Monday, March 11, 2013

Indigo Dyeing and Discharge

White cotton knit (left): medallions rubber banded. Tan decorators' gauze
was tied lengthwise in knots.  Yellow cotton with previously dye printed
orange stripes and dyed section was scrunched in a ball with rubber bands.
Indigo dyed cotton knit with bottom portion discharged.
(any discharge agent works)
Cotton boucle yarn on left
took up the dye very quickly.
Pris Lynch with tie-dyed shirt and fabric just
Sue Vegter's piece after being untied.
Starting about 4 years ago, I've invited my fiber arts guild ( and textile friends to my house the first Saturday of May each year to experience the excitement and fun of dyeing with indigo.  It's made easier than the traditional method by using pre-reduced indigo which alleviates the need for harsh chemicals and instead uses Thiox (thiourea dioxide) and soda ash.  Once mixed with the indigo powder and allowed to sit for 30 minutes, fabric presoaked in water can then be dipped into the vat/bucket.  Allowed to soak up the indigo for a short while (one minute?) and carefully pulled out and squeezed (don't let it drip/splash back into the vat), the fabric will be green.  As the air oxidizes the indigo, it turns blue!

The interesting thing about pre-reduced indigo is the use of Thiox which is a discharge agent.  It takes out the fabric's color (if colored) and then puts in the blue.  So starting with a colored fabric brings wonderful and serendipitous results.

All manner of techniques are possible from Japanese shibori sewn or rubber banded techniques, to solid colors.  If a dark blue is desired, allow the fabric to completely oxidize and dry, then redip the fabric in the vat.  Continue this until the darkness of blue is achieved.  As spring arrives here in West Michigan, I'm praying that we'll have a warm, sunny day on May 4!