On Friday I did a quick walk through of the new exhibit of Rebozos at the museum, El rebozo, don de la Llorona.  I just picked out one to share with you, #41 in the exhibit.



As you can see this rebozo has very dramatic fringes.  This is not uncommon in Mexican weaving.  This rebozo is hung in the exhibit so that you can see both the front and the back of the fringe section.  The fluffy areas are added little tassels as you can see in the row acrossed the top.image.jpeg

The top row of tassels are in the body of the shawl and I could not touch it to see if there was woven cloth under the fluffy part.  So I looked up the description in the gallery notes:image

It says that this rebozo was made in the middle of the 20th century in an area of Purépecha people in the town of Ahuiran, state of Michoacán.

Both the warp and weft are made of industrially spun cotton singles, Z spun and possibly dyed with natural indigo.The warp has stripes of royal blue rayon, 2 ply, z twist.  The cloth is warp faced plain weave.  The warp ends  are flat braided to form the fringe, and the braiding is diagonal and forms holes  in the network.  Tassels made of rayon floss ( floss has no twist) are tied on at the little holes.

The tassels make a multi-colored diamond design.  Then they discuss a bit about if this is the style of the village where it was made or not.  Even though this is a wide cloth, even today these rebozos are made on backstrap looms.   Some of this style rebozos from the 19th century , the tassels added to the fringe form little animals or other figures.

Here is the back of the fringe:






Three natural dyes are highly touted here: Indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura. There have been some recent museum exhibitions featuring these 3 dyes.

This is a piece in the current exhibition at Museo Textil de Oaxaca (MTO) with indigo, cochineal and caracol purpura. This is wool and has been woven in 3 panels , the are seams in the red stripes.

During my workshop on fancy seams at the MTO I found some skeins of fine wool dyed a lovely red with cochineal.


Before Christmas I went to a special textile sale organized by the MTO where you could buy directly from the makers. As I wander around I found some cotton handwoven yardage in brown, natural off white and a rosy color. I asked the maker about it and it had coyuche ( local brown cotton) and a yarn that was dyed with a natural dye, brazilwood. Brazilwood is an old red dye that fades pretty easily and I said that to the weaver and he said yes, that was true but that cochineal didn’t take very well on cotton and that he wanted that rosy color. We than had a conversation about madder ( Rubia tintoria) and he didn’t seem to know about it and didn’t know if there were and local members of the Rubia family. The young man said he was new at this and had only been doing it for a year and a half.

The following Monday, I meet with my weaving teacher and she showed me some of here pieces, all cotton with the exception of a bit of silk brocade. On piece,


a huipil with a natural cotton ground and red cotton inlay, she said the cochineal was weeping. You can see just the slightest tinge of red on the light ground abound the brocade figures. She said that cochineal on cotton weeped.

She also has a huipil that is indigo dyed and has red silk brocade. The red silk is cochineal dyed. ( For those of you who are not dyers, silk is the easiest fiber to dye, then the wools and cotton is the hardest to dye.)

She was showing me some personal pieces she had made over the years including a huipil she had made for her daughter when she was a baby and another when she was a little girl. These are some the most charming pieces I have seen. The girl’s piece has butterflies, pinwheels and worms.

This piece, done in traditional colors of purple and yellow, commercial yarns, looks fresh. Her daughter is in her late 20’s. The baby huipil also has charming motifs but you can barely see them. She explained that she had wanted a rose color for her baby girl and had used yarn dyed with brazilwood for the brocade.

On this Monday, at her studio we got to talking about dyeing. They were going to start dyeing on the weekends in the new year, indigo. Indigo is fairly easy on cotton. Then I asked about mordant she used for cochineal. None, just salt was the answer.

[To the best of my knowledge and experience, one can get cochineal to color silk without a mordant and wools but you get pinks and roses, not reds or wines. Cotton which is so much more difficult to dye would definitely need a mordant. Mordanting cotton is a whole topic by itself; just alum, alum-tannin-alum or the newest- refined alum or aluminum acetate.]

