I’m up in Covelo, where the three of us are studying katazome with John Marshall. But we’ve been doing a lot more than that! Since the katazome paste needs to cook for quite awhile, we spent a good chunk of yesterday playing with fresh indigo leaves from John’s back yard. (Luxury!)
Here is a photo of the indigo:
We helped John pick the indigo, two or three leaves from every plant, looking for the bluer leaves. Here are some of the picked indigo leaves:
Since we were going to dye some skeins of yarn, we presoaked the yarn in hot water with a bit of detergent, then started grinding the indigo leaves. Very cold water (John stores gallons and gallons in the refrigerator) and indigo leaves in a blender:
Then John strained the ground-up mixture through some fine-mesh fabric, into the dyebath bucket. Here’s the resulting dyebath:
Next we entered the wetted out skeins of silk:
You can see the ice floating in the water – this dyebath works best when very, very cold. The skeins are placed around a wooden dowel and rotated more or less continuously to ensure even dyeing all the way around the skein.
(No pix of the skeins yet: they weren’t quite dry when we left for the day, so photos will come tomorrow.)
After grinding and straining the fresh indigo, there was some coarse stuff left over. Not to waste an opportunity, John showed us how to apply ground-up fresh indigo to a piece of cloth. He put down plastic stencils on some silk cloth (sorry, I know they’re barely visible):
Next he put on the indigo-leaf paste, pressing it down with a wooden rolling pin to make sure it came well into contact with the cloth:
We left it there for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, we removed the ground-up indigo and rinsed out the cloth:
Of course this was just a quick sample, but the method definitely has promise, if only to use up leftovers. Note the interesting texture from the coarsely ground indigo!
There is also a definite green tinge to the finished cloth. John explained that fresh indigo used this way produces a distinctly turquoise color, as opposed to the navy/slightly greyish blue from a conventional indigo vat.
Next we did rubbings with fresh indigo leaves. John had a collection of carved wooden stamps to make rubbings with, but I fell in love with this Indonesian copper tjap:
These are actually meant for batik, but I think they’re beautiful in their own right. I actually own a few, even though I’ve never really figured out how to use them with wax on cloth. I get blurry images, very frustrating. But they’re so beautiful that I occasionally buy more.
Anyway, I loved the pattern, so I stretched some silk in an embroidery hoop (as John advised) and rubbed across the tjap with a wad of fresh indigo leaves:
Then we dipped them in the fresh indigo vat to add a little color to the background. I don’t have a photo of my finished piece yet – I decided I wanted a mottled look, so I scrunched up the silk a la low-water immersion dyeing, bound it tightly, and dumped it into the dyebath. At the end of the day it still looked a little pale to me, so I left it in the dyebath overnight. Pictures tomorrow!
Of course, I won’t have access to fresh indigo unless I grow my own, but it was still fascinating to see it in action, since the traditional indigo vat is much more common. John does traditional indigo as well, drying the indigo for later use:
And here’s an entire bin of dried indigo leaves!
Finally, John showed us some gorgeous samples of silk dyed with fresh indigo:
And here are some yarns dyed with various indigo processes (traditional vat, thiourea dioxide vat, fresh indigo). The only one that isn’t pure indigo is the forest green one in lower right, which was dyed over onion skins:
I thought it was fascinating to see all the colors of indigo! I had always associated it with, well, indigo blue, but there was a much wider assortment of colors that I had expected.
In katazome-land, we also made katazome paste – three kinds: traditional rice paste + finely ground defatted rice bran, pure rice paste, and rice paste with coarsely ground rice bran of the sort you could find in a health food store. John explained to us that the last seller of the traditionally used rice bran had closed shop and retired, and no alternative was available yet. (Yikes!) Thus the experiments with alternatives.
We have now selected our fabrics for pasting up – I chose a textured silk crepe. From my experience with screen printing, I was a bit worried that the texture would interfere with applying the paste and the dyes, but John explained that the stenciling process produced a thicker layer, so it wouldn’t interfere even with fine lines.
We’ve also chosen stencils – no small task with John’s amazing array of 3000+ stencils! I picked a complex repeating pattern (which, unfortunately, I didn’t think to photograph) because I wanted to learn how to do repeats. John advised me not to try for too many repeats, because I wanted to play with painting on pigments, which is a much slower process than the indigo vat Alfred and Carrie planned to use. So I will be doing three repeats of just that one stencil.
I would love to try the same stencil on different textures of fabric and also on non-silk fibers, but there won’t be time for that, so I figure I can do that at home. I could have done three different stencils, which would have been lovely (John carves the most amazing stencils!), but I figured learning how to stencil repeats was much more important than having three pretty stencil patterns to take home. (My general attitude towards classes is that I’m here to learn, not to bring home something pretty. Hence the choice of a repeating stencil over getting three different pieces.)
It’s almost breakfast time, so I’ll break here – more tomorrow!
Thanks, Tien, for posting. I have always wondered how to achieve turquoise with natural dyes. The color is gorgeous!
Louise Yale says
Just to clarify…the elegant, pale shades are just ground fresh leaves, iced, nothing else??
Are these fresh indigo colors fast?