Japanese Indigo Dyeing Day at Merrily’s

Japanese Indigo Dyeing Day had arrived!  On the evening of August 21, Lynda and I each clipped the leaves from our 2 plants which we had carefully nurtured all summer from seeds gathered the year before.  These were placed in a covered glass jar.


The next morning, on Merrily’s deck, with gentle breezes blowing off the Strait, we assembled our equipment, notes and resources – primarily “A Dyer’s Garden” by Rita Buchanan and “Harvesting Color” by Rebecca Burgess.  Everything was ready to go…..then we discovered a major problem!!….our “Synthrapol” was NOT “Spectralite” which we very much needed for this process we had chosen!  After a mad flurry of activity and drive to Robert’s Creek, Heather very kindly came to our rescue with more than enough of the special ingredient.  Hugs to Heather!


Next step was to weigh our fibre.  Each of us prepared 5 ounces for our 1 pound of leaves.  I had 4 ounces of a soft unknown fleece and an ounce of mohair locks.  Lynda had white wool and a blend of wool and llama.


We each prepared a separate batch.  Lynda’s leaves were a little darker than mine and we were worried the lighter leaves would not produce a good colour.  (See results!)  Here we have filled our 4 quart jars with our pound of leaves and warm water and the jars were not quite floating in the pot of water which we brought to 170 degrees over 1½ hours.  We then left it another 1½ hours.


Once the liquid had turned a dark tea colour (Lynda’s dark leaves) and light tea (Merrily’s), we strained and squeezed out the leaves.  At this point we wet our fibre and divided it so eventually half would go into Merrily’s solution and half into Lynda’s.  Next we added 1 tablespoon of baking soda to each solution.


Then we poured the liquid from bucket to bucket for 6 minutes.  You can see the color is quite brown at the beginning!


We were quite excited when the indigo colour appeared.  But we needed to be patient as we had more to do before the colour would set.  First we added 2 plus tablespoons of Spectralite.  Next we heated the dye bath to 120 degrees.  Then we let the bath sit at this temperature for 20 minutes at which time the “light leaf” bath turned a bright yellow.  The “dark leaf” bath did not turn very yellow even after an hour.  We immersed our fibre at this point and let it sit another 20 minutes being very careful not to create any bubbles.


Voila!  When the fibre was lifted from the pot it immediately turned from bright yellow to gorgeous deep blue.  Quite magical!! We noted the “light leaf” solution produced the darker blue and the solution had turned yellow sooner.  Why?  Not sure.  Perhaps more Spectralite, fewer bubbles.


We hung our fibre from dye bath number 1 to dry, added more fibre for dye bath number 2, reheated, waited, removed and then hung to dry.


Exhausted, we retired to Lynda’s house for a yummy dinner and a well-deserved chilled bottle of sparkling wine!


We concluded the day by finishing off our notes and referring to our favorite resource book.


Next morning, I discovered there was some yellow solution still left so proceeded to continue heating, dipping and airing till there was barely any colour left in the pot.  My fibre became lighter and eventually quite green.  The mohair locks were lustrous shades from dark blue to aqua.


What a wondrous and fulfilling couple of days!  We can hardly wait till the indigo plants have produced their second harvest later in the fall so we can start all over.  Maybe someday I will have accumulated enough indigo fibre to knit a cozy sweater!

Merrily Corder

2 thoughts on “Japanese Indigo Dyeing Day at Merrily’s

  1. Lots of hard work (and fun I hope) I saw Lynda’s
    beautiful results. Looking forward to seeing them all spun up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *