Indigo Dye Pot Day

I won’t bore you with why I’ve been too busy to post – just put it under the heading of “school”.  I’d rather cover the more interesting things I’ve done in the last nine weeks.

In early November, my Spinning and Weaving group had an Indigo Dye Pot day.  It wasn’t just indigo dyeing – there were some other methods employed, but as my interest was only in the indigo, that’s all I participated in (I can do other types of dyeing any time I like).


I had 400 grams of Bendigo 8 ply cotton in ‘snow’, and a tencel warp (which I still haven’t weighed)  prepared for the indigo pot.  Indigo is an interesting dye – as I understand it, the  indigo is insoluble in the oxidised blue form.  To dye fibre, you need to put it in a reducing vat, which is an alkaline solution.  It is soluble in this solution and is a bright green colour.  Where the solution is exposed to the air, some of the indigo becomes oxidised and forms a skin on the surface.  Ours looked sort of metallic-coppery on top.  You dip the yarn into the vat for long enough to take up the vat solution, then remove it slowly so that the excess liquid in the yarn runs back into the vat before it can oxidise.  We weren’t very good at that part, so vat solution went all over Pauline’s lawn, turning the grass blue!  We then hung up the dipped skeins and they were left to oxidise and turn blue.  Mine seemed to take forever – whenever I opened up a bit of a skein to look inside, there was lime green fibre, which then  exposed to the air would oxidise and darken, eventually becoming blue.  The indigo was tending to form a skin on the yarn preventing the oxidation until it dried out a bit.


Then came the rinsing.  Lots of rinsing.  I made lots of buckets of yucky, murky blue water (so more of Pauline’s lawn turned blue).  Thankfully, Pauline has a couple of rainwater tanks (as well as a town supply) from which we took the water, and it has rained a fair bit since, so she won’t have ended up short of water.  Then I took them home and rinsed them some more and hung them to dry.  Once dry, I wound the cotton into balls and rechained the warp.  I’ll probably rinse the tencel warp again before I use it as I want to team it with a pale weft, and I don’t want the colour to bleed (much?).  Rinsing it again will indicate if it’s going to be a problem.



I’ve knitted a couple of swatches in the indigo dyed cotton so that I can modify the pattern I intend to knit from it.  The pattern is the Denim Pinafore in Erika Knight’s “Simple Knits for Little Cherubs” designed to use Rowan Denim yarn.  Rowan Denim yarn shrinks by something close to 20%, but in length only.  My indigo dyed Bendigo cotton won’t do anything like that (and my stitch gauge is way off the pattern’s, while I like the drape produced), so I practically have to rewrite the pattern.  Knitting with it is divine – it has come out quite soft after all the washing, and it has a nice variation about it.  The pale stitches here and there are from where the  skein was held while being dipped in the vat and consequently didn’t take up much dye (and I unwittingly did that with every skein).  And I suspect the slight dark/light variation over the rest of the yarn was caused by the solution in the skeins being held in the fibre towards the bottom of each hanging skein while the oxidising took place.  I like it a lot.

And until I actually rework the pattern, I can’t cast on.  I’m actually WIP-less at the moment.

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