Six weeks of Blue, an indigo workshop

In June and July we held a Six Weeks of Blue: Indigo Dyeing workshop led by Ulrike Bogdan. Ulrike provided comprehensive instructions to make several different kinds of indigo vats with fresh leaves and natural indigo. She began by telling us a bit about plant dyes using lovely analogies and why indigo is so special... then, on to the practical reduction and fermentation vats before exploring painting techniques using oxidised indigo. She also explained that while all indigo is chemical, the sources are different, natural indigo is derived from plants while synthetic is produced from petrol but good results can be had from both. The use, preference, environmental impact and sustainability is a whole other discussion.

Indigo vats are all about the senses, so questions and the sharing of photos flourished in this workshop.

Right: Carolyn Arber from Birmingham, UK, posted this picture showing the effect of reducing with sodium dithionite. The liquid changes from dark green to yellow as the indigo becomes soluble.

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The workshop started with a variety of indigo producing plants.

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Persicaria Tinctoria or Japanese Indigo, pot grown by Carolyn Arber from Birmingham.

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Indigofer tinctoria growing wild in wasteland in Barbados photographed by Liz Chin of Barbados.

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Carolyn from Frome started with Isatis Tinctoria - Woad, a bi-annual. The dye is extracted from the first year leaves.

Leading to a variety of fermentation vats.

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A fresh Woad leaf vat. Carolyn Arber from Birmingham.

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An example of a fermentation vat with bran and madder. Carolyn Arber from Birmingham.

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Day 2 of an organic fermentation 1 2 3 vat Carolyn Arber from Birmingham.

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An eco banana fermentation vat showing the bronze colouration as the vat develops. Alison Daykin, Derbyshire.

The vat can be filtered so that the indigo can be dried and stored

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Indigo extracted from 12 woad leaves. Annie Perkins from Gloucestershire.

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Blocks of indigo from India. Carolyn from Frome

And the vat can finally be used to dye yarn and fabric.

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Grey Swaledale wool 6 dips in a Bran Madder Vat. Liz Chin from Barbados.

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Linen dipped in indigo. Samples by the tutor, Ulrike Bogdan

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Silk velvet dipped in indigo. Samples by the tutor, Ulrike Bogdan

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A tray cloth demonstrating how the embroidery absorbed more dye than the cloth. Annie Perkins from Gloucestershire.

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Demonstrating how different materials absorb indigo to differing degrees. Liz Chin from Barbados.

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Resist painting with Indigo. Liz Chin from Barbados.