After my woad experiment in the summer, I intended to have another go with a different recipe. But the woad crop wasn’t good enough.
So now I’m trying with powdered indigo from Tamil Nadu. I’m using the 123 method, because not only is it more environmentally friendly, but also it doesn’t involve the cooker, which means there is a lower chance of smelling the house out.
The method is simple. 1 part indigo to 2 parts calcium hydroxide (lime, an alkali), and 3 parts fructose sugar, all mixed in warm water and combined. I’m amazed to read that sugar is one of the most acidic foodstuffs! Some people use a big bucket, but I used a big glass jar. Not only can you see what is going on, but also the narrower neck lessens the chance that extra oxygen will get in.
If you are thinking of giving it a try, it is important to hydrate the dye powder by shaking it in a lidded jar, with water and some pebbles first. If you don’t do this, you 90% of the colour is lost. It is also important to add powder to warm water at each stage, not the other way round.
The glass jar turned out to be a good move. The vat is supposed to separate out, so the sludge is at the bottom, with some reddish dye liquid above it, with a “bloom” of coppery blueish froth on the top. when I checked the following day, it looked just the same as when I mixed it, except the surface looked slightly bronze. I checked the instructions, and found that although it said leave it at room temperature, a bit later it said to keep it above 16°C. I had mixed it in the studio and left it in there overnight. On a frosty night in February, in a large room with a big window and one radiator.
So I moved it into the kitchen, where there is under floor heating. But of course, by now the liquid was cold, so it took time to get going again. But I got there. I tried 4 different tie dye techniques on scrap cotton, and two silk scarves. To act as a resist, I used a mixture of rubber bands, bulldog clips, and gathered stitching.
Here are the results!