Indigo and woad


Over summer I worked on my indigo dyeing skills.  In case it isn’t obvious–there will be some time travelling blog posts, because there is a lot I did over December and January that we haven’t discussed, my friends.  Here is my Indigo fructose vat on day 1. The indigo vat went quite well but I felt I still didn’t manage to extract all the blue from it.  Most weekends I dream of cranking it back up, and fail to manage the time.


This is my latest attempt at a fermentation woad vat.  It does look promising!  I used all of this summer’s  woad harvest (admittedly it was small this year) and one of the hottest weeks of summer and still failed to get the vat to reduce.  I do think constant heat is the thing I really need to sort out for this method–but Jenai Hooke gave me a gift indigo ball at summer dye camp which might kick start the process when I am ready to try again!


I dyed washed fleece and some fabric, but the main project for the indigo vat was to dye some knitting a dear friend had done.  She describes herself as having a midlife crisis which she is managing, in part, by knitting a lot, I mean A LOT of beanies.  In the last six or twelve months she has scaled up to knitting gauntlets (arm warmers) and sharing the love of those.  She gave me natural white knits and asked if I would indigo dye them and at last I’ve done it.  They are, she said, knit from wool from sheep who grazed in the fields of France where many fascists died.  I think these are for herself.  Since I put them in the mail, I have received a great photo of her wearing them, grinning spectacularly and with a message saying she is taking them to Berlin.  Berlin!  The rest of my pile of beanies has headed out into the world too. Some to a climate activist I know who is studying in Canada and finding the snowy winter and the prospect of climate catastrophe very challenging (she can choose one and gift the others), and a big pile to my dear friends in Tasmania.  When I saw them recently, one of then was wearing a very stretched out eucalyptus dyed beanie that only I could have spun and knit, and clearly wears beanies all year round.  And, they know a lot of cash strapped people in Tassie who might feel the same need.  I figure they will know what to do with a pile of hand knit happiness.




Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

4 responses to “Indigo and woad

  1. Rebecca

    Super super impressive. I’ve heard tell that of you can keep the vat at 30 degrees for a week then the colour fastnesd increases markedly. I am still stuggling with actually getting the vat to go in the first place so anything more sounds like the work of gods. Do you do anything to improve fastness?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t heard that. So much indigo lore! What I think I have learned about fastness is that washing aggressively and hot soon after dyeing is not a good idea, and that a minimum of three dips makes sense. But I think there is another category of issues around crocking, by which I mean dye that never bonded with the fibres in the first place. There, I think I understand that incomplete/inadequate reduction makes it worse and is often the cause, and that proper washing and a soak in a weak alkaline solution after dyeing will help prevent it by removing any loose dye. When I have had trouble, a post soak in soy milk has helped me remove dye that is rubbing off. Though blue lines tracing the path of knitting yarn through my hands is entertaining, it’s also inconvenient!


      • Thanks, that is super helpful. We’ve had trouble with the crocking before but I feel like you can almost see the tiny dye particles held in suspension in the liquid when that happens. Will try waiting for a few days before washing gently next time and see what happens. Such a mysterious, beguiling mistress is indigo.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s true you can see if it’s bad enough (but in my case, only if you’re looking and you know what to look for). I washed some wool yarn on the weekend and could add another fail to the list. In this case, I think the fleece was still a bit greasy and so indigo bonded to the grease in places–and now has washed out along with the indigo. I have so much to learn and then I have to remember and act on it all… this is going to be a lifelong journey for me!


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