:

  1. Online groups enable us to share information and learn. Technology keeps changing but for today Yahoo and Ravelry have solid groups that share information. You can join these Yahoo & Ravelry groups and search their achieves. Both groups are fairly gentle with beginners but it is always good to ask specific process questions and cite what research you have done beforehand. Both Yahoo and Ravelry require you to join. Facebook has some natural dye groups but I’ve found them difficult to research and find/mark information for retrieval. Hopefully technology will advance.

Yahoo Groups, search for NaturalDyes (active) and sustainablenaturaldyepractice (low activity)

Ravelry, search for Natural Dyeing (process) and Plants to Dye For (growing and dyeing)

  1. I spoke about pulling color from wood chips. Sandra Rude of 3 Springs Handworks has written an excellent paper on using woodchips for color.

I will repeat a safety warning. Using alcohol is a good way to pull color from your wood chips or sawdust BUT do not use open flame for your dye bath. Use electric heat for safety.   You do not want to flambé yourself or your skeins. Safety FIRST!

The link is below. Look for “Instructions for Extracting Color from Wood Chips”.

http://www.3springshandworks.com/Extras.htm

  1. I showed some examples of using pigment I pulled from my dye baths to paint and screen print with mordants. That is an advanced subject that I won’t address in this entry. Know that a way exists to precipitate out color from your dye bath and merits research if you pursue natural dyeing. Both John Marshall and Michel Garcia address this from different points of view. I’ll give links to these gentlemen below. Probably the best book I’ve had recommended to me is Natural Colorants for Dyeing and Lake Pigments, Kirby, et al. Search on line, it is pricy and would be a good guild book. An individual could probably find it via library loan or a university library to see if you want invest in the book or explore the process further. Others might exist but this book give historical context and experiments.

Another resource is this paper by Kirby online, this was the precursor to the book above, give it a moment to load. http://www.doernerinstitut.de/downloads/Back_to_the_Roots/Back_to_the_roots_Kirby_I.pdf

  1. Michel Garcia was known for his natural dye plant garden in France, and he is now teaching about natural dyes and the historical indigo fructose method. He also addresses printing and precipitation of dyes. His lectures are worth attending for their botanical and historical content. His dvd’s should be in a guild library for member reference. They provide a wide scope of information and provide a chemist’s point of view. Take some time to read his background and look up his botanical garden. http://shop.slowfiberstudios.com/collections/dvds
  1. John Marshall is a fiber artist and most excellent teacher. He lives his art through the Japanese tradition and uses soy milk as a mordant to create his artwork. He does use Japanese pigments in conjunction with the soy milk and has written a booklet and provides instructions on his website. His booklet should also be in guild libraries.
  1. The University of Nebraska offers space via Digital Commons to organizations like the Textile Society of America (TSA). Digital Commons are Institutional Repositories (IRs) which bring together all of a University’s research under one umbrella, with an aim to preserve and provide access to that research. IRs are an excellent vehicle for working papers or copies of published articles and conference papers. Presentations, senior theses, and other works not published elsewhere can also be published in the IR.

The 2010 proceedings are probably the richest in dye reference material as that was the conference theme. Look at some of the papers. I referred in my lecture to the South American cochineal harvesting process. Here is it, provided by the TSA organization.  Consider joining them to support textile research around the world.  We are thankful for the clear photos and comparison of methods. Without the Digital Commons, how would we access information like this without traveling? http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/39/

And finally, folks asked for a natural dye bibliography, this is what I recommend for beginners,  Here is my list….

Books as of 07/2015 sort by title, **first dye books recommended for beginners

A Dyer’s Garden ** Rita Buchanan

ISBN: 1-883010-07-01

Approach to natural dyes via touching the ground

Indigo, Madder & Marigold  Trudy Van Stralen

ISBN:0-934026-86-6

Good equipment chapter for beginners. Basic instructions for dyestuffs readily available.

Natural Dye Instruction Booklet** Michele Wipplinger

http://www.earthues.com/natural_dyes/books – http://www.earthues.com/natural_dyes/books

Excellent summary on use of natural dye extracts various techniques

Natural Dyes – Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science

Dominique Cardon                   ISBN-10: 1-904982-00-X

Belongs in any fiber guild library, provides cultural, botanical & practical natural dye research spanning our globe

Salvation Thru Soy John Marshall

http://www.johnmarshall.to/I-bookSOY.htm – http://www.johnmarshall.to/I-bookSOY.htm

Different cultural direction to apply natural dye to cloth

The Craft of Natural Dyeing                                                          Jenny Dean

ISBN: 0 85532 744 8

Solid beginner definitions, nice approach to mordants and modifiers

Wild Color **    Jenny Dean

ISBN: 978-0-0230-5879-2

Great index and table of contents for reference. Best mordant and modifier (assistant) table available.

Labels, Timing & Focus

9 Mar

Just a moment of thankfulness…that I am neurotic about marking my skeins with knots and making notes so I know which skein was submitted to what process. I also prep labels with the date mordanted and knots represented by dots so I may look at the label after the dye pot frenzy is done and add the dye process.  I usually have a plan written down so I don’t vear off in another direction while at the dye pot.

In November, between the holidays, I processed the last of my fresh indigo in a fructose and a traditional thio pot AND used my fresh cochineal AND tried to salvage my Hopi seeds AND mordanted some silk skeins. Skein craziness arises as one rinses and dries the skeins.  Wet skeins all look alike. Trust me, once you are done with the dye process you are happy to wash the pots, clean up the dye area for the winter season, rinse the skeins and walk away and let them dry.

It is March now…I am returning to the skeins and matching labels, pot notes and skeins. Yikes, confusion reigns until you match the dots on the labels to the skein knots and dye pot notes. How did I get this color?

Success!!  Now I need to reel some of this off and weave!  I worked on understanding lampas this Jan/Feb on my playcation with weaving friends so I do have focus and a goal.

 

 

 

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