For my birthday, Lieneke from Wolop offered to come make me an indigo dye vat. I’ve never dyed with indigo before! (I tried, once.)
Today she traversed the width of our country, from the far West to the furthest East, as a mobile one woman indigo dye show. She brought everything with her on the train: a dye pot, all the chemicals, scales, gloves, the indigo. I have a little stove for outdoor dyeing and there are sticks in the woods here for lifting the cloth out of the pot. And off we went!
We dyed on the veranda of the cabin. It rained most of the day. The smell was terrible! But holy moly, what magic! Lieneke knows what she’s doing and I’m in awe: indigo is a diva! The temperature needs to be juuuust right. The pot cannot have chips and cannot be iron. The indigo cannot be old. You cannot stir, you cannot swish. You have to move slow. But have to replace the lid fast. You can’t let your cloth drip in the bath. You have to show the fresh dyed cloth a lot of fresh air, fast. A million little things need to be done just right…
….and then you get the absolute right thing:
The results are spectacular!!! Colour by Lieneke, patterns by me.
I had never done shibori before, where you manipulate the fabric before you dye it. You fold it, you scrunch it, you tie it with string. There are many words for the different techniques. I surfed the web and found I have a preference for long, stripey patterns. So folding, pleating, stitching and clamping were the techniques I tried when I prepared the cloth in the last week.
Here are the pieces I prepared. Folding, pressing, twisting, tying, all in different sequence.
At the bottom is the last bit of stitching still in progress this afternoon: wood grain shibori/ mokume shibori.
Tightening the wood grain shibori:
I had purchased 4 meters of bleached linen. Washed it twice at 90 degrees (as hot as the washing machine goes). I cut it in pieces of 50 x 70 cm because that’s a good size for clothing pieces such as a skirt panel or the left front panel of a top. I plan to sew with it. Garments. Little project bags. Left overs in a quilt. (a what now?! sshh. Let’s pretend I didn’t write that.) I’ve kept one piece behind, still white, it will combine nicely.
This is the result of the carefully pleated, ironed cloth with all the little multi coloured clasps:
This is the result of the neatly pleated folds that were wound around a little piece of wood (a bamboo crochet hook). I had put a little bit of cling wrap around and tightened it with elastic band. This kept the main parts white and only the edges of the pleats received dye:
What is this magic of indigo anyway? It’s pale green in the pot and then you bring it out and it starts to breathe, in blue:
Amazing. And smelly.
How and why you need to charm indigo before it will act as a dye is nicely explained on the vlog of Dünkelgrun which is hosted by Anna who has an PhD in chemistry.
By the way, I’m a bit of a travelling one woman show myself. I arrived early at the train station this morning and got a bit more stitching done. Just started the “wood grain” stitch: Mokume shibori
As a first entry into the world of Shibori I found this tutorial from the smart women of Beyond Canvas superb: Beyond Canvas on shibori
So both pleating and stitching shibori give results I love best. Randomness within a grid.
Stitching is called Nui. Stitching next to a fold is called Orinui:
Itajimi is folding and clamping. I used some pieces of cardbord as a resist and just tied it with thin string, I didn’t have clamps that could grip it. Here you see how the top part printed, with the shape of the carton and the string:
Suji is pleating. And wood grain is mokume shibori.
There’s one other technique that I love but lacked the tools for today: pole wrapping. This is called Ashari Shibori.
I’m putting all the jargon in here so I can refer back to it next year, when I dye with indigo again. Because I surely will! This was such fun and the results are so beautiful! (I will have sewn this into garments before next year yeah? Yes. Definitely.) And then I’ll dye again. But not on my own. I prefer the guidance of an expert.
This is a wonderful birthday gift. With some highly original wrapping and a very sympathetic entertainer! 🙂