Knitting and fiber arts are another passion of mine, and when I can combine them with gardening, I'm a happy woman. This year, the Japanese Indigo made a nice showing in the garden.
With a little research, I found a way to use them to dye fiber. Cut them above these nodes, and they'll resprout like basil.
4 ounces of indigo, ready for the dyepot. Unlike indigo powder, this has to be used asap.
Stuffed into a half gallon of water, I bring the mixture to 160 F.
It's an uninspiring brown at this point.
After straining out the leaves, adding non-sudsing ammonia to alter the pH level, I pour the liquid back and forth to aerate the mixture. It changes color!
Now you can see the yarn stuffed in there. Before I did that, I added some Rit dye remover. That deoxygenates the mixture, and it turns a classic indigo dyebath color -- clear green.
If the jar hadn't broken, dumping the dyebath into the double boiler, it might have turned a bluer color. But the real magic of dyeing with indigo is that as you raise the fiber out of the dyepot, it's green (or in this case, only greenish). As the fiber interacts with the air, the color changes to blue! You can see in this picture that it's moving down the skein as the water is draining out.
Unfortunately for me, it did end up sort of an insipid aqua color. Not my (or Denise's) real favorite, a bummer since it was intended as a surprise birthday present for her. Fortunately we know a knitter who will actually like the color. I'm going to give it to her tomorrow. It's never a total waste!
I'm hoping to try the experiment again with fiber, not yarn, and an unbroken dye jar. To that end, I'm watering the indigo carefully.
Harvest Monday - May 20, 2013
4 hours ago