Laurie subs in(digo), part 2

Note from Steph: Still no baby. I am beginning to think that Teresa is holding me personally responsible for it’s failure to appear.

In other news, this is Adam.


He is the photographer sent to take my picture for bookbookbook 3, and I haven’t made up my mind if I like him. On the one hand, he seems like a nice guy, polite, funny, competent and with my best interests at heart. On the other hand, he keeps taking my picture, which makes me self conscious, nervous and hostile. Today, assuming Teresa doesn’t free me by producing a child, Adam will photograph me and my knitting friends and comrades and we will likely scare the crap out of him while I hold the following against him.

1. He asked me to buy wool “another time” when he was trying to take my picture yesterday in the yarn shop. (he knows nothing of our ways.)

2. He is interfering (however sweetly) with book writing time.

3. He wishes that I had (get this) “bigger knitting”.

Dude. I have so much to teach him.

Over to That Laurie….

Indigo (Not-So) Blues

“Strain out and compost the leaves, pour the brown liquid into a bucket or other large non-reactive container. Add ammonia (buy the NON-sudsing kind) at the rate of 1 fluid oz/gallon of dye liquid to make the vat alkaline. . . . Now pour this liquid back and forth between 2 buckets for 5 minutes to get as much air into the vat as possible. The liquid will turn blue and a bit foamy.”

We left our intrepid heroines with their carefully shorn indigo leaves immersed and SLOWLY rising in temperature within the makeshift doubleboiler (well-used dye pot + circular cake-cooling rack + three gallon jars and there you are!). And we are very carefully using an old meat thermometer to make sure that the temperature in the jars reaches only 150-160 degrees F. Lots of patience for this step. We let it “steep” in this fashion for about an hour and a half, with the reward that the leaves became leached of their color and the water in which they were steeping achieved a vague blue tint when observed at an angle. By the time the water became a kind of dull brown, we figured that we had reached the proper point.

I will say, however, that I steeped the leaves a LOT longer for the second batch of leaves I did recently and got an awful lot darker indigo color from my “indigo vat.” Of course, the recent success may have something to do with the various problems we encountered the first time in trying to follow the instructions.

We discovered the following:

1) Two PhDs in Humanities type topics can have an unusual amount of trouble translating fluid ounces into the more easily measured tablespoons. 1 fluid ounce equals two tablespoons, so we put in three tablespoons for our gallon and a half of due liquid. Observe:


2) You can pour your fluid back and forth for an hour and it will NOT turn blue. Later we consulted with Rita Buchanan’s instructions in Spin-Off directly (“Grow your own colors: Plant a dye garden” SP87:35-40), and she indicates the color WOULD change, but the liquid might more likely be a dark blue-green. On BOTH dyeing occasions, I would say that the liquid was much more dark green than blue, and the foam was not blue AT ALL. This particular picture reveals the dark-greenness of things and explains the various contortions Kristen and I went through thereafter:


And here is a great picture of the more recent indigo dyeing session in which you will note that the liquid being poured is a nice dark green.


Kristen and I developed various theories – we are not scientists but we HAD done research. We thought one of two things might be wrong: 1) wrong PH or 2) heat too low since we had been pouring for about an hour rather than five minutes. The one possibility that did NOT occur to us was that we had, in fact, mixed enough air into the vat and the green liquid WAS the right color and was ready to go on to the next stage. There were hints that we should have thought of that possibility – after all, the plastic bucket was turning blue


However, we expected BLUE. So, we thought we had better check the temperature (it was low so we put the vat over a hotter water bath) and the PH. So off I go to the local pool store to buy PH strips, and I return –


Let the measuring begin:


Those PH strips are not as accurate as you would like. By now, it occurs to both of us that the original dyers who used this plant probably had no local pool store and must have been able to achieve their goal without all these machinations.

In short, we gave up and decided to try with the decidedly uninspiring vat we had achieved. What can I say? It was getting late, and we were getting tired.

Tomorrow – Mood Indigo