I grew indigo in my garden this year. It has been a long time since I first tried dyeing with fresh plants. My small patch will yield enough leaves to try a few different dyeing methods.
The leaves contain the indigo dye, so they are removed from the stems. Here I have thinned out whole plants but you can also pick leaves off the living plants and let them grow back.
The leaves go into the blender that’s 1/3 full of cold water and a few ice cubes. Unlike the way I usually dye with indigo, this is a cold method. After blending I add more leaves and blend again. The “indigo smoothie” is a beautiful green color. It is strained through a cloth and the juice is the dyebath.
The fiber is put into the cold dyebath. I am dyeing 30/2 silk and some wool/mohair yarn samples. There are different ways to do this, leaving the fiber in for longer or shorter or removing it periodically to oxidize. I am following John Marshall‘s method of rotating the skein slowly for one hour. As I work I can see the color changing.
Oxidizing, which means exposing the indigo dyed fiber to oxygen, deepens the color. I love the dark wet colors of the silk, but I know they will dry much lighter. This method yields pastel shades of blues and greens.
I have mordanted some of my fiber in alum to see what happens. I anticipate that it will be more greenish, picking up the yellow tones in the dyebath.
Here are the silk skeins I dyed. The unmordanted skein is a light blue/blue green. With an alum mordant I got a pale mint/sage green. Putting a mordanted skein in the leftover bath and letting it sit for a couple days I got a light yellow green color, which doesn’t really show in this photo. These light and even colors are beautiful as is but would also be nice for overdyeing.
I got more dramatic results on my wool/mohair samples. A nice light blue on unmordanted wool and a sage green on the wool with alum mordant. I put a mordanted and unmordanted sample in the leftover bath for a few days and got this nice spring green, very similar on both samples.
So what is next? I still have my leftover dye bath which is fermenting in a pot. Leftover dye bath can be heated to produce yellows, or alkalized to make blue. And I also have plants still growing in my garden. So more dye experiments are sure to follow.