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Time to harvest Suffruticosa seeds & dry leaves

14 Nov

It’s November here in the Texas Hill Country. Temps are dropping and the days are shorter. My Indigofera Suffruticosa has bloomed and the seed pods are turning brown. Time for harvesting seed pods before the winds come.

Slowly they turn brown despite the grasshopper threat.

I trim the tops off that are heavy with seed. The leaves are dried in a herb dryer under shelter. The seed stalks are left in a wheelbarrow to ripen & dry.

Dried IS leaves
Drying on the stem after leaves harvested for drying

The seeds continue to ripen on the stalk until brown/black & the pods split until the seeds peak out at you.

Seed pods are dry & splitting

So now I wait and let the Indigofera Suffruticosa pods continue to dry. Jan/Feb I will have a grand seed stomp and separate chaff from seed for sale. These seed pods will continue to dry in their wheelbarrow. The seeds will be much easier to separate the more patient I am with the drying process.

Need to pull out stems

And now, back outside to continue the harvest before the wind & rains come. It is a different game once the weather shifts.

Indigo Yield Testing in Texas

5 Jul

Note, SORRY guys, I accidentally deleted my blog post, my bad, let’s try this again.The 2020 season was time for experimenting with wet extraction of my Indigofera Suffruticosa and my Japanese Indigo.  Prior years, due to our Texas heat and extreme weather, it was easier to pick the leaves and dry them for storage while I became acquainted with growing the plant itself in the Texas Hill country.  You gotta keep the plant alive to reach the indigo cycle.

Let me just say for the record that I am extremely glad that Stony Creek Colors and Botanical Colors are vendors for indigo pigment.  I enjoy growing the indigo varieties, but for my 110 gallon indigo vat I will never grow enough indigo to fill that vat adequately to obtain dark color for my paste resist work.  However, I do small batches with my home grown indigo when I do stitch shibori or just need to overdye yarn skeins for weaving.  Both methods, buying or growing are viable depending on your vat size or intent.

Below is my indigo pigment chart provided by Stony Creek Colors after analyzing my home grown pigment content, comparing vinegar wash versus no wash, and a comparison of Japanese Indigo versus Indigofera Suffruticosa.  I submitted a total of 13 one gram samples over the season to test for pigment content.  In other words, I process 13 batches over the growing season, kept notes on leaf weight, washing and kept them separate for testing.

Each test batch of dried pigment was 1 gram more or less. Summer Arrowood, Senior Research Chemist, was most patient in explaining their testing process. I had a question on the above chart on the last 2 columns on the right of the chart I received with my above testing. This is what I asked. “What is difference on your table between Indigo Content of Solids vs Overall % indigo of sample. Are you spinning out moisture from my sample or drying it further? Is the Overall % more indicative of indigo contained? I am having trouble differentiating between the phrases since they are referring to the same sample.”

Response from Summer Arrowood, Senior Research Chemist, “Your samples were quite moist, as much as 43% water in the case of #12.  In order for our analysis to work the samples must be very dry.  I dried the entire sample on a moisture balance and then took the dry material and analyzed it for indigo content.  The ‘Indigo content of solids’ refers to this analysis. To get the ‘overall % indigo’, I used the moisture content and the indigo purity to calculate the % indigo of the sample as you sent it, including the water mass.”

My big surprise was the LATER in the season that I harvested my Indigofera Suffruticosa the HIGHER my indigo content went.  I expected the indigo content to be much higher in July and August with the sun intensity, instead, October and November growth gave the greater yield in the Texas Hill country.  This was in two – four year old shrubs. My field notes chart combined with the Stony Creek pigment report sorted by yield is below. Of course there are other notes on leaf weight/sun/process but this is an abbreviated compilation. 

I’ve added my growing notes in the chart below in addition to the testing performed by Stony Creek Colors on my samples submitted. Chart is sorted by Indigo per Sample yield but I’ve included data to show you the seasonal cycle.    The late season results were surprising. I was happy with the seasonal yield although it does include 4 batches that did not get washed to remove the calcium carbonate. I included the weight of pigment before washing and after washing. Towards the end of the season I had committed to washing with vinegar on all my batches and felt what I had measured earlier in the season gave me info I needed to see the difference. I calculated the the reduction in volume stored was about 80-90%.

