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Indigo and Ecoprinting

How to Overdye with Indigo

Indigo. The blue dye! It's popularity is justified and who doesn't love its "denim" blue color? And although the history of indigo is beyond the scope of this blog, it is fascinating and worth a look if you find yourself smitten with this dye. Luckily, in today's world, if we want to use indigo in our fiber art, we can go online and order indigo in various forms from seeds to dye cakes to DIY kits! So how do I use indigo in my ecoprinting? By Over-dyeing with it!

I am not a traditionalist when it comes to using indigo. Although I have done plenty of indigo vat dyeing using the shibori method of making patterns by folding and using string on fabric before lowering it into an indigo vat, it is not my preferred method. Instead I use my indigo vat to "over-dye" my silk pieces with beautiful and often unexpected results. (see the gorgeous greens in image above!)

Unlike other dyes, I do not use indigo as a "dye blanket" on silk, wool or cotton. I go through my already ecoprinted pieces and see which ones need sprucing up. Then I set up my indigo vat! Now article upon article has been written about making a dye vat but I like to keep it simple by picking up an easy to use indigo kit from Dharma Trading. The directions are easy to follow and the vat can be kept viable for several weeks.

Following the instructions that come with the Dharma kit, a 5 gallon bucket will become your indigo dye vat. I usually try to pick a warm day and work outside.

Indigo will develop a "bloom" on the surface and here it is being tested to see if it is ready.

The magic of indigo is to watch the green dye turn blue when it is exposed to oxygen. Here, using silk noil, the magic starts!

But nowadays I rarely dip blank fabric into an indigo vat. Instead I look through my racks of already ecoprinting silk pieces, dampen the ones I choose, then do a "quick dip" in the indigo vat depending on how dark I want the final piece. A strong vat of color can completely cover your ecoprint so initially a dip has to be quick or as the vat "exhausts."

On the left is a silk charmeuse kimono that is naturally ecoprinted with no additional dye added. On the right is a similar piece on silk charmeuse that I dipped into my indigo vat to give it some color!

Notice how the maple leaves pop? (same ones used in both original pieces) The blue in the indigo when combined with yellows within the already ecoprinted piece will bring out unexpected greens and coppers that literally shine in the sun! Oak leaves tend to glow after a dip as well.

An overdyed silk scarf

Another overdyed silk charmeuse with the indigo vat at the end of its cycle. Note the red sumac berries that continue to pop!

Previously ecoprinted SIlk Noil. Do a quick dip and dunk to avoid getting your piece too dark. You can continue to dip as needed. Often, I find it is a one time dunk!

Overdyed silk noil turned into a dress. The antique lace was also dyed directly in the vat.

Previously ecoprinted silk scarves that I decided needed a little enhancement from the indigo vat! No two are alike, my clients love them. Shown here drying on the line.

So regardless of what your preference with indigo has been, the next time you or a friend make up a vat, grab a few of those already ecoprinted pieces and watch the magic continue!

Until next time!

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