Category Archives: indigo dyeing

Learning Curve Continues

Woven Shibori scarf, dyed June 8, 2013.

In early June two more scarves on an 8 shaft Monk’s Belt threading were woven, along with a sample of each treadling.  This past Saturday, the scarves and samples were indigo dyed in “watered down” indigo vats, attempting to achieve lighter shades. 

The scarf above came out light/medium shade; the matching sample (below) was dipped in the vat twice to get a bit darker shade.  After dyeing, the scarves and samples were rinsed as well as can be done with gathering threads still in, put in lingerie bags so any remaining water was spun out in the washer (no rinse), and hung to dry on a wood rack outside on the porch.  That evening, I sat down and started clipping and removing the gathering threads, anxious to see the results.

A closer look at the border of this scarf.

Detail of the border, tracking visible.

After the gathering threads were removed, they were rinsed again several times until the water ran clear, and again, water was spun out so they would dry a bit faster.  Normally I would start pressing them while still a bit damp, but they had dried overnight so the next morning they were misted both sides; the iron was set on cotton with highest steam setting.  It takes more than one pressing to get the wrinkles out of cottolin. 

While pressing the first time I noticed what appears to be tracking, something I was not expecting.  I’ve had tracking happen twice, once with Harrisville wool singles, another time on a towel with cottolin warp and cotton weft (which gave a couple short diagonal lines.  I’ve woven many cottolin towels, plain weave and twill, and never had tracking occur.  A third steam pressing this afternoon helped a bit, but the tracking seems to be here to stay, and actually, I like the textured look it is giving to the borders.  The tracking is not on the plain weave hems and plain blue areas, only the woven shibori borders.

Additional note:  I just looked at the first scarf and samples.  Tracking does not appear on the samples woven on the twill threading, but there is tracking on the first Monk’s Belt warp, on the dark indigo scarf and the samples, just not as visible because they were dyed darker shades of indigo.

Unfortunately, the photos, taken outdoors in good light but not direct sunlight, appear in the photos as medium and light blue, but the borders are actually medium blue on bleached (white) Swedish cottolin.  Setting up a place and learning how to better photograph my work is fast moving up on my priority list.

Sample for notebook, dipped in dye bath two times.

Back of the above sample.

Another woven shibori scarf, also dyed June 8th.

This scarf above was dyed in a more diluted indigo dyebath, coming out quite a light blue, and unevenly dyed, exactly the effect I was going for.  I had done a little marketing research, showing the scarf in the previous post and a few samples to two women I know.  They liked them all, and asked if I would have any lighter color scarves, to wear with stonewashed jeans in summer.  

These two scarves were my first attempts to get the lighter, “stonewashed denim” look  in woven shibori scarves.  These two scarves were shown to the same women yesterday, and they wanted to know when I would bring some in for them to choose from.  I think I’m on the right track!

Border area of this second scarf.

In the border photo above, you can see how the tracking seems to add great texture to those areas of the scarf.

Detail, to show the “tracking.”
Sample for notebook, dipped in dye bath twice.

Back of this sample.

Because of how the gathers happen on this Monk’s Belt threading, the bolder color and design side is really the “back” side of the fabric as it is being woven.  The “back” side of the scarves and samples have lighter indigo color and more delicate design, and are actually the “right” side of the woven fabric. 

All were hand-hemmed, and I chose to have the bolder, brighter indigo sides to be the right side of the fabric, but could just as easily have had the more delicate design side by the “right” side. 

Now, I am thinking of other ways of finishing hems.  Hand-hem, hemstitched, knotted, and others.  What I am trying to keep in mind is how the particular thread looks after repeated washings, even hand washing.  Cottolin, after repeated washing can get a little ratty looking on the ends of the threads, something I want to avoid.  So now, I must delve into my weaving/fiber library and find options that will stand up to wear and care.

There is now a finer warp on the loom, 16/2 Swedish cotton, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next scarves turn out! 

And all this blue, I’m thinking I’d better warp up another loom with some color and different technique or structure for a little variety for all of us!

Sampling Becoming Routine

Woven shibori sample on Monk’s Belt threading.