I feel that reduction in volume was sufficient to justify the extra time washing pigment.As indicated in the indigotin chart, my Japanese Indigo did not perform well at all.  I do not know why, but I suspect the intense sun here in central Texas had an impact on indigotin production.  Even though I use a sunshade that does not seem to help the indigo production in the Japanese Indigo.   Even looking at early season harvest my indigo levels were not high.

Details for those who want to know more….

In summary, I did only wet extraction in 2020, washed my pigment and compared seasonal extracts, washed vs not washed pigment %’s. Stony Creek Colors was very helpful in explaining their testing methods and indigo content % measurements to me.  Having been educated by the grower/dyers in the FaceBook Indigo Pigment Extraction group I made the plunge. I am a measuring person, the type that likes to have an idea of what effort I am putting in and what I am getting out of it.  My observation is that dried leaves were giving me good color on a small scale but exactly how much pigment are the dried leaves giving me?  Wet extraction seemed to be the best way to measure the picked leaves, render them down to pigment and get a measure from that effort.  I am a measuring person, so I have records of my leaf weight before I dry them to compare to the wet extraction results.  I am also a frugal and “older” indigo farmer.  I only want to pick as much as my limited equipment could handle and that I could lift.  I had a good idea what I could pick, strip and lift in the AM and set out in my 5 gallon buckets to soak in the sun for a couple of days for the wet extraction.

My bushes told me what I needed to cut as I could see the bluish tinge in the leaves.   I trimmed both varieties for shape and for the winds to avoid damage during storm seasons.  My Indigofera Suffruticosa shrubs can last for at least 4 or 5 seasons if I don’t have a killing frost or cold spell.  It is now game over due to our major freeze and power failure we had in February 2021. This 2021 spring I am back to restarting my plants from seedlings.  It will regrow! My plan was to double check my testing but with my bush loss this year, I had a test set back. 2022 will be the year to test the IS again in central Texas. I set aside growing Japanese Indigo as I am focusing on prepping the IS beds which had settled over 3-4 years as the shrubs grew and this is my time to reprep those beds for new plants. Heaving Texas soil takes time for a home farmer.

The kicker in the wet “measuring” process is the calcium hydroxide used to flocculate the indigo and get It to settle for filtration.  Despite trying several methods of just using water settling the indigo, my observation is that this method takes way too long for the indigo to settle to a useable filtration state.  Using the calcium hydroxide is much more efficient for me and enabled me to get on with the process and my life outside of indigo.  But, the 4-6 tablespoons of calcium hydroxide added for flocculation adds weight and one cannot get a clean measurement of just pigment.  So I investigated washing my pigment with 9% vinegar to cleanse it of the calcium carbonate which the calcium hydroxide inevitably becomes when mixed with water and oxygen.  Leaving it as paste just adds to bulk and one must always add more slaked lime to reactivate the indigo chemistry to get the bonding.  Plus washing reduces the sludge.  I have heard mutterings that the vinegar washing impacts the indigo paste but I have not found anything in writing. Folks do wash only with water, next time I will try that against a vinegar wash and compare. 

On a side note, I mixed ONLY calcium hydroxide and water and used my sump pump as if I were mixing a flocculation brew to create a test.  I washed it about four times and did see a major reduction in calcium carbonate volume. My observation is that I had the greatest reduction with the 9% vinegar after two washes.  Wash 3 & 4 worked but just seemed like extra effort just because I could. Unfortunately, at that time my mom was having a round of health problems, so I did well just to complete the vinegar washes and capture photos.  My intent to measure reduced volume each time was thwarted by real life outside the dye patio.  Sometimes I just had to walk away from the dye patio process and leave everything to wait for me until mom was cared for.  But visual observation of the process showed the reduction was substantial despite the lack of measurement of the process.

