Dyeing with Japanese Indigo

This is the third summer that some members of our Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild have grown and dyed with Japanese indigo.  In mid-July five of us gathered together to dye using the vinegar method.  The indigo was growing in garbage pails with three plants per pail.  We cut the stems just above a node, leaving about two nodes below the cut.

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We had an abundant harvest.

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Next, we stripped the leaves from the stems.

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Then we cut the leaves into pieces.

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We covered the leaves with water and added 30 ml of pickling vinegar per litre of water.  We ate lunch while the chopped leaves soaked in this mix.

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Next we used a hand blender to blend the leaves and vinegar/water mix into a bright green ‘soup’ which had an intensely rich chlorophyll smell.

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We lined a strainer with a piece of silk chiffon, strained the ‘soup’ through it into a pot and then squeezed well to get the liquid out.  The pulp was mixed with more vinegar and water and strained into the pot.

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We then added our fibres and fabrics to the pot.  One of the joys of Japanese indigo is that no mordanting is needed.  Some were left to soak for a couple of hours, others overnight.

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And here are our results. Prince’s Icelandic fleece, a  55% linen and 45% cotton blouse which dyed a very light but lovely seafoam blue and handwoven silk chiffon which will be the backing for the nuno felted Icelandic fleece.

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Raw silk fabric and 80% raw silk with 20% polyester fibre.

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Local wool fleece.

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Wool rovings, silk hankies around the outside, silk/alpaca blend in the centre, silk chiffon with silk fibre on the bottom right.

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Heather Apple

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