I took a class today with Liesel Orend through Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center (EVFAC) about indigo. Liesel is an amazing natural dye master and a great teacher. I learned a lot about different kinds of indigo vats and thoroughly enjoyed the magic that is indigo. I even finally understood how to balance a vat and how to keep using it continually. I think I see an indigo vat in my future.
We did four different indigo dye vats: a soda/spectralite vat, a fermentation vat, a fresh plant (woad) vat, and an instant indigo vat. We started out picking woad in Liesel's dye garden. It is still very early in the season, and there wasn't much dye in those plants. We did it to see what we would get anyway.
Unfortunately my camera focused on the ground behind my hand, but this blurry yarn was the result of dying with the woad plant, a very light blue-green.
I think this is called the flower on the top of the indigo pot. I believe this was the fermentation vat. I liked the colors from this vat the best, but maintaining one is much more fussy! I doubt that I have the patience to maintain the temperature on the vat at all times, much less to wait a week after the bath is exhausted before I can use it again! Underneath this purple, the liquid is a grassy green.
Yarn coming out of the soda/spectralite bath.
Some of the yarn we dyed. People brought all kinds of fibers, some already dyed to overdye. I liked the results on good-quality wool and silk the best. Poor quality yarn (Clasgens anyone?) still looks bad once dyed in indigo.
I brought two skeins of Brown Sheep Worsted and a half pound skein of Harrisville singles. I dipped the Harrisville into the soda/spectralite vat three times. I did one skein of the Brown Sheep twice in the fermentation bath and the other once in the instant indigo bath. I will probably use the Brown Sheep yarn for a small knitting project. I liked the fermentation bath colors the best, but was also very pleased with the Harrisville. It dyed evenly and was quite dark. See the photo at the top of this post for those yarns.
A big thanks to Liesel for all her help, for sharing her beautiful studio and dye plants, and for answering my completely unrelated natural dye questions for an upcoming project. It was a stellar day.