Watching the vinegar work on the calcium carbonate

 Two Looms was very generous with information as to how they clean their indigo with citric acid or hydrochloric acid.  However, we are on a well and septic system with direct discharge to the Pedernales River and I felt like that journey was beyond my chemical skill set, hence 9% vinegar. I haven’t tried 20% agricultural vinegar but it is definitely on my list.  I need to investigate safety measures needed for that level of acid and recommend that one check the MSDS data to understand the risks of 20% agricultural vinegar.  It is a chemical that can hurt you.  Nine percent works just fine for me.  We are sitting on alkaline limestone, so I don’t feel real bad about discarding vinegar dissolved calcium carbonate water into our natural system.

I found 5 gallon buckets and the Dudas 25 micron filter really useful for washing the pigment in manageable amounts.  I usually wash it with a 3:1 9% vinegar to water at least twice AFTER the normal filtration is done.  I found the wet paste mixed well with the vinegar brew.  One learns to mix the vinegar in slowly or you get the lava foam effect and can lose solution from an overflow accident.  Keep an eye on the foam reaction.  That is the vinegar hitting the calcium carbonate and dissolving it.  This is a good thing except when it overflows your filter.  This step takes time but if you’ve been extracting indigo from your leaves you aren’t in this for a quick process.  

The benefit of washing with vinegar means I am not storing wet paste and the dried and washed pigment is MUCH easier to grind.  The volume reduction is significant between wet paste and dried pigment and does not require a refrigerator or extra storage space.  If you do the math on my chart above you’l see that I had a 60 – 90% reduction in volume.   Here is a link to a YouTube video on my vinegar washing, you’ll bounce over to YouTube, sorry, WordPress changed some functionality and I could not get it directly into my blog. This gives you a view of how I wash my home grown indigo and ALSO how I wash the Big Jar at the end of the season to retrieve my indigo for the next solar season. I learned about storing mud from one season to the next from the indigo masters in Sapa, Vietnam who were very genorous with their knowledge. I met them thru Above The Fray – Textile Travel, a great journey with friends a couple of years ago.

I’m glad I went to the trouble and expense to separate out batches over the season and get the analysis of indigo content.  My next step is to compare my dried leaf output to the wet extraction to get a general idea of what 100 grams of dried leaf indigo gives me compared to my pigment. More math is in my future when I am in the mood.

This was an extremely long blog entry.  Any suggestions, questions or comments would be most welcome.  Deb Mc

Water Settle Versus Lime Flocculate, Lime for the WIN

6 Aug

Back on July 17th I put a pound of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves to soak. In the Texas heat it was ready to pull the leaves and move on to pull the pigment. I had time so I had used my well water (about 8-9ph) to soak the leaves and separate the pigment. And I waited for the pigment to settle.

Ready to give up the pigment!

And I waited. Little drained thru my Duda 25 micron filter, pigment was evident but the water was a beautiful blue and looked happy to wait for evaporation to happen.

Waiting for water extraction

Come August 3rd I was done waiting, I poured off the liquid into a holding bucket and stopped when pigment paste was evident in the pour. This went into my coffee filter system. It is not beautiful or useful for large quantities but works if you parse out your work.

Paste from 1# of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves by water extraction only

This paste is still wet and has a bit more drying to go before I measure.

Water extraction IS paste

But I still had half a bucket of dark blue water mocking me. So, I added 3 TBSP of calcium hydroxide and let fly with my paint mixer to aerate. The pigment/lime dropped like a rock and I could easily see the pigment ready to filter.

Pigment lurking in the bottom of the bucket

I poured the liquid off and captured the paste in my Duda filter again. I did have to clean my filters from the long wait for water pigment drop. The bottom side of the filter had molded from the heat and moisture. Ugly stuff. One day later my filtered paste volume had reduced enough for me to start my vinegar wash.

Capturing the paste for washing

Now, I am washing this paste because I want to see what my one pound of leaves yielded. Remember, I captured some of it with just a water drop but pigment remained to capture in order to get a full measurement.

I wash with 9% vinegar to dissolve the calcium carbonate that is formed during the aeration process. Others use a stronger chemical to wash but I will leave that process to them to explain. I am on a well and septic system so I prefer to keep my chemicals fairly intrusive.


