art, dyeing, Nature printing

Natural indigo dyepot experiment and leaf prints on photo paper

I decided to try my hand at dyeing with natural indigo powder this weekend since I missed my weeklong workshop at Arrowmont where I would have dyed with a fresh (fermented) indigo vat. Following instructions on the Dharma Trading website, I soaked the natural indigo powder overnight and ground it in a blender. I added soda ash because I’m not interested in playing with lye. I used all the thiourea dioxide I had and tried my best to introduce as little oxygen as possible to the pot, but I still had a deep blue dyebath. I decided that I might as well try it anyway.

It did not work at all – the dye oxidized in the pot and it all washed out of the skeins. There could have been several reasons I couldn’t keep the extra oxygen out of the pot, one is that our tap water has been cloudy for the past few days. However, I did learn from the experience. I won’t even try to dye in a deep blue indigo vat again – it was a waste of time having to wash out all the skeins and equipment. The good thing is that the skeins are ready to be mordanted and dyed in another dyepot.

Because I am eager to start on my new tapestry, I’m going to use my Procion dyes. I know how to use them. Later I will try again with pre-reduced indigo crystals.

Since I am not to let a hot pot of old dye go to waste, I boiled a bundle of glossy photo papers layered with leaves and bound between ceramic tiles at the bottom of what was left in the indigo solution and got some great results. I learned this method from Marilyn Stephens at Interlaced-Textile Arts. I would not have considered using this photo paper for plant prints, but it was bought long ago and gathering dust and probably would not have ever been used. These are all plants that I pass on my walk to work twice a day. I’m not sure whether the indigo will rub off the paper or not, but here are the photos.

1 thought on “Natural indigo dyepot experiment and leaf prints on photo paper”

  1. Love the soft, soft colors, like watercolor. Looking at leaves as you walk with this in mind seems like being on a treasure hunt. Very neat.


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