Before You Try Indigo Dyeing, Read This!

Taking the first step into the world of indigo dyeing can be really intimidating. I remember feeling so much anxiety the first time I tried dyeing something; there was so much I didn’t know. If you’ve never tried indigo dyeing, you’re in luck—we have some tips and tricks for working with dye that come straight from the experts: some of our designers from Interweave Crochet Summer 2018 and the folks at Jacquard! Read on for their tips on dyeing.

indigo dyeing

Tips from Brenda K. B. Anderson, designer of the Ombré Nesting Baskets

• Use a soda ash dye fixer (without this, your dye will wash out).

• When dyeing fabric, you usually stir your dyebath to keep white spots from appearing, but stirring may cause splashing, which you will want to avoid if you are making these ombré containers.

• Using warm water (straight out of the tap) will give you a stronger color in less time than cold water; if you cannot use warm water, the dye will still activate in colder water, but you may need to add a little bit of time to each dyebath.

• Any tool used in the dye process should never be used again in the kitchen. Don’t make homebrew in the 5-gallon bucket that you used to dye these baskets, even if you clean up your very very best.

• Cover your workspace with old towels or layers of newspaper. Some dyers use a spray bottle to wet the towels or newspapers so that if dry dye particles land on it, they will stick and not float back up into the air. Have an extra old towel ready nearby in case of spillage. You may clean up spilled dye with household cleaners, including bleach.

indigo dyeing

Tips from Maria O’Keefe, designer of the Shibori Pillow

• If you’re using a 100% cotton yarn, you will have to prewash the completed motifs, back panels, and extra yarn (for sewing the completed pieces together) before dyeing to remove oils left from manufacturing that might inhibit the fiber from accepting dye. Use a neutral pH detergent with no fabric softeners. . Once washed, let dry thoroughly before applying any Shibori resist techniques.

• The indigo dye will get all over your house and you. It really, really will. Don’t wear anything that you don’t mind accidentally dyeing blue. If you spill some of the powder, wipe it up immediately with something wet and throw it in the trash.

• You might consider wearing a disposable respirator mask when opening the powdered packets from the Indigo Kit before mixing them with water.. Also, any utensil you use with dyeing can never be used again for food purposes, ever.

• Reintroducing oxygen to the dyebath is not a good thing. When the vat is not in use, cover it. When introducing an object into the dyebath, introduce it slowly. No splashing! When removing the dyed object, remove it slowly and keep the drips to a minimum because they add oxygen to the dyebath.

indigo dyeing

Tips from Jacquard Products

• Once the bath is exhausted (too much oxygen has been introduced), you can refresh it for more dyeing with Color Remover (Sodium Hydrosulfite).

• Indigo doesn’t get darker the longer it is left in the dye bath; it gets darker every time you dip and allow the dye to oxidize to blue.

• Elmer’s washable school glue can be used as an easy resist technique: draw or write with the glue, allow it to dry, and then do a single or double dip. Wherever the glue is will remain white. When it is rinsed, all the glue will come out.

• 100% cotton is best for indigo dyeing, but any natural fabric will work.

• You can make sure the indigo is completely oxidized by letting the wet fabric dry completely before rinsing.

• Avoid spots by keeping the fabric from touching the bottom of the bucket.

• Sometimes the indigo bath will bleach out color fabric and replace that color with Indigo. Try colored fabrics for cool effects.

Feeling inspired to try your hand at indigo dyeing? Give it a go with the Ombré Nesting Baskets, the Shibori Pillow, or the Blue-on-Blue Sweater from Interweave Crochet Summer 2018.

Happy Dyeing!
The Interweave Team

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