CaCO3 + 2CH3COOH = Ca(CH3COO)2 + H2O + CO2. Limestone (CaCO3) combined with vinegar (2CH3COOH ) yields calcium acetate Ca(CH3COO)2, water (H20) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

One must always remember to leave room in your container when adding your acid to your brew. Remember the volcano science experiments as a child? Yea, you are gonna make foam. I always secure my jar in a laundry tub so if nature gets too explosive I can recommend my pigment.

So, I add more water to my paste, add vinegar and mix and watch the foam rise.

So now I have started the wash to remove the calcium carbonate. The water & dissolved goods will float above the paste & I will pour that off. I might repeat 3 times to get a good wash and then cycle thru my coffee filter setup again for the final paste.

Waiting for the dissolving to separate

At this point I’ll be able to compare the two pastes to see the color. More on that later. In the meantime I have 3# of processed leaf water that also never really dropped that I am going to lime tomorrow. And I need to harvest my Japanese Indigo for pigment extraction as well. The water extract was an adventure but did not work well under my working conditions. This is the year for extraction opposed to drying leaves. Definitely more work for extraction.

Washing the indigo paste

17 Jul

22 days leaf to paste, 3.5 # of leaf to 1.1 # of paste before washing. Indigofera Suffruticosa in Texas Hill Country. I opted to do nothing the 4 days it was 104-112 degrees outside. The pigment can settle without fiddling in that heat.

IS 1st harvest of season 6/26

26 Jun

Continue reading

Indigofera Suffruticosa Roots

18 May

I usually don’t pull up my precious Indigofera Suffruticosa until grudgingly certain the plant has given up the ghost. Last time I pulled up IS was about three years ago when I got hit by a hard freeze. I lost all of my plants and did have to pull everything up. I remember that was difficult but they’ve been in the ground for three or four years. So this past winter I did lose a two year old plant, but the same vintage plants around it survived. So, here is a replay of the pull..

Two year plant succumbed to winter 2019/20 freezes.

So, the plant broke at ground level, not surprising since I have been doing spring watering. Rot has set in with the irrigation moisture on deadwood. So here is our second try at pulling the root.

So, yes, after two years full growth, the roots are deep. I won’t take a shovel to it due to its proximity to other plants. That root will stay in place.

And for those who remember my sad plant ravaged by caterpillars, it lives. Transplanted to a pot and spoiled for a couple of weeks the leaves are making another appearance. This will go back into the ground soon. It still looks sad but with the increasing warm temps and a permanent home in the ground it will thrive.

Indigo Growth & Texas Temperatures

5 May

Short Summary for those of you up north planning to start your Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds – wait for warm sunny days or use a heat mat but don’t get cocky and plant outside too early. The Indigofera Suffruticosa is a southern hemisphere plant and demands those warmer growing conditions. It will reward you when those conditions are met. If after reading this you still want to buy some Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds pop over here for the shop link. SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Folks are surely aware of the long winter up north this year. In Texas, we had an early March warm up to 80 degrees and then a temperature dive to mock us. Now, a “temperature dive” here in the Texas Hill Country means 50-60 degrees as opposed to the 70-80 degrees that are usually present in April and May as Mother Nature reeves her engine up in preparation for the 90-100 degrees in late May and June. Different perspective on heat for growing temperature depends on where you live.

During the March/April early warmth of 80 degrees on March 17th I tucked in my Japanese Indigo seeds into their seed trays and started prepping my garden beds.

On April 1st, tempted by the warm temperatures, I planted my Indigofera Suffruticosa into their seed trays.

Both species sprouted willingly in the early warmth and sun and then the temperatures “dived” down to the 50’s and 60’s again.

The weather flipped back to consistently cool and overcast. The Japanese Indigo shook it off and continued to grow. The Japanese Indigo seedlings have now gone on to live in Fort Indigo (secured from digging armadillos) and are to the next phase of cricket and hail survival in anticipation of Texas summer heat. One works for one’s indigo blue here in the Hill Country. Note the madder root attempting to breach Fort Indigo.

The Indigo Suffruticosa (IS) took a stand and just stopped growing, repeat…..just stopped. It did not die, it maintained its tiny height and lingered waiting longly for the sun’s warmth.