In over 32 years of weaving, I’ve never been one to do much sampling, but oh, how that has changed with woven shibori.  Perhaps with a lot more experience, I’ll be able to take a weave structure and have an idea of how it might turn out when woven using this technique, but right now it is so new to me that samples are becoming a way of life.  They will also be a very useful record of threading/treadling/probable results, aware that the dyeing results are also a bit of an unknown.  As in the sample above, the samples are being hand-hemmed and placed with record sheets in a notebook.  In addition, I can do samples first, decide which results I like, then weave the full-size pieces using those threading/treadling/spacing notes.  The results won’t be exactly the same due to the dyeing process as well as minor differences when gathering and tying, but overall, you have a good idea of what the final result might be.

Another sample on Monk’s Belt threading.

Each sample was treadled differently and had varying numbers of rows of plain weave between pattern rows.  Pattern rows are gathered and tied, in this case Monk’s Belt, so the closer together those rows are, the less dye is able to get between the gathered folds or pleats.  Pattern rows further apart allow more dye in.  So by varying the number of plain weave rows between each pattern row, you can have a bit of control in how light or dark a piece is (also keeping in mind the strength of the indigo you are using). 

Another sample on Monk’s Belt threading.

The second time indigo dyeing, I wanted to try to obtain lighter shades, as in this sample.  The original vat results were very dark, so after watching a video clip by Glennis Dolce, in which she was taking measured amount(s) from the original vat and adding to water to obtain lighter shades, I followed those same directions.  Taking 250 ml. from the original vat and adding it to 1000 ml. gave a result not too different from the original dark vat.  I then took another container and added 250 ml. from the original vat to 2000 ml. of water, which gave me a lighter shade of indigo.  Experimenting with these ratios and keeping careful notes is an area I will be continuing to explore, so when I have a particular shade in mind for a particular piece, I will have a good idea of how to achieve it, keeping the many variables in mind.

Woven shibori on twill threading.

This twill sample was dipped into the lightest indigo vat.

Another twill threading sample.

Monk’s Belt threading.

This sample had a one inch or so “gap” between pattern thread areas, allowing more dye to be absorbed, giving a “stripe” across the middle. 

Border scarf on Monk’s Belt threading.

The scarf was on the Monk’s Belt threading, and dipped twice into the dark (original) vat, and like the samples, finishing included hand-hemming.

I am busy weaving more scarves, and a sample of the treadling for each, to add to the notebook.  This Friday, after beaming a new warp, a friend and I will be at the indigo dyepots, so results should be on this blog next week, after everything has had time to dry, be hemmed, pressed, and photographed.

(Note, these photographs were taken outdoors on the lakeside porch, late afternoon, and as soon as I started clouds rolled in, so colors in the photos are not as “bright” as they really are.)

Baby (left) and Mom (right) porcupines.

Yes, they continue to return most nights, some days.  Discouraging them has not been successful.  Using a hot pepper sauce was suggested, but I hate the idea of doing that to the young one especially. 

Porcupine damage.

 can live with their chewing on the old salt lick wood stand out on the red pine, but I do object when they are chewing on my home.  This doorsill at entry to my home will need to be replaced, but I’m waiting until they stop visiting.  For now, there is a piece of metal hardware screening laid over the board, a piece of landscape timber holding it in place, and a rock in place to keep them from dislodging it.  After the board is replaced, it will be well-stained in hopes they won’t like the “taste.”  Sometimes life in the WI Northwoods can have its challenges!

Indigo Days

Woven shibori samples, Monk’s Belt threading.

My second time indigo dyeing included 3+ PFD cotton swatches, nine woven shibori samples (Twill, and Monk’s Belt), and one woven shibori scarf (border area of Monk’s Belt).  I’m using the cotton swatches basically to test color before dipping the handwoven pieces.  

This was my first attempt at achieving shades of indigo (photo above), and had some success and look forward to trying for more (and keeping accurate notes).

Scarf with woven shibori borders.

The last piece dyed this day was my first woven shibori scarf, woven to have a border at each end, and solid blue in-between.  After the first dip, I could see a couple areas where the dye he not penetrated through the cottolin threads, so it was given a second dip, leaving it a very dark blue.  The samples and scarf were rinsed many, many times; after nearly dry they were pressed and hand-hemmed. 

