Saturday, January 26, 2008

Indigo update...

Well, I checked the vat about an hour ago. There's copper colored, bubbly film on the surface. I thought this very strange because that's listed as one of the signs that the vat is ready to dye things. I stuck a string of cotton in, left it for a minute and pulled it out. And indeed, it appears to have dyed it. It was green and then very quickly turned blue. I rinsed it and the cotton is now a dark blue and the color won't wash out. Very strange.

So I did some research. It seems I got "Pre-Reduced Indigo" from EarthGuild (apparently, some people also call it "Instant Indigo" and soon you'll see why). The lady on the phone had told me it's the exact same thing as natural indigo, but it isn't. It works much faster and less indigo must be used, kinda like using "Ultra Concentrated Detergent" to wash your clothes. The same size bottle will often wash twice as many full loads of laundry... So I have a problem and a blessing. Blessing first: the indigo will only take about 10 minutes from mixing the chemicals to fermentation when normally it takes a week with natural, unreduced indigo. The problem, however, is that there is far too much indigo in my vat. It will stick and cake on fibers and rub off quickly. One set of instructions for working with pre-reduced indigo says to use 1 tablespoon of indigo per 5 - 6 gallons of water, but others say as little as 1 tablespoon of pre-reduced indigo to 1.5 gallons of water. yet others say 1 1/2 tablespoons to 3 - 5 Liters of water. Obviously, it not an exact science. Still, I have 4 tablespoons in my one gallon container. You can see how this is a problem.

Lucky for me, I have two 4-gallon dye pots. Not sure if the 8 gallons, plus one gallon glass crock will be enough, but I'm going to do the calculations and try.

So obviously, I need to transfer it to the larger pots, add more sugar, yeast, ammonia and water. And then see if it ferments properly again so that the indigo isn't so great in proportion to the other ingredients. It is, according to the sources, better to have a weak solution than a strong one, because items can be dipped more than once, but once a thing is dipped, nothing but time will remove the excess indigo. So. Tomorrow, I'll do some calculations and figure out how much ammonia, yeast and sugar needs to be added, and transfer what I've got mixed up into my large dyepots and fill up the excess room in the pots with warm water. Then I'll dye my scrap cotton that I turned a nasty brown/beige by boiling it in pokeberries two years ago, see how that does and take it from there.

None of the pre-reduced indigo instructions say anything about using the Yeast-Sugar-Ammonia fermentation method, but since apparently, the only difference between this stuff and natural indigo is its concentration and how fast it reacts, I don't see why it won't work. I'm just going to have a lot of this stuff that I need to exhaust. So if anybody I know out there has anything they'd like me to attempt to dye with indigo, fully aware that it might get completely screwed up in the process and results at this point are utterly unknown, now is the time to send it my way!

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