Dyeing with Japanese Indigo

This is the third summer that some members of our Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild have grown and dyed with Japanese indigo.  In mid-July five of us gathered together to dye using the vinegar method.  The indigo was growing in garbage pails with three plants per pail.  We cut the stems just above a node, leaving about two nodes below the cut.


We had an abundant harvest.


Next, we stripped the leaves from the stems.


Then we cut the leaves into pieces.


We covered the leaves with water and added 30 ml of pickling vinegar per litre of water.  We ate lunch while the chopped leaves soaked in this mix.


Next we used a hand blender to blend the leaves and vinegar/water mix into a bright green ‘soup’ which had an intensely rich chlorophyll smell.


We lined a strainer with a piece of silk chiffon, strained the ‘soup’ through it into a pot and then squeezed well to get the liquid out.  The pulp was mixed with more vinegar and water and strained into the pot.


We then added our fibres and fabrics to the pot.  One of the joys of Japanese indigo is that no mordanting is needed.  Some were left to soak for a couple of hours, others overnight.


And here are our results. Prince’s Icelandic fleece, a  55% linen and 45% cotton blouse which dyed a very light but lovely seafoam blue and handwoven silk chiffon which will be the backing for the nuno felted Icelandic fleece.


Raw silk fabric and 80% raw silk with 20% polyester fibre.


Local wool fleece.


Wool rovings, silk hankies around the outside, silk/alpaca blend in the centre, silk chiffon with silk fibre on the bottom right.


Heather Apple

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