Japanese Indigo - That Irresistible Blue
They got off to a slow start in the cold and wet Icelandic spring, but once I figured out that I really shouldn't expect a summer and covered them with fleece, they took off and turned into a vigorous bunch.
I harvested them all at the same time in fall and dyed some Alpaca wool with the thought of giving it to my daughter who wanted to make a simple garter stitch shawl.
Here is the method I used. A tutorial of sorts.
|I cut the plants, stem and all and take them home.|
|I remove the leaves from the stems and chop them finely. I do this immediately after I get home. The leaves do not keep well and can not be dried.|
|I stuff the leaves into a jar and pour fresh water from the tap over the leaves. I put the jar in a pot - I always put a washcloth in the bottom of the pot - and heat it gently to 50°C / 120°F.|
|Then I sieve the liquid and squeeze out every last drop from the leaves. This time I actually felt that there was more colour left in the leaves, so I pout some more water on the leaves and heated them again. Just to be sure that I got every molecule of indigo into my dye liquid.|
|The resulting liquid was dark, dark blue. I was thrilled.|
|Then it is time for the stick blender to add air to the solution.|
This developes the indigo, although it is in an insoluble form.
So the next step is to make the indigo water soluble...
|...by adding hydrosulfite or spectrality or colour remover.|
I sprinkle about a teaspoonful over the surface and wait 30-45 minutes to see if the liquid turn to yellow. If not I add some more.
Here I had moved the dye liquid to a pot so that I could be sure to keep the right temperature.
I most often put the pot in another pot and heat that. This way I can control the temperature better.
|When the liquid turns a green yellow I can carefully add the wool while I am careful not to introduce any air into the solution.|
I am careful to have wetted the wool really well before. That means I let it sit in water at least an hour before I dye it.
And with wool and indigo, I make sure that the wool has been sitting in water that is the same temperature as the indigo solution (which is 50°C). I any air into the solution.
|I let it sit for 10-20 minutes to get a dark colour. Shorter time for a lighter colour.|
|Then I pull it up gently and watch the magic transformation.|
It very quickly turns a lovely turquoise colour, but that is short lived.
The colour soon developes into the indigo blue.
|I shake the wool to air it properly. Then I let it sit for at least the same amount of time that I let it sit in the solution to fully develop the colour.|
|And then I re dip the wool or put another skein into the dye liquid until all the colour is gone.|
The colour gets progressively lighter. But all of them beautiful.
It is very hard to get the japanese indigo to flower in the northern hempishere. But I still have one plant left that I took inside. It hasn't flowered, and I may just cut it down soon and dye from it.
It's such a lovely blue.