Indigo Addendum

In which That Laurie does subtle experiments with another indigo vat and gives a bibliography for the inquisitive.

Here is the postscript to my indigo adventure of summer 2005. Since it started to get cool at night around here, I decided that it might be time for the last batch. Then, of course, we got a series of 80+ degree humid days which would have been wonderful for the plants – too late! This time I thought perhaps a more scientific approach might be of interest. I did a series of “dips.” The big skein is a “first dip” of twenty minutes in the dye vat. After that one, I used a series of 50-yard skeins of the same polwarth handspun. From left to right, following a pure white skein of the original yarn, you can see each successive immersion in the dye bath:


The gradations are interesting and distinctly different blues, I think. And they are different from the “first dip” 50-yard skein I did with the last vat. Below I offer a picture which includes all of blue array AND two skeins I dyed in cochineal – those two are pink:


The other BIG reason for this postscript is because I remembered that Stephanie’s blog readers include folks who really want bibliography. So here you go – lots of information about natural dyeing:

All Fiber Arts – website of fiber resources.

Anne Bliss. “Using Natural Dyes.” Spin-Off 8 (Fall 1984): 42-43.

Rita Buchanan. “Grow your own colors: Plant a dye garden” Spin-Off 11 (Spring 1987): 35-40. See also A Dyer’s Garden: From Plant to Pot Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers (Lovett, CO: Interweave Press, 1995.)

Elsie G. Davenport. Your Yarn Dyeing: A Book for Handweavers and Spinners. Pacific Grove, CA: Select Books, 1972.

Glenna Dean. “Indigo Dyeing: Nigeria Meets New Mexico.” Spin-Off 24 (Spring 2000): 80-86.

Dyeing Notes. The Prairie Fibers Co.

Victoria Finlay. Colour: Travels through the Paintbox. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002.

Elizabeth Hoppe and Ragnar Edberg. Carding, Spinning and Dyeing: An introduction to the traditional wool and flax crafts. Reinhold Craft Paperback.

Elizabeth Merrill. “Japanese Indigo Polygonum tinctorium”

Kimberly Packwood. Natural Dye Journal: Cochineal and Multiple Extractions.

Eunice Svinicki. Step by Step Spinning and Dyeing: A complete introduction to spinning and dyeing. New York: Golden Press, 1974.

Trudi Van Stralen. “Production Dyeing with Natural Dyes.” Spin-Off 10 (Spring 1988): 52-56

Note from Steph: I know that I probably don’t tell her this enough, because, really…how could you tell someone this enough, but I really appreciate the time, energy, thoughtfulness and clever ideas that That Laurie brings to this blog. I love guest bloggers.

Thanks Laurie.

I’ll see you tomorrow…or Monday. (It just occured to me that tomorrow could be complex. We shall see. In the meantime, me and these two Handmaiden skeins are getting on a plane.


Do you think New York and back is enough time to knit it into a scarf? (Weenies notwithstanding.)

42 thoughts on “Indigo Addendum

  1. I’d say its more dependent on how the TSA feels about your knitting needles than being left to the weenies of the world to stop you. Although I suppose the weenies could well have infiltrated airport security.

  2. I flew from Ottawa to Newark last weekend and the CATSA folks here and TSA folks there were not at all bothered by the knitting. I also found that the time in the airport before you leave is ideal for knitting (I was knitting lace and got lots done). The only person who asked about my knitting was a woman who was clearly relieved to hear you could bring it (seems she’s been reading instead for a while).
    So, yes, with 2 flights plus attendant waiting in airports, you should have most of a scarf by the time you return. And if you get there a bit earlier than required you might go through check in so fast that you have some really good uninterrupted knitting time in the departure lounge.

  3. Wow, terrific colours. I might have to change a bit the layout of my parent’s chalet garden to include dye plants. Thanks for the bibliography. very useful. just in time to add to the christmas list!

  4. Stephanie, your NYC fans want to know if you’ll be anywhere we can see you? or get a book autographed? Since we missed you at Rhinebeck and all….
    Wonderful feature about indigo, Laurie–thank you so much!