I had hoped to have more scarves woven and be on the porch dyeing again, but have been sick the past four days.  While sitting here, thought perhaps tomorrow I could at least dye a bit more PFD cotton (I’ll do something with those swatches someday), but a check of weather revealed the high will be 44 F.  So, three or so days of weaving, then more indigo dyeing Friday through Monday when warmer and sunny.

My 5 gal. indigo vat is parked in my kitchen on my woodburning range (not in use at present), and even with a lid on, I can smell the contents.  Hoping to move it out to the porch soon, but need the nights to warm up more.  Now, I need to start gathering supplies and begin learning shibori techniques, as well as how to get various mottled, cracked, and other effects on the cotton (non-shibori).  There are 28 yards here to use for learning.   

After a last snow/sleet/ice storm late Mother’s Day night, spring has finally arrived in the WI Northwoods.  Forsythia are in bloom, the lilac has leaves, and my apple tree, too.  Perennial herbs are emerging.  And with windows open at night, I am treated to a symphony of spring peepers, the whippoorwill singing, an owl hooting, coyotes howling, and a couple other unknown nocturnal birds calling occasionally.  And of course, the loons on the lake call to each other during the night.

My yard has turned into a porcupine hangout!  A few nights ago, about midnight, through an open window, I heard a sound I’d heard before, and it suddenly dawned on me what it was,… porcupines chewing on wood.  On my wood sawhorses on the porch!  Last fall they had done this and I’d laid the sawhorses up on their sides up on a long table, but I’d set them down again so I could do my dyeing on the lakeside porch.  Well, what could I do but shout, stomp, and herd them toward the steps and off the porch, then moving buckets aside, hoist the sawhorses up out of their reach.  Sorry, no photo.  But,…

Baby porcupine on the ground, mom trying to climb.

On the afternoon I started to not feel well, I looked out to see a porcupine on the old salt lick (hasn’t had salt on it for perhaps 15 years).  I grabbed my phone/camera and went out, and discovered there was also a baby underneath it!  Mom, in an effort to distract me, immediately tried to climb, bumping her head on the “roof” of the structure, and quickly discovered she could get around it,…

Mama porcupine climbing high.

… and climb much higher.  I snapped a couple photos and went back inside.  Perhaps an hour later, I looked out again,…

Baby porcupine, turn its back to me and raising its quills.

… and the baby was on the empty salt lick, mom was still up the tree.   After a couple more photos, I left them alone.  

As I write this tonight, it is raining, and looking outside,… there is a porcupine on the salt lick.   

My nighttime reading, “A Different Kind of Luxury, Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance” by Andy Couturier (Stone Bridge Press).  The book profiles ten individuals living in old, mountainside homes, living simply, growing their food, practicing their arts, living intentional lives. 

Woven Shibori and First Indigo Dyeing

First attempt at indigo dyeing!

Perhaps four years ago or so I purchased “Woven Shibori,” by Catherine Ellis, and was fascinated by the both the technique and the results when dyed.  A year or so ago, I signed up for an online self-study class, “Let’s Dye with Indigo” by Glennis Dolce – Shibori Girl,  The class is set up with lessons on a blog, you work at your own pace, and there is also a student forum where you can post photos of your work, ask questions, and get answers.  I’d also picked up a couple books on the subject including “A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing” by Vivien Prideaux.  

Finally, a couple months ago I beamed an 8″ wide warp to weave samples, leaving it set up for the 10 shaft twill I had been weaving.  The warp and weft were Swedish 22/2 cottolin which I had on hand.  Needing something strong for the gathering threads, I used seine twine, having a couple partial tubes on my shelf.  I’ve never been able to break that  with my hands, so felt pretty sure it would not break during the gathering process.

The second cottolin warp was made 10″ in width, the loom was re-tied and threaded for Monk’s Belt, for a couple samples and two or three scarves.  Cottolin is not my first choice for scarves, but for experimenting with ideas, it is working fine.  I also expect as I go finer with threads, the results are going to change somewhat.

