Indigo

October Gold and Blues

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October is really pulling out all the stops here lately. The leaves seem to be turning more and more golden right before your eyes. The sky is so blue, that intense, deep autumn blue that seems reserved specially for September and October skies. Living in the midst of a sugarbush means a feast of color for the eyes and clean, crisp air for the lungs.

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Indigo Smoothie

We’ve had a long grace period for the garden, only one frost so far, which is remarkable for this northern latitude. But two days ago we knew another was coming so it was time to harvest the last of my little bed of indigo, Persicaria tinctoria.

In contrast to the lengthy and exacting process needed to extract indigotin from the leaves to make a fermented dye vat, dyeing with the fresh leaf process couldn’t be easier. Cut the stems, strip the leaves from them, grind them well in a blender with ice water, strain the frothy juice through muslin, and voilá, the dye bath is ready!

With this juice I dyed a silk tank top I “rescued” from a thrift shop and a hank of a beautiful silk/cotton thread. They were massaged in the liquid for about 15 minutes while I listened to the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals (Go, Cubs!) and watched the maple leaves turning more golden. The teal blues you get from the fresh leaf process are so amazing and always so surprising. It’s that “magic” that keeps me hooked! To use up the last of the dye I added a rayon scarf that turned a pretty celery color.

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Silk, rayon and silk/cotton thread dyed with fresh indigo

This is only my second fresh leaf dye vat but so far I’m seeing that the oxidation process is slower than with a fermented vat, the blues revealing themselves and deepening over an hour or so after being removed from the vat. I haven’t washed any of these articles yet and will be interested to see how much color remains once I do.

There’s a pot of transplanted indigo in our greenhouse now (thanks to my supportive master gardener husband) that will maybe, hopefully, live long enough to set seed, and a vase of stems in the house that will hopefully sprout some new baby leaves while I’m gone. So now there’s nothing to help me procrastinate from packing any longer, and there’s another Cubs game to listen to while I do.

 

Resources

Fresh Leaf Indigo Dyeing:

Indigo seeds (and much more!):

The gift of seeds, support and inspiration (thank you, Debbie!)