Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Indigo Dyed Gradient Mini Skein Set

We have our share of drizzle June days here in the Pacific NW, but last weekend was gorgeous so I got out the indigo vat and did some dyeing that's been on my to-do list for quite awhile.  I love gradient knitting projects probably as much as I love indigo!  If you're new to dyeing with indigo, see my past post of how-to's here.

Polygonum tinctorium
Everytime I read up on indigo, I discover something about it I didn't know - this time I decided to learn more about Japan's indigo traditions.  I always thought that true indigo, or Indigofera tinctoria, was used in Japan, but actually it was another indigo bearing plant, Polygonum tinctorium.  Called ai in Japanese, it was being cultivated by the 6th century CE and was used for dyeing textiles for the noble class and samurai.  Indigo is antiseptic and undergarments dyed in it were worn by the samurai to help prevent wound infections and rashes.  Now, I tried to find out whether or not fabric dyed in indigo is actually antibacterial and had no luck!

Indigo dye and fermentation vats in Japan
By the Edo period (1600 - 1868 CE), indigo dye industries grew as silk was forbidden to the lower classes, leaving them with hemp and cotton fabrics.  These are harder to dye with natural dyes, but indigo takes to them beautifully.  

Creating indigo dye from the actual plants is something on my to-do list, but it's a very complicated and long process so I just used pre-reduced indigo crystals!  Jacquard's kit works very nicely.  I had 5 mini-skeins already wound from KnitPick's Bare Swish fingering and decided to make a gradient set of 5 indigo blues.  

I draped them over a short length of PVC pipe so I could easily slip each skein off at its proper time without having to bring the other skeins out of the vat.  I lowered the pipe into the vat and gently swished it around without making any bubbles - you don't want to introduce oxygen into the vat or you won't get those nice deep blues.  At the 1 minute mark, I took off the first skein and draped it on my rack.  At the 2 1/2 minute mark the second one came out, 4 minutes for the third, 5 1/2 minutes for the fourth, and 7 minutes for the fifth.  

Here you can see the green on the last skein out that hadn't oxidized to blue yet.

When they dried I decided the darkest color wasn't dark enough, so I redyed it for an additional 2 minutes.  And here are the finished skeins!  I think they're going to become a gradient shawl, but I'm not sure which one yet.

Now I have a vat of indigo dye, so I'm off to look for more textiles to turn various shades of blue.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for showing your process! These are beautiful shades. I hope you share whatever you found around the house or closet to dip into that vat of Indigo.