Friday, May 13, 2016

A Post in Which Isabella Dyes

I normally cheat.  By cheat, I mean I go to the store, get some RIT dye, throw that into the washing machine with some salt, and throw my fabric in.   I know that scarlet turns a lovely light red to a pink on white fabric but will turn a fabulous shade of lavender on pale blues.   I end up using that one a lot.   However, I really wanted to try something different.  I wanted to dye with a natural color because that's what they did back in the 15th and 16th centuries.  So...I bought an indigo dye kit!

Got it at Amazon
It was $8 for the kit and has everything you need to dye except the bucket to kick.  :-D  You also need a stick, some sort of spoon, and clothing line.   I bought a tinted but clear Tupperware container (29quarts) and I had everything else on hand.   The instructions are pretty simple.   Mix the dye, the soda ash, and the mordant into about 4 gallons of warm but not hot water.  Let it sit for a half hour.  Pull out the flower - ie the bubbly stuff in the middle that looks like this:

The Flower
 If anyone is curious what indigo dye smells like, come with me to Pennsic.  It smells almost exactly like the Pillaged Village store tent.  If you can't, try dying with indigo to get the smells of Pennsic.   It's not exactly pleasant or unpleasant.  It dried, matted, and then wet vegetable matter.

The colors are really cool looking; almost like a beetle wing!
Stirring stick
 The stirring stick became an iridescent blue/green with a hint of purple.  It was lovely!  The water itself was green until it oxidized after a few seconds and then it would turn blue.  Because of this, the fabric was also quite green until it oxidized.
Linen freshly dyed
 The linen was in the second dye bath.  I bought the linen at Joanns - it's 100% linen- for the purpose of dying.  I also dyed some wool and another linen yardage.  All in all, I probably dyed about 15 yards of fabric!
In the wool!
 This was after it oxidized a bit but you can see how lovely the wool looks!  It's a deep but bright blue.
Linen in a box
 The linen in the container is still quite green.  The moment you take it out, it turns blue.
Tie dyed but not really!
 See, blue!   However, it will turn much darker after I start cleaning everything up.  I threw away the bags, containers that I couldn't re-use, and put the third dye bath linen in the washer as an experiment. When I came back out, the linen was the color it is below:
Much darker!

The wool!

Apple in the middle!
Yes, my yard is taken up by both the linen (left) and wool (right).  I'm not sure what style dress I'll do with them but I will get some neat SCA outfits out of them.

Using the dye kit was EASY.  Seriously, it doesn't take long and it's pretty cheap.  If you are considering dying, I'd start with this.  I plan on using it again if I ever need a nice blue fabric.

The final product was a bit uneven once it dried but it's not horrible.  I doubt it was always an even color in period either.

The wool is to the right and the linen is to the left.  The linen is a bit more evenly dyed than the wool.  


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I really want to try it again now and see if I can get it an even color. It's just a bit uneven - it's barely noticeable on the linen- so I'll happily use both pieces. The third pieces experiment didn't come out quite as well. I'm using that linen for lining.