This past Saturday was a very special day. A lovely gathering of specials ladies came to the island to participate with me in the first indigo harvest of the year. My mom Karen one of her best friends and my childhood neighbor and my second home, Elaine. Shannon, my younger sister, and Kasey one of my closest friends. Kasey drove down from Northern Maine the night before to spend a whole weekend we me. I felt especially blessed and just so lucky to have such wonderful visitors. They all left their routines and families to come spend the day to extract color from leaves in a very mysterious and magical way.
We had a very specific agenda. And that was to harvest my first batch of indigo leaves. Back in very early June, I was still in Ireland on my honeymoon. With the help of two sweet ladies, these indigo plants made their way from the fiber frolic with the help of my mom and then made it into the ground with the help of our friend Judith who was staying at our house at the time.
I waited to just when I thought they'd be perfectly ready for harvest. Not too late and not too early. Once we were all present we waisted no time in clipping away. We cut the stalks a few inches from the ground.
Then we stripped them from the stalks and put them into a pot. We poured 2 gallons of water over them.
I then put in a pot, creating a double boiler effect on my stove inside, I let the temperature climb very slowly for an hour to 160 F.
The leaves where in two gallons of water. I added two ounces of ammonia. We all took turns passing the liquid back and forth between two pots to incorporate oxygen. Immediately the water was turning blue brown and then more blue and foamy.
I then popped it back on the stove and added a teaspoon of spectralite. Also known an rite color remover. I needed to get the temperature to 130 F. And I needed the color of the bath to go from blue to yellow green. This spectralite does something to the bath. I don't know what exactly (I was awful at science) but it reduces the oxygen. When it turned yellow green, and smelled like grass, I knew it would be ready.
I brought it outside and we dipped various small items in that had been soaking in plain water.
They gave a lovely color!!! The yarn on the bottom edge was a soft pale lavender. It turned a lovely pale blue!
However, as we continued to dip our items in, I was worrying more and more about our color. It was fading and it felt like something was wrong. I put the pot back on the stove thinking the temperature dropped. I tried to baby it and pay attention but nothing more was happening.
Did I not add enough of something? Where there not enough leaves? What was I missing? Did I just need to keep dipping? I'm not sure. So to supplement I got my indigo powered pigment vat from the basement and woke it up. I hadn't used it in a month and it was still great! Heavy results too.
I let everything dry over night outside and was about to rinse everything by hand under the faucet in the kitchen when it occurred to me..... Put it in the washer!!! It's not wool or yarn, it will be fine. I thought maybe I would have to wipe out the inside of the washer afterwards or run the clothes through 3 times to set the dye but I didn't.
The all turned out beautifully the first time. And the inside of my washer was perfectly clean. No blue!
My mom's shibori dyed tank.
Now, I'm going to go play with my indigo leaves vat and see if I can remedy anything.