I’ve been wanting to do some indigo dyeing for quite some time. I was always waiting for the perfect time and the perfect project. As the months (or maybe more than a year!) passed I realized that the perfect time or project was never going to happen. Instead of simply shelving the idea I chose to tackle indigo dyeing on the busiest possible week ever.

In between shooting, editing, knitting, volunteering and school field trips (including swimming with three different classes in the span of two days) this is what happened……..

yarn waiting to dye

yarn waiting to dye

I prepped some wool yarn, cotton yarn, cotton threads of various thicknesses and some cotton fabrics. Some of the yarn was dyed previously in tansy to create a yellow to over-dye with hopes of achieving green.

into the indigo dye vat

into the indigo dye vat

Into the vat all the materials went. The tansy wool yarn was immersed for about 10 minutes, while everything else stayed in for about 30 minutes.

And then the fun began…..

yarn just pulled out of the dye bath

yarn just pulled out of the dye bath

The yarn only starts to truly change color as it emerges from the dye bath and is exposed to the air. It starts out green…..

indigo dyeingthen turns an aqua color………

indigo dyeingand finally blue.

Luckily Mark came home from work just in time to take these pictures as the yarn was being pulled out of the dye bath.

dyeing on the front lawn

I ended up with quite a variety of blue items which will be a lot of fun to work with over the coming weeks. It is nice to add a new range of colors into my knitting and stitching.

dyed wool yarn

dyed wool yarn


This is wool yarn. The yarn on the left entered the dye bath as natural white, while the yarn on the right had been dyed previously in tansy.

cotton yarnThis is cotton yarn dyed in segments to get color variations. What a disaster this was to get untangled after dyeing and washing. I had preplanned the segments, rather than just a random dyeing, perhaps I need to figure out a better game plan for next time.

indigo scarf detail

indigo scarf detail

Just for fun I dyed a gauze scarf that I had hemmed up earlier. This is a detail. It looks beautiful when it is worn. I think this one will remain “mine”. A perfect scarf to wear while walking a rocky beach lined with driftwood.


8 thoughts on “Indigo!

  1. did you do the slow fermentation method? I’d be interested to know how you do because when I’ve done chemical method with indigo (heating it with thiox) I always seem to end up with some degree of fugitivty in the end result – I had the smae problem with a bought blouse when I was 15, which turned my entire body blue for a week after only one wear. I dont seem to get so much of a problem with woad, although that may be because I’ve taken to premordanting my blues with alum becuase i find mordanted threads stronger for embroidery. I was having a lot of problems with fine wools shattering when sewn with.

    I’m thinking about trying the fermentation method because I could do with some darker blues

    • The natural indigo powder was reduced with lye and thiourea dioxide.

      I dyed so many different items in the same vat it will be interesting to watch how they work as a final result.

      The scarf had been mordanted in alum, as had the yarn previously dyed in tansy and one small skein of cotton yarn. The large amounts of cotton yarn, the darker wool yarn and the stitching threads (cotton) had been dyed straight.

      I am planning to tie a few bracelets out of some of the cotton cord, if anything will test durability, that will. It also tests light fastness because I wear them all the time (I have discovered few dyes hold up well in hot tubs! LOL!)

      I guess we shall see if my hands turn blue while knitting! I sure hope not.

      • Cotton may react differently to wool and hold the colour better without mordant. My main reason for mordanting wool was not fastness but the strength – I’m not sure if it’s the simmering or the actual chemical, but when I’ve used warp weighted looms I noticed that dyed threads had far fewer snappages than Undyed, and is began noticing that students were having problems with blues shattering ( it doesn’t affect me so much) and realised it could be down to the blue not being dyed in the same way

  2. I’m finding the comments interesting – to work well an indigo vat is high in alkalinity and damaging to wool. The indigo sits on the surface of the fibre, the reason it will rub off if not rinsed repeatedly until the water runs clear. Generally colour is built up with repeated short dips with oxygenation after each dip.

    • Any tips you can share are very welcome. I know you have an amazing amount of experience working with indigo.

      So far I haven’t had any rubbing off with either the wool or the cotton yarns. In between dips I let the yarns hang for about an hour, plus at the end I let them hang for 24 hours before rinsing.

      I really like the color indigo gives, I’m so glad I finally gave it a try.

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