I asked her if she scoured the cotton before dyeing? And she asked what was that. I explained that natural cotton, is full of pectins and waxes which inhibit the dye take up. They can be removed by boiling with soap or detergent and soda ash or other alkali. She she asked if one could use lime ( a common household item here used to prepare dried corn). Cochineal turns blackish in hard water because of the calcium and lime is a calcium compound, so the answer is no, lime will not work to scour for cochineal.

Cochineal is also sensitive to pH, The color changes from red or red with blue cast to oranger with the addition of an acid such as lime juice or vinegar. She did not seem to know this. This color shift can happen even after it is dyed, for example when you wash it.

The tannins, from many kinds of leaves and woods, can be used for mordanting themselves, and should be stable. But look at this weeping figure:

She told me it was a natural dye from some wood, I didn’t catch the full name.

So that is the current state of natural dyeing in this little corner of Oaxaca. I don’t know if there are pockets of better dyeing here. It seems that natural dyeing is a re-introduced craft. It could be just the natural mix of dabblers and competent natural dyers that one sees in the US. Information on natural dyes is hard to come by.

Stay tuned for updates on natural dyeing. I said I would love to see them dyeing and that I knew a bit about natural dyes and would be glad to help. We’ll see if I get invited out to the studio for dyes days.

The Easy Indigo Vat

20 September 2014

As mentioned in the prior post the  the 1,2,3 Indigo vat was easy and holds well.  It has been a week and it still has a nice flower on it.  The only draw back was that it was giving pale colors with a 3 min. dip., so I tried a 30 min. dip and got this:1dip

A very respectable color for a first dip.  I have gotten darker blue with more dips, as you would expect.

A young woman , Abra, made her first ever indigo vat today with this 1,2,3 process brought to us by Michel Garcia.  No fuss.  It dyed well.  This is easy folks.

New ways to do indigo

17 September 2014

On Friday 4 of us gathered together to dye indigo.  They had things they wanted to dye, I wanted to explore two new ways of making indigo vats.

I learned to dye indigo, and many other dyes, from Michele Wipplinger.  She taught me how to make a chemical vat using lye for the mother stock and thiourea dioxide for the reducing agent.  This has been a reliable vat for me and I have used as my default indigo vat.

One summer in the early 1990’s I kept a fermentation vat.  The biggest problem I had was keeping it warm enough. It did not like to cool off over night, I resorted to electrical heating pads/blankets but it was obvious to me that I did not have the right set up.  There is some reason that many on going indigo fermentation vats  are set in the ground and or have provisions for gentle heating.

Anyhow, there are now directions for new types of vats: one using pre-reduced indigo and another organic vat advocated by Michel Garcia, a biochemist, avid natural dyer and author (see references at bottom).  Both of these by-pass the use of lye, sodium hydroxide, which is getting harder and harder to buy in small amounts, and is quite hazardous to handle. Also I had heard several people advocate the use of hydrogen peroxide to reduce the crocking of indigo, and consant problem.

I had previously tried Garcia’s 1,2,3 Vat without success.  So I reread the directions and got some new supplies in: distilled water (for non-chlorinated water) and pickling lime and cal— both food grade lime, before I had tried tap water and gardening lime.

For the pre-reduced indigo I purchased from Pro-Chem and followed their instructions.

And just for security, I made sure that my mother stock for a traditional chemical vat was reduced and ready to go. Just as a back up.

Here is a look at the supplies for all 3 vats:

indigo supplies

Here is a list of supplies I had on hand:

  • Indigo
    • synthetic, micro-perle
    • pre-reduced indigo
    • natural indigo, several sources
  • Alkalis
    • lye
    • soda ash, sodium carbonate
    • ammonia
    • pickling lime, cal-both food grade lime
  • Scours, detergents
    • synthrapol
    • eco-scour from Earthues, for cellulose
    • Orvus paste
  • Reducing agents
    • thiourea dioxide
    • fructose
  • Protection for protein fibers
    • hide glue
    • gelatine, unflavored
  • Neutralize
    • vinegar for proteins
    • tea, tannic acid, for cellulose
  • Aid for oxidizing
    • hydrogen peroxide, 3%  this helps reduce crocking

Also had on hand pH strips for measuring high pH’s, 9-11 and distilled water.