  5. That Laurie, thank you for your Adventures in Indigo Land! And Stephanie, I hope very soon to insert the phrase “weenies notwithstanding” into a conversation.

  6. To comment on yesterday’s indigo dyeing, the tendency of indigo to rub off is called crocking. I don’t think you can completely overcome this, but, if I remember correctly, the best answer is to do many short dips rather than fewer longer ones. Jeans are dyed with indigo, too, and remember how they lose color in areas where they get rubbed.
    I’m so glad you did the experiments with different dips, Laurie. It’s so cool!
    Happy dyeing!

  7. Thank you for showing us your indigo dying process, Laurie. You are a rockin’ guest blogger. I love the color of the cochineal skeins too.
    As for that luscious Handmaiden yarn, I think you can get a completed scarf done Steph…is it going to be for you?

  8. Thanks Laurie!
    Steph if you have a weenie hopefully you’ll get more than a picture of his socks, and may he be followed by someone helpful smelling like waffles.

  9. Wow laurie those skeins are amazing! Beautiful job. And Stephanie, a flight to NY and you want to know ifyou have enough time to knit a scarf?? The woman who practically finishes a sweater over night! Really do you need to ask? 🙂

  10. To New York? New York?
    Just a second while I check “where’s Harlot?”, because … she might … finally she might … maybe she …
    No, she’s not listed as coming to Nova Scotia yet.
    On the bright side: New York is closer to Nova Scotia than Toronto – I think. (Well N.S. is north-eastward from New York, and Toronto is to the west of Nova Scotia. And if you are geography-impaired like I am, “up” is closer than “across”.)
    Hope to see you here … sometime,

  11. I truly enjoy Laurie’s guest blogs. If The Harlot can’t be around, Laurie is a fine substitute! 🙂
    As for the scarf: I’ve watched you knit a sweater in under a week. A scarf in two days should be no problem, tassel-loafered weenies or no.

  12. Have fun in NY. Which of the two scarves are you making? I haven’t started mine yet coz the one I’m making my brother for Christmas has taken a turn for the never ending yarn sucking 2×2 rib on needles that aren’t my fastest kind of project. But he’s the only one in his family I haven’t knit for yet, so I really gotta.

  13. Oh, forgot to say Thanks Laurie for the great guest posts! Really interesting! I love that you included the colour variations for us, and from the length of that bibliography, you went to a whole lot of work on this experiment as well. My hat is off to you!

  14. “Weenies notwithstanding” – love that.
    Thanks Laurie, as always, outstanding job, love the colour variations.

  15. Laurie–Fabulous work with the indigo and cochineal pots. You’ve reminded me how much fun an indigo pot can be! You mentioned that you were looking for ideas for patterns for your treasures. Try, in addition to what is shown on her web site, she has a pattern for a slip stitch vest that looks very intricate, but is really simple to do. Patterns are available separately, in addition to her kits.

  16. Thanks Laurie for all the helpful info and experimentation.
    Steph – You should be able to get a scarf knit if you could stay faithful and not wonder into another yarn store and get something that you can’t wait. I think this might be the greater challenge then knitting the scarf.

  17. Hello!
    Another New York fan here who would love to get a book signed….
    sigh. It’s probably too late now.
    Are you coming back soon? And staying a bit longer?

  18. Dear Laurie,
    I’m in lust with that first spread of yarns! Love to think that I’m in lust enough that I’d actually get off my flat/squishy and do some growing and dying but I’m realistic enough just to appreciate your efforts in awe. I love all those colours. Make sure you post what you end up doing with them. Thanks so much for telling the indgo story of your summer.
    BTW – ‘weenies’???? from the context of other peoples’ posts, this isn’t what I thought it was. Please explain???

  19. Just another NYC dweller who’d love to bask in your shadow for a moment… even though I probably have no time. Alas. Enjoy NYC and the travel! Let us know where you went to buy yarn. 😉

  20. GAH. I have to fly for almost 30 hours over the next week and my airline doesn’t allow knitting needles in carry-on luggage. Because I might McGyver an AK47 out of them and force them to take me to Scandinavia for really good yarn or something. SO. RIDICULOUS. I guess we all have to accept how dodgey knitters can appear. Big scary freaks that we are.
    P.S. That weenie Steph dealt with next to her? I hope she got an ‘accidental’ poke in before moving her seat.