Not having a good indoor space for dyeing, and living where winter sometimes seems endless, I had to wait for decent weather to begin.  I finally set up yesterday for my first indigo dye attempt.

The outside temp was about 64 F., so I decided to set up on the lakeside porch and enjoy the sun and view (photo above).  I brought out all my supplies, and using the directions from Dharma Trading Co., mixed up my first indigo vat using Pre-Reduced Indigo, Thioureau Dioxide (Thiox), and Soda Ash.  (Follow the instructions carefully and use recommended safety precautions!) 

Pre-reduced indigo vat with “flower” forming on surface.

After mixing the vat, I waited a bit, expecting to see more “flower” on the top.  When that didn’t happen, I cut about 1/4 yard+ off a bolt of PFD cotton, cut it into thirds, and after soaking those pieces of cotton along with one woven shibori sample in water, wrung it out and lowered it into the vat.  Bringing it out, it was yellow-green, and as the indigo oxidized, turned a beautiful bright-dark indigo blue.  I dyed the other two cotton swatches, giving one a second dip for a darker navy color, then the woven shibori sample.  All were rinsed five times, and still blue was coming off in clear rinse water.

Woven shibori sample, tightly gathered, one dip in vat.

Freshly indigo dyed cotton swatches and woven shibori sample (on right).

I laid them over a drying rack, with plastic underneath to catch the drips, and let them start drying, later moving them inside over a floor heat vent.

Had I pulled the gathering threads tight enough on the woven shibori sample?  Did indigo penetrate all the way into those tight “pleats?”  Would I need to untie all the knots on those remaining samples and tighten those gathering threads even more?  I had to find out before dyeing the remaining nine samples and scarf. 

After cutting a few knots I started to gently open the pleats.

So mid-evening last night, I carefully clipped the tight knots along one edge of the sample.  I’d read the threads would not come out easily if the piece was still wet, which it was (not dripping wet, but not beginning to feel dry, either).  Now on this piece, I had started with four rows of plain weave between pattern (twill) rows, after a few inches had increased it to eight rows, and a few more inches later, increased to ten rows. 

Sample nearly half open, and changes visible.

In the area of four rows of plain weave and gathering threads close together, I could start to open it but it wasn’t easy.  I changed from small pointed scissors to a blunt needle to, thread by thread, ease the gathering threads out.  Further down, at eight rows of plain weave, the pleats opened easier, and at ten, easier yet.  Why had I woven the sample that way?  To see the effects of the indigo, to see what happened with the now elongated twill line, and to see what kind of effect the spacing of the gathering threads would have on how far in the indigo penetrated the pleats.

All gathering threads removed.

At four rows, you see the now steep twill line moving across the piece; at eight rows the movement has nearly stopped and there is a bit more light blue appearing; at 10 rows the vertical lines appear a bit wider and more blue penetrated into the pleats.

I rather like the few “irregularities” in it where short lines cross the long vertical lines.  I believe they are the result of a few areas where the pleats, when gathering, didn’t gather and line up exactly as all the rest, despite my attempts to fix them.   

So today, I will examine the other samples to see if I want to tighten anything up before dyeing them, particularly the Monk’s Belt, where the gathering threads are long floats with I believe ten rows of plain weave between each pattern row.  I expect, as in the  bottom of the above photo, more indigo will be work its way into the pleats. 

In a video in Lesson 1, Glennis demonstrates how to take amounts from the original vat, add to water, to get lighter shades of indigo, something I will also be experimenting with for these samples.  

I did notice on the plain weave on each end of this sample, with one dip, the indigo had not totally penetrated the threads, but I did not want it any darker.  Reducing the strength of color will allow me to dip the samples more than once.   

There is more warp to weave off, perhaps a couple scarves worth.  And now there are tubes of 16/2 Swedish cotton (from Glimakra USA) waiting, along with tubes of 20/2 cotton (from Lunatic Fringe), so a lot more weaving and dyeing coming up. It’s going to be a wonderful summer!

P.S.  Glennis Dolce is about to leave for Japan, leading a silk, indigo study tour, so if you contact her, please be patient!