I have been dying to take an indigo dye class from Connie for quite some time but every time she had one, I had something else get in the way. What was a girl to do? Especially after she moves a few hours west.
This past weekend was CHT Art Camp. it becomes a busy weekend with arriving at the 4H center in Brownwood, Texas Friday afternoon and not stopping till you get home Monday afternoon. And guess what was one of the workshops? Connie and indigo dyeing. Two days of dyeing. Was I ever excited. Signed up. Even got a scholarship from CHT for the workshop so now have several “pass it on” projects in the works.
We began with a talk on indigo dye and getting the dye bath going. Ohhhhh, that lovely blue mess in a bucket. And yes, we even got to smell it. I would have thought that without the one old ingredient being used any more, it wouldn’t smell so much. But I guess even the cleaner chemical version still has that smell that lets you know why dyers lived on the outskirts of towns in history.
We first dunked in our butcher’s twine to get our feet wet. I think I only did one dip with this as I was still feeling my way along in the whole process. (maybe a bit too excited as well to think clearly) So with indigo you don’t let it just soak and soak to get deeper color. You have to dunk your fiber and wait about 5 minutes, then take it out and let it oxidize for at least 15 minutes or more and then keep on dunking till it is darker than you want as when it dries it will be lighter in color than the wet look.
My next attempt was at pole wrapping. For this we had two different sizes of PVC pipe that you wrapped you cloth around. Then you took twine and wrapped it around and around and around and around and … with after every few times scruntching it up to the top till it was all wrapped and scrunched up tight. Then you dunked it in the bath. Again I think this was only dunked once though maybe twice. Actually maybe more but I can’t remember. When I unwrapped it I wasn’t too happy with it as it didn’t look like some of the others (who had more experience dyeing than myself). No distinct lines but fading in and out. But then another classmate, who has been to Japan and played with indigo there, came by and said she liked it. It had a very Japanese zen quality about it. Amazing how a word can change your feelings about a piece. Maybe it wasn’t so ugly after all.
So then I took a long strip and tried another idea. Once again somewhat copying what I’d seen another classmate do. I folded this piece in fourths down the length and then in the middle folded it so that their were six sections that had triangles clamped over it. Then the two ends I flag folded. The folds were such that the two outside edges were outside in the bath. Hence darker color there. I did like this piece though it should have been in the bath a few more times. But then tomorrow will come and it will fall down in the list of favorites.
After that I lead the way in another suggestion. Using painter’s tape for a resist on a cloth. I chose my canvas piece and put tape on both sides working hard at lining it up. It only got one bath as some of the tape started coming off. But all in all an interesting idea. Not a favorite but interesting. Alas, the others who followed suit had stunning pieces. But you have to have the one that leads the way so the others can improve on it.
This was not the end of the journey. In fact this was barely the beginning. Connie gave us packs of different cloths to dye. Nothing fancy as she wanted us to experiement and have fun. If we had, say a scarf, then we would be worried about ruining the scarf and may not go as far as we would if we didn’t think of the piece as a special item. Needless to say we did experiment, and I ended the first day starting my first sewn piece. But that is for another time. Also we had good surprises the second day. A three for one on our workshop. That will come hopefully tomorrow.