Hello there! Today we have decided to share with you, one of the current recipes we are working with in our own studio. We wanted to give you the inside scoop on how to start and sustain your very own natural indigo vat. Indigo is a great dye to begin with for a number of reasons. For starters, it is easy to make and give you almost instant results. It is a dye, that with the right care can last much longer than typical natural dyes. If you plan to continuously dye fibers for your own projects, then keeping an indigo vat is definitely right for you. And who doesn't love those deep, rich blues--can we get an amen!?
Now, our Indigo journey is a long one. We fell in love with it a while back, however we were using the pre-reduced indigo kits. Now although there are some definite perks to these kits, they are almost instantaneous for one, we would use them up so quick and then have to toss them out. We also wanted to use an Indigo vat that didn't require thiox so we started researching.
Eventually we discovered the Ferrous Vat through the internet, and especially found Michael Garcia's 1-2-3 vat a dream. It's quick and very very effective! For starters, ferrous vats are cold vats, meaning that you don't have to keep the vat at a warm temperature (which happens to be very hard when your studio is in a chilly warehouse space already!) and because of this, the vat can last for a long while! From what we have discovered, it doesn't require very longs dips for fibers to get very dark.
UPDATED: After reading and researching Jim Liles book The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing we have come to a few new conclusions we wanted to give you information on.
1. This vat is best for cellulose fibers. Protein fibers like wool & silk will take up too much of the iron present in the vat. This can cause the fiber to become brittle & unusable.
2. A secondary chemical reaction between the constituents of this vat will create a higher loss of indigo dye chemical which will also cause more sediment at the bottom. Getting a container that is as deep and narrow as possible is advisable.
3. Your goods should not touch the sediment at the bottom - it will cause splotchiness.
4. This vat is optimal for around 2 weeks kept around 70 degrees F.
5. You can sharpen this vat. Look to the color to see what needs to be added. If the vat is green instead of yellow brown add more ferrous sulphate about 1/2 ounce. If the vat is blue add more lime about 1/2 ounce.
The Ferrous Vat
20 g. powdered indigo
40 g. iron (ferrous sulfate)
60 g. lime (calcium hydroxide)
We like to start our Indigo in a glass container first, a liter canning jar will do. This can be called your starter solution, and will easily carry over to a five-gallon bucket for easy dyeing. You'll need to measure out each of the above ingredients and set them to the side. Start boiling a liter of water to fill your glass jar.
We found the instructions from there got a bit vague with most of our sources. It usually said something like, "Wait for a bit, then start dyeing." When we made our first vat, we were nervous that it wasn't right, but here are some more hints to make sure you feel confident and happy with your results.
Transfer to Larger Container:
Heat up 3-5 gallons of water until it is almost boiling. Add this to your larger bucket, then pour in your starter solution. Mix for a minute, stirring vigorously in a clockwise motion and then slowly mix once counter-clockwise to stop the current. Wait and continuously check until the vat has turned a bronzed color.
You can get really dark tones from a dip of about 10-15 minutes. Remember, also wet your fabric first so they take the dye super well, and let us know if you try this vat! We want to see your results!
With love & light & beauty,
Ashton & Claire
Posted on Waxing Crescent