  21. Thanks Laurie for the whole indigo thing, bibliography included! This may be the first year in a while that my Christmas list isn’t just yarn store gift certificates! Now to plan my dyeing garden for next summer (and figure out how to keep the goaties out- or wait, could that be a shortcut to blue mohair…joking)
    Knit like the wind, Steph!

  22. A bibliography too!? You have raised the bar to a new level, Laurie. Fantastic. And great pictures and everything. I really enjoyed this piece, thanks!

  23. I’ve really enjoyed this indigo-dying series, it’s neat that it changes colour in the air!
    Stephanie, I’ve had a horrible thing happen. My computer crashed and died, and I lost the address of the person I’m supposed to send my bracelet to. Whoever you are, I’m sorry! It will be in the mail as soon as I find out your address!

  24. That Laurie – why is that last skein purplish? I love that colour. Is it because the pH was changing?

  25. First, I should probably stop blaming Steph for getting me addicted to reading the Yarn Harlot and place the blame on Laurie where it belongs. Because if she hadn’t been doing the guest blog on the indigo dyestuffs, a knitting/dyestuffs/spinner friend would never have cross-posted to our dyestuffs guild.
    But I do blame Steph for getting me excited about my spinning wheel again and finally breaking into my stash of fibers, and for inspiring me to post photos on my journal. If you look here:, you’ll see photos at the bottom of roving dyed with indigo, cochineal, and osage orange (which is actually yellow), and the spinning on my wheel that I did this morning.
    Thank you ladies! I’m hooked. I used to just be a spinning enabler (once got four new drop spindle workers hooked in just one evening!), but I think I’ll expand now to start to understand what knitters might want from my spinning, or what kind of knitter I might turn into, after all that addictive spinning.

  26. Those colors are beautiful. I’m going to try a dye garden this summer. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. Note to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, concerning YARN HARLOT 19 November 2005
    Dear Knitter:
    I loved your book (Yarn Harlot). I laughed until family members came rushing in to see what was going on. I cried (but read the piece twice). Thank you so much for such a delightful book! I’ve read parts of it aloud to others, and even in the first chapter was already recommending it to friends.
    I am the librarian at The Grier School, a boarding school for girls grades 7-12, with about 40% international students. I bought Yarn Harlot for our knitting club, run by a teacher (who is probably a Knitter) who raises fiber goats. I help a bit, being a knitter whose soon-to-be-at-college daughter has forever changed our farm by introducing Romneys, which she raised for 4-H. But any one with a passion (some might say obsession) for almost anything could feel right at home within your essays! Thank you.
    In return for this gem of a book, might I explain about antimacassars? Macassar was a hair oil much favored by Victorian men, and antimacassars were the little “decorative”
    fabric pieces one draped over the backs of upholstered chairs to keep the oil off the furniture. Victorian tidiness or thrift also ran to matching bits for the arms, where the fabric tends to wear first, which often came or were made as sets with the larger antimacassar. (I don’t know if they had a separate name.) Now you know, not that it will significantly alter your life in any way!
    Thanks again for your delightful writing. I can assure you that I will conduct a search for anything else you have in print or out-of-print, for immediate purchase, and will undoubtably give this exquisite little book as a gift to friends and relatives, knitters, Knitters, needleworkers of all types, and readers. Perhaps even to crocheters!
    Pamela A. Kavanaugh

  28. I just started a Knitting Club at my High School in Gig Harbor, WA. I saw your name on the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat site and thought I would check it out- and I LOVE IT! Thank you so much for your inspiration… it has kept me knitting throught this HORRIBLE pattern and kept me learning… and if i can finish a scarf in 4 days, you could probably do it in 2.

  29. you might also look into some rug hooking sources for natural dyeing – Marie Sugar has a lovely little booklet put out by Rug Hooking mag – The Complete Natural Dyeing Guide – 89 natural dye recipies for rug hookers and other fiber artists.
    i’ve done onion skin dyeing myself, which gives s lovely golden orangey red, dependant upon the individual batch of ‘skins.

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