Dye dangerously with indigo

Dagmar Klos lifts just-dyed cloth from an indigo vat. Photo courtesy of Dagmar Klos.

Choose Your Own (Color) Adventure

One of my favorite parts of editing Interweave's spinning, dyeing, and fiber eMags is working for Linda Ligon. Linda had the great idea to start Interweave decades ago and has had lots more since then. If you've read her posts on Spinning Daily, then you probably know that Linda looks at the world in a unique way.

Indigo In Depth
The new issue of Colorways includes an in-depth look at indigo, from growing the dye material to creating an indigo vat at home to the textiles that artisans have been making with indigo for centuries. Natural dye expert Dagmar Klos offers directions on how to make an indigo vat using natural fermentation or chemical reduction (which are provided in a handy PDF format, so you can print them out and keep them near the dye vat).

Linda mixing up Saxon blue (with plenty of protection).

Linda's Laboratory
But Linda had an idea for something that some might consider beyond the pale: she volunteered to research and write a piece on Saxon blue. Unlike the typical indigo vat (which is carefully treated through a natural or chemical process to remove oxygen), Saxon blue extract is made through a quick, exciting process. It requires 98% sulfuric acid, which we were allowed to buy only after demonstrating that we were upstanding citizens (and which I didn't even get close to). But Linda insisted, "It will be easy!" (That's often how adventures with Linda begin.)

Linda came into the office one Monday a few weeks later with a video of herself mixing the Saxon blue solution. In the video, she is dressed from head to toe in protective covering (including a full face mask) while her husband, a scientist, supervised and recorded. She measures out ingredients using a professional-quality balance and beakers and narrates as she mixes them. (At one point you can hear her husband admonish, "Slowly!" from behind the camera.)

When the Saxon blue extract was finished, the result was a jar of no-fuss concentrate. She showed me how simple it was to use: We added a syringeful of extract to a pot of simmering water, then immersed a few skeins of yarn. After about ten minutes, the yarn emerged a beautiful dark fast teal.

Yarn dyed with Saxon blue is surprisingly teal in color. Photo by Joe Coca.

Explore Colorways
I can't recommend making Saxon blue yourself, but I absolutely recommend reading about Linda's exploits in the new issue of Colorways. You can safely experiment with dyes from the grocery store using Cathy Bullington's recipes, and you can practice blending colors with a color wheel and drumcarder or overdyeing yarns and projects. Whether you prefer to experience color cautiously or dye dangerously, there's plenty to discover in Colorways.

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