DIY Indigo Shibori Dyeing

Follow the post and watch the video to learn how to approach a successful DIY indigo Shibori dyeing project.

Watch the video for several quick design tips.

Pre-reduced indigo instructions

Read through all instructions before beginning.

Extremely easy to use, pre-reduced indigo makes setting up an indigo vat almost effortless. This specially formulated indigo is already 60% reduced so it allows you to use soda ash instead of lye in the dye vat. There is no need to paste up the indigo granules because they dissolve easily in water. The general idea in keeping an indigo vat is that you want to keep the vat as oxygen-free as possible. It is important to squeeze excess air from the fabric. It is also important not to splash the mixture while mixing or dyeing.  Store the vat in an area where the temperature will remain between 68-85º F / 20-29º C (a comfortable room temperature). Keep out of reach of children and animals. Always store with the lid on the container. Keep in mind that the color is darker when wet.

Materials for DIY indigo Shibori dyeing

Precautions: Do not use utensils or dishes used for eating. WEAR GLOVES.
The following recipe fits well in a 5 gal/18.93 L bucket. An Indigo Tie Dye Kit is also available here.

Setting up an indigo vat

Gather all the items required and prepare a work area.

1. Fill up the 5 gal/18.93 L container with 4 gal/15.14 L of warm tap water.

2. While stirring, slowly empty the soda ash and reducing agent into the water.

3. Empty the pre-reduced indigo dye packet into the water. Stir.

4. Gently but thoroughly stir the vat going in one circular direction creating a slight whirlpool. Once the vat is well mixed, stop or slow the whirlpool by dragging the stir stick along the outer edge of the dye bath before slowly removing it. Cover the vat with a lid and allow it to settle for at least 15-30 minutes. For best results, wait one hour or longer for larger vats.

5. After the vat is settled, remove the lid. The top of the dye bath may be covered with thin blue skin (rather than the traditional foamy ‘flower’). Wearing gloves, gently move it to the side. The dye bath should be a clear yellow or yellow-green colour under the skin. If it’s not, then wait another 30 minutes and check again.

Steps for dyeing

1. Fold, tie, or bind your garment or fiber.

2. Thoroughly wet or soak your fabric in water.

3. When you are ready to begin dyeing, remove the cover from the vat.

4. Squeeze excess water and air out of your fabric.

5. While still squeezing your fabric, slowly submerge your piece into the dye vat. Once the fabric is submerged, gently manipulate it to ensure that the dye will penetrate the unbound parts evenly. You may work the piece in the vat underneath the surface for one to several minutes in this way. Note: Do not drop the fabric in the vat and let it sink to the bottom. There will be residue that has settled on the bottom of the vat and you don’t want to stir that up while you are dyeing. The residue can cause spots on your dyed piece.

6. When you are ready to take the fabric out of the vat, squeeze it just below the surface as you slowly remove it. You want to prevent splashing because it introduces oxygen back into the vat. The fabric will be the same yellow-green as the vat. Slowly, the fabric will begin to turn blue as the oxygen in the air contacts it. Place the cover over the container.

Allow the piece to oxidize

7. Set aside the fabric to allow the piece to completely oxidize. You may want to turn the piece and open up any areas that you want to turn blue. Let oxidize for about 20 minutes.

8. If you’re satisfied with the color after letting the piece oxidize, rinse excess indigo from the piece. Then untie it and wash it with a mild detergent in warm water. To achieve a darker shade of blue, repeat steps 4 through 7.

9. When you’ve finished your dyeing session, use your stir stick to gently stir the vat, as before, in a circular motion. Place the lid back onto the vat and let settle for at least an hour before using the vat again. The vat will keep for several days or weeks and you will be able to dye it several times.

Tending an indigo vat

An indigo vat can have a very long life if used and tended to regularly. As mentioned above, the best type of container for a vat is a cylinder shape with a tight-fitting lid. This will give you room to dye the fabric without it touching the bottom and minimize the surface area that is in contact with air. Occasionally, you may need to add more of the reducing chemicals and the pre-reduced indigo to keep the vat going. Always try to dissolve the soda ash in a little water before adding it to the vat. Start by adding a little at a time. Sometimes more than one addition is needed. When you add something to the vat, it is important to wait for the chemical reaction to take place (at least one hour) before adding more.

More tips

• If the vat looks more blue-green than yellow-green, or if you see blue particles suspended in the liquid, the vat needs to be reduced more. Add 2 to 10 grams of reduction agent at a time.

• If the color seems weak, or the liquid in the vat is gray and watery, an addition of the pre-reduced indigo is needed. Add 2 to 10 grams at a time.

When you are ready to dispose of the vat, empty the contents down the drain. Clean up the bucket and utensils with powdered cleanser or soap.

* This excellent information on DIY indigo Shibori dyeing is provided by Jacquard Art Products.

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