It is now May 5th and the Indigo Suffruticosa seedlings have begun to grudgingly grow again with daytime temps of 80 degrees and sunlight. In fact, a IS seedling tray, which was not in the sun, during the early heat never sprouted. Same dirt, same treatment, only difference was the sun/warmth effect.

I’ve also added more IS seeds which sprouted quickly to reward me and am now watching over both sets of seedlings until they reach a height of about 5 inches and then they will be hardened and transplanted out to my garden beds. I do look forward to all the intrepid folks reports from up north that are poised to plant their seeds and see if they can get them to grow. Repeat after me, sun…..heat…..warmth…..place those plants carefully.

I should mention that weld seeds planted in the trays at the same time had the same growth behavior. Sprout, grow, stop and hold. The weld will be planted out this week as weld dies back when our region hits the 90’s. Their life cycle is fairly quick due to the heat. Early Texas spring (whenever it may be) is the weld’s favorite season. I have about decided that with easy access to the Texas Persimmon (diospyros texana) for my dye yellow I will let go of trying to grow weld here.

I have mentioned several times that I have been on bud watch on my older Indigo Suffruticosa shrubs. They typically live two to three years here depending on our winter freezes and their age. I am very sad to report that the “Winter 2018”, which consisted of a couple of weeks in January/February with lows below 15 degrees, in the Hill Country took ALL of my bushes. It also took out some hibiscus that had survived since 2014. Our local Texas Hill Country Olive Company confirmed also that they had bad freeze damage that took out some of their trees this winter.

I especially mourn the tall Indigofera Suffruticosa that was “outside” the deer fence and was my marker for the “do the deer eat it” experiment. The deer left this volunteer plant outside the fence alone all year, not a nibble. I was looking forward to observing the spring’s impact on that bush because we are entering a drought period. This would have been a great temptation test for the deer or the bush, depending on your viewpoint. That test is not to happen, I will have to plant out some seedlings and defend them from the deer and digging possums. We’ll see who wins “outside the fence line”.

I do have one survivor sprouting against the wall “outside the fence”. See behind the dead shrub? This is a good time to show the difference between the Lindheimer’s Senna that grows wild here and the Indigofera Suffruticosa. They look very much alike in the teenage stage but there is a small appearance difference. The Senna has double leaves on the stem tip. The Suffruticosa has a single leaf. Subtle but significant when you are making a decision on what to pull and what to leave in place. And no, the senna does not yield blue.

So, this week will consist of pulling the dead IS shrubs with proper ceremony, leaving a few for the hummingbirds to use as perches (at least someone is taking joy in those dead branches) and prepping the ground for the Indigofera Suffruticosa seedlings that are still in protective custody in a screen area on my porch.

I love gardening and the life cycle, but it is times like this that one thinks of buying the indigo pigment and moving on with one’s color life!

Remembering last year’s suffruticosa leaves…..never take them for granted.

10 day difference for Japanese Indigo seedlings

30 Mar

10 days & temperature increases and sunshine made a big difference. March 17th I planted my Japanese Indigo seeds, by the 27th I had sprouts! I ordered the wrong seed tray. Duh, but seeds planted in new tray sprouted sooner than my old method. I am smarter now despite myself. Next up I will plant my Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds. I’ll throw Cota and Hopi Sunflowers into the mix this year also. Maybe I can beat the birds to the seeds for dye this year.

I am still on bud watch on my older Suffruticosa plants. Will the 3 year old plants live longer? Did the freeze this January take the younger plants out? The drama of gardening continues.

Plus the Texas Persimmon is budding and blooming. Before I know it I will be out picking persimmons in July for the dye.

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

Please note that this blog post is not to be used with any commercial ventures. If you sell dried indigo, please experiment and write your own instructions. Venders referring to this post have not asked permission to link to this post. This blog is not for their commercial use except for John Marshall’s great book, details below.

July 2018 Newsflash! JOHN Marshall has come out with a new release covering a variety of ways to use your Japanese Indigo. The process described below in my blog is covered in his book, here is a link to my review & where you order his book. Enjoy!

Original post…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.  His blog has blown up on him.  When he reposts a new link I will put it here for you. 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.

Finally as of July 2018, JOHN has a new book release, click here for more info…

Enjoy, Deb Mc

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