Mood Indigo

You ain’t never been blue, ’til you’ve had that mood indigo

Three years ago, pretty much exactly, I purchased a beginner’s indigo dye kit from Fibrecrafts. Since then I have been filled with good intentions (periodically) to sort out the utility room and play with the kit. It never happened…. until I rashly invited one of the spinning group to come round and play “one day” when I had “tidied up, ready.” Of course, she chased me up on it last Wednesday…

Much against my better judgement, having hosted the Open Studio on Saturday and Sunday, I promised to host spinning here this week and we would dye.

I had a very busy few days...

The kit is supposed to be sufficient to dye 2Kg or 3Kg of fibre, depending on whether you believe the legend on the box or the leaflet inside. I suggested that anybody who wanted to join in, could, and that we therefore limit ourselves to 300g max each. Pauline wanted to have a go but said she would be unable to join us for the next two weeks, but Elizabeth and Jennifer were both going to be away when Pauline rejoins us… so we held our breath and just went for it, promising to save the dye bath for Pauline. The instructions say that any un-exhausted dye in the bath should be good for 2 – 6 weeks. Fingers crossed, then!

Indigo dyeing appeared to be a lengthy process, so we elected to make up the stock solution on Tuesday night. Elizabeth and Rosemary came along to help/watch. Rosemary took the role of chief photographer…

We duly mixed up the indigo dye powder with the soda ash.

Phew – stinky stuff!

It needed maintaining at blood temperature for a while, so I deployed the yoghourt jar…

…and left it until this morning, when spinning group started an hour earlier than usual, at 10:00 am.

I used a storage crate for the dye bath. My lace yarns are now scattered all over the workroom floor…

The dye bath needed to be de-oxygenated for a while, and this gave us time to wash and wet the fibre and have a nice cup of tea. There was plenty of cake.

I ate the cake. Forgot to take photos in my excitement over the angelica…

…but Rosemary remembered.

Once the dye bath had “cooked” we got stuck in. There were various interpretations on the matter of old and protective clothing…

and Rosemary again had the presence of mind to get her camera out.

We tied the skeins to a stick, using this to gently agitate the fibre in the dye bath. We took great care to introduce as little oxygen as possible, mindful of the need to reuse the bath in a fortnight’s time…

Gill may look as though she is trying to knock Jennifer out with that stick, but she isn’t.

We dyed a range of fibres between  us and it was interesting to see how different types took the dye.

I dyed two skeins of laceweight merino from World of Wool, and a skein of BFL sock yarn from the same source. Rosemary dyed a range of materials that included silk of various types, thread and a some snowy-white Texel/Suffolk fleece. Gill dyed some of her handspun Lleyn, given to me three years ago to experiment upon. Elizabeth also dyed some fleece but at the time of writing I don’t know what breed it was. She and Jennifer both dyed some of my handspun Cheviot. That may not be an exhaustive list but it is what I can remember right now…

It took us a short while to realise that just lifting the skeins from the dye bath was insufficient for good oxidation – and that pinning skeins out on the line between dunkings was a more practical approach. (The  next few photographs are of wet fibres.)

As well as fibre on the line, there was fibre on the wall (Elizabeth’s fleece, which took on a really “Madonna” blue hue)…

…and fibre on the grass

The really blue, almost Kingfisher in shade,  stuff is silk throwers waste… and there’s a carrier rod in there if you look carefully.

The next shots were taken after the fibre had dried. Rosemary had taken hers home while it was still wet – this is the remainder of the dyed fibres. It was late in the day but the sun was still high and the colours should be reasonably true.

As far as I recall (L – R)

1 & 2 Lleyn handspun

3 ?

4 & 5 Cheviot handspun

6 & 7 two skeins of merino laceweight (commercial) dunked once only – I wanted to achieve a very pale and patchy blue for a delicate shawl

8 BFL sock yarn (commercial)

9 some kind of sheep fluff

Every one a different shade of blue!

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5:

4, 5, and 6/7

and 6/7, 8 and 9:

It was great fun. The best part for me was seeing such a range of fibres  take up the dye differently – many more than if I had worked alone.

I estimate that we dyed around a kilo – so there should be plenty of dye in the vat for a second go. I am looking forward to seeing what happens when Pauline drops some Mohair in!

It all went much quicker than expected and we found time to spin after the dyeing session.

We are all fired up now to try more dyeing. In two weeks’ time we’ll use up the indigo and while that is going on, we are going to do some Dylon rainbow dyeing of raw fleece as well. I shall need to find me some white or light fleece. All mine seems to be dark grey, brown or black.

(Next week — Spinning Goes Posh. Now, with added Scones.)

  • The kit is here and is now actually cheaper than the £17 that I paid for it three years ago!
  • The instructions are here

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