Indigo daze

After puzzling through a maze of dyes and resists, yesterday was the day to go indigo. I allowed myself the luxury of a “purification ritual” — cleaning up the outdoor workshop and annointing it with peppermint spray to drive away the spiders. The space, if not sacred, at least has to be respectable. Even though I make my vat from a Jacquard kit, it’s still a production that needs a quiet mind.

Outdoor workspace, ready for action

After lunch, the indigo pot was ready and my handsome assistant suited up to help. Once you start, you have to go. It only took about half an hour to wet the prepared pieces, dunk them in the indigo, watch them oxidize from lime green to blue, then hang them on the clotheslines. Then… to the washing machine.

Our work is done!

Here’s a rundown of our results and how we got there.

One-yard linen experiment

You know I didn’t like the suble results of my dye-painting. So I overdyed it with a mustard-y color. Brighter, but not thrilling. So I got out my batik equipment, melted some soy wax, and painted on some “asemic” writing (i.e., calligraphy without words).

Dye-painting + yellow overdye + soy wax design

After indigo bath. The indigo blended with the greenish-yellow but obliterated the first layer of dye, except where the resist protected it. To me, this is much more thrilling and makes me excited to keep exploring both soy wax and “mystery writing.”

Indigo over soy wax resist
Indigo over soy wax resist, detail
Interesting clothing material?

Apron #1

Purchased cotton apron. Base dye: Procion MX celery. My first tentative steps with soy wax, patterning with a toilet paper roll and large stylus. Top half overdyed with indigo. Tried for an ombre effect but I don’t have the knack.

Apron #2

Purchased cotton canvas apron. Painted with soy wax. The fabric was so thick, the soy wax didn’t penetrate well.

Soy wax on cotton canvas, stretched to drawers weighted with really heavy African sculpture
Cotton canvas apron, indigo with soy wax resist

Night shirt

Thrift-store 5XL cotton t-shirt. Soy wax resist around top, using square and round carved stamps and a djanting (Indonesian tool for dripping wax). The rest was just bunched up and clipped together for a random pattern.

T-shirt, with soy wax and clamping
T-shirt detail

Kitchen towel

Cotton flour-sack towel. Large marks made with a big round brush and potato starch resist (basically, instant mashed potatoes and liquid starch). The finer marks were made with Elmer’s School Glue Gel, straight from the squeeze bottle. This came out way better than I expected. I love the texture the brush + potato starch got.

Potato starch and Elmer’s glue resists
Potato starch and Elmer’s glue resists, detail

Overall, I was thrilled with yesterday’s results. When I first tried batik, I used paraffin + beeswax, which was horrible to boil out of the cloth. Soy wax just washes out with hot water and a little detergent. The potato starch and Elmer’s School Glue were also surprising successes.

Here’s to learning!

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