Monday, November 20, 2017

A Good Day to Dye

On Saturday I attended an Indigo Dyeing workshop at the Mariner's Museum!  Full disclosure - I did steal the title of my blog post from another clever participant. 

My spoils of the day
I had an absolute blast, and got so inspired by all of the beautiful patterns that everyone came up with!  I wish I had gotten pictures of them all, but I was too busy having fun to take many pictures at all.

Here's what I did get:

Our presenters, Lauren and Wisteria, show off the shirts they dyed in last year's class, as well as some of their designs on cloth:

I unfortunately missed the beginning of the presentation, but there was a slideshow of indigo dyeing from around the world, a bit about the history of indigo, and everyone got a handout with a book list for further study.  They also passed around several examples of really gorgeous indigo pieces like this one from Thailand:

I meant to go back and take photos of all of the examples, but I got so engrossed in the dyeing process that I forgot.

Everyone got 5 cotton napkins to experiment with, and we were also encouraged to bring our own pieces from home.  I brought three different fabrics, but I'll get to them later.

Lauren showed us how to go about dipping our pieces:

The dye vats were three five-gallon buckets that had been prepared ahead of time.  Each had formed a "bloom" on top:

But when you dipped your cloth into it... was green underneath!

Reminded me of a blueberry.
 The cloth would also be green, initially.

But with exposure to the air, the dye would begin to oxidize, and you could see it turn blue before your eyes:

They had provided several different materials for us to use to make patterns on our cloth, such as clothspins, rubber bands, wood blocks, popsicle sticks, yarn, and Elmer's glue.

I started with the glue, because I knew it would need to dry before I could dunk it.  I thought it would be fun to get a resist pattern, so I had to try it.  I improvised a flower design, which is very hard to see here:

And here is how it looked after dyeing, rinsing, and taking it home where it was washed with mild detergent and dryed:

Not all of the glue had fully dried before I dyed it, so the one corner got a bit smudged.
One of the slides in the presentation was my inspiration for two of my other napkins - I was going for the upper left and lower right images:

For the upper left image, I used rubber bands to take up concentric circles:

Which took forever!  And tons of rubber bands.  I was busy doing this while everyone else was already dyeing, and I kept running out of rubber bands and ended up pilfering used ones from other people - which is why some of them are blue:

I didn't notice one of my rubber bands had popped off until after I dyed it.
And for the lower right image, I attempted to pleat my napkin into tiny little accordion pleats.  It was rather difficult to get them to stay, and I didn't want to bind them with rubber bands or anything that would prevent the dye from penetrating.  The best idea I could come up with was to twist it around on itself and hold the two ends together with one rubber band.

I had tied/looped long strands of yarn on each so that I could easily fish them out of the bucket, as I had seen some other participants doing.  First they got dunked in clear water to wet them thoroughly:

Then into the bucket they went!

After the first dip, you can see they were quite green:

But the blue color came out pretty quickly as I held them in the air:

Back in for another dunk:

And popped on a tray to carry to the sink:

I gave them both a quick rinse before undoing my bindings.

The back side of the left one looked like clumsy smocking:  

And here is how they turned out:  

For my final two napkins, I used clothespins.  I had admired another participant's flower-like designs on her napkins, so she showed me how she got them.  Here is my attempt at recreating the look:

It came out like this:

And for the final one I went with an accordion pleat and parallel rows of clothespins:

It ended up being one of my favorite ones!

I had brought three pieces of fabric from home - a yard of plain cotton voile to make into an 18th-Century kerchief, which I attempted to dye an even, pale blue.  I ended up dipping it twice because the color did not come out evenly the first time, so it's darker than I intended: 

But still pretty.
Then I had about a yard and a half of striped cotton voile left from making my Sheer Striped Gown, which I wanted to dye a deep, rich, dark blue.  I think I succeeded: 

This was when it was still wet, of course.  Here it is dry: 

I plan to make this into a Regency dress for Reptar.  It's still fairly sheer, so I'll need to make her a shift, too: 

My final piece was about a yard and a half of polished cotton, leftover from the lining of the curtains I used to make my Gold Francaise Gown.  I wanted a fun pattern on this one, so I started with a diagonal fold: 

I then folded accordion pleats once again, and when I got it all pleated I folded the entire thing in half down the length, making sure the long center section was on the outside where it would absorb the most dye.  And I made a pattern of clothespins along the edges: 

And this is the result: 

I was very happy with this piece!  I think I'm going to make it into a skirt. 

Of course now I want to dye ALL OF THE THINGS! I may have to see about getting my own indigo dyeing kit someday.


  1. Fascinating post, thanks so much for sharing. The fact that the dye starts green is amazing. I love the various patterns you made, especially the last one.

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you found it interesting. :)

  2. Oh this is so fascinating! I love the patterns you came up with. now I want to figure out how I can try indigo dyeing!

    1. Isn't it? I believe they bought the dye kit on Amazon, so it's very doable! I would recommend having lots of fabric ready to dye before you try it - or have an indigo dyeing party - because it makes a LOT of dye!