P.S. to the indigo/lime/fructose vat

I have now experimented with a stronger vat, this time using 2 teaspoons indigo, 4 teaspoons calcium hydroxide and 6 teaspoons fructose – that is, double the quantities used in my first vat.

I dyed the same quantities of fibres following the same methods but the depth of blue I achieved was no deeper than from the first, weaker, vat. This would indicate that this vat gives pale to mid blues but not the deep blues which other indigo dyeing methods give. I wonder whether this vat may be best used for patterning fabrics employing resist techniques, rather than for dyeing skeins of fibre as I tend mainly to do. I also noticed that this vat left the wool feeling rather harsh. However, I didn’t use a vinegar after-bath, which might have been advisable to counteract the effects of the strong alkalinity of this vat. (I never usually use a vinegar after-bath, so I’m afraid it didn’t occur to me to do so after this vat.)

If anyone else has any comments to add on using this type of indigo vat, I’d be delighted to receive them.

12 replies
  1. Diane
    Diane says:

    I am surprised the wool made it intact given the high ph.   I would have expected it to be destroyed.  Soaking it in vinegar will help.  Also using hide glue to protect it in the vat will help.  It also helps with these vats to let them sit at least overnight.  I am not sure all of the indigo is dissolving in the relatively short time you have said you let the mixture sit.    I have been able to get darker colors than this.

    • Jenny Dean
      Jenny Dean says:

      Thanks for this comment, Diane. I’ll try to remember the vinegar rinse next time I’m using this vat with wool & the hide glue is a good idea, too. I did use this vat over three days, so after using it on the first day I allowed it to sit overnight before trying it again. I then left it overnight again before I re-used it, so I feel I left enough time for most of the indigo to dissolve. When I finally discarded the vat, I felt I was throwing away quite a lot of unreduced indigo. I clearly need to continue experimenting with this vat!

    • Jenny Dean
      Jenny Dean says:

      Yes, that is of course true with most vats. However, repeated dips didn’t seem to make much difference in depth of colour with the lime/fructose vat – or at least not in my experiments. Some fibres were dipped 4 times but the depth of colour didn’t change, once a mid blue (as shown) had been reached. The same occurred when the vat had been left to “mature” for a few hours and then overnight.

  2. froukje
    froukje says:

    I got the same pale colour as you did, also after repeated dips. I bought M.G.'s dvd last year and I think he mentioned that a strong bath gives dark blues without the need for repetition. And also that it prevents crocking, because you only dip once. But it's been a while since I saw the dvd so I just did the 1:2:3 with one teaspoon of indigo.  
    My fiber was a blend of merino and bamboo. It did get harsher, but I also dyed some mohair curls and that stayed as soft and shiny as it went in. I guess it maybe depends on the kind of fiber as well. Although so far it doesn't  give a dark blue, it is still blue and different  from the fresh japanese indigo method, which I love best on fabric. I put a picture on my Flickrpage 

  3. Ulrike
    Ulrike says:

    I had another go at the lime-fructose vat today and dyed a gradation sampler with cotton. Lo and behold there was a gradation, even if the beginning was rather pale. I just mixed a vat with 10g and about 10 l water. And I will try a stronger vat tomorrow and will see if a deepening of the colour is also possible on wool. When you have a look at my blog you will see that the deepest blue after 10 dips was about the same intensity as the 4th or 5th dip of the control sampler with a pre-reduced vat. There is still a lot to experiment.

  4. Glennis
    Glennis says:

    My experience is similar to ulrike's.  Similar gradations, definitely a lighter vat. There is a place for this vat in my indigo toolbox. 

  5. Jane Suffield
    Jane Suffield says:

    I attended Michel's workshop in Hong Kong last year and he used some Chinese indigo from the Miao people.  It produced a very deep blue in the 123 vat.  I have since tried with indigo available in Australia and have obtained mid-blues like the other comments.  I suspect it depends on which type of indigo is used and the production method.  I think the indigo I have is from India, so different environment, which may affect the colour.  So many variables, but fascinating nevertheless.  It's great to hear about such interest in this method.

  6. Joan
    Joan says:

    Hi  I would like to eliminate the use of a chemical mordant – do oak leaves and bark work for logwood and other common natural dye extracts?  How do you mordant with them?

    • Jenny Dean
      Jenny Dean says:

      Tannin, from whatever source, is not suitable as a mordant for all dyes & only experimentation will tell you which dyes it works with. In my experience it doesn’t give good results with logwood.
      You will find details for using tannin as a mordant in my blog post on “Anglo-Saxon mordants” & in my book “Colours from Nature”.

  7. Stephanie Edwards
    Stephanie Edwards says:

    Re accessing sources of slaked lime does anyone have experience of using 'lime putty' as an alternative?
    None of the builders merchants near me stock slaked lime but a specialist conservation builders says they use lime putty as a more stable substitute to meet with specialist standards and could supply me with the same.
    Do you think its worth it or just buy on the net as you did Jenny?

    • Jenny Dean
      Jenny Dean says:

      I doubt whether lime putty would work. Try it if you like but I’d advise you to get slaked lime via the internet. That way you won’t be wasting time & money on something that may not work.

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