We followed the instructions for the mini-vat for wool  but made it in a plastic bucket and keep it warm in a water bath. I added 25g of pre-reduced indigo and hide glue.    The slowest step is dissolving the soda ash.  It turned green shortly and we dyed wool, alpaca, leather and silk in it.  One dip gave a medium blue, two dips a medium dark blue.  It held up well as we dyed shibori pieces.  We stopped when the vat was down a third and poured the oxidized drippings back in the vat.



Since I had had trouble with this  all four of us made a half gallon mason jar for the vat, using a variety of indigos (not the pre-reduced ones) and limes with the hope that one combination would work.  We each added 25g of indigo to the vat and used distilled water.  Each person was to keep track of what they used.  I went first and put mine aside .  I could see that it was starting because of the flecks of coppery scum on the surface but in an hour the clear  settled liquid was neither green or brown.  The others started to make theirs.  Sandy sprinkled lime all over, turned hers in a globby paste before adding the full amount of water.  She sat it down and in 15-20 it turned brown with a bit of flower on top!  So we added it to a vat and started dyeing.   The goods came out a very pale blue.

It took 4-5 dips to get the same value of blue that we got with the pre-reduced indigo pot. we used the same dipping process for both.

Into the vat for 3-5 min., out and into a bath containing hydrogen peroxide for 15 min. then air exposure for 30 min. more. Repeat until darker than the desired color.  After a long final oxidation, neutralize by soaking in vinegar water for 20 min. and finish with a vigorous wash with synthrapol.


My mason jar of 1,2,3 vat turned brown also so I added it to the vat.  The vat now had a total of 55g of indigo but still only gives pale colors.  You can build up layers.

The 1,2,3 vat has remained an active vat, staying reduced for 4 days with no effort on my part.  I suspect that this is due to the sludge in the bottom.  Calcium hydroxide is not very soluble and it probably is some of what are the solids on the bottom where it acts as a reservoir and keeps the pH constant.  I wonder if there is undissolved fructose there too that keeps it reduced. I have been putting a few things in each day and the vat holds well.

Today I have been reading more about the 1,2,3 vat and others have commented on the pale colors. I did see that someone suggested that the goods needed much longer in the vat, 30 min. was suggested.   I will try that tomorrow.

The pre-reduced indigo vat has been reluctant to reduce after the dripping were put back, I have made 5-6 small additions of reducing agent and it is just swamp green so it still needs a bit more.


Both these new vats worked! We did not need to use the lye for either vat.  This is progress for home dyers.  I will continue working with both these vats.  The pre-reduced indigo was quick and easy and gave a nice depth of shade. Great for a workshop.  The 1,2,3 vat holds very well over several days, nice for a long project that requires many dips.

The hydrogen peroxide bath turned the dyed goods  blue almost instantly.  It may reduce the crocking ( I have not yet got to testing this yet) but it takes away the fun of seeing the color change before your eyes.


Indigo Sundye

15 June 2009

I think people enjoyed painting their skeins last Sunday afternoon.  A little color here, a little more there and soon everyone is into fun colors.





Now on to indigo, the oldest and yet the hardest dye to use.  There is already a lot on this blog about indigo since the Japanese love indigo so and it is the most forgiving dye to use for shibori, so it is great for shibori novices.  Let’s just look at some pics of indigo dyed cloth:




 This is a T-shirt with a few lines of stitched shibori




I hope you can see how many colors of indigo there are.


I will be preparing the vat, all you have to do is bring your yarn or cloth ready to dye. The fiber should be cotton or other vegtable fiber to take the high pH of this vat. For those who want to know about making the indigo vat you can read instructions here.


More diapers

14 July 2007

Grace sent two more images of diapers, with more white. I have left the images large so that you can see some of the beauty in the shading, diffusion of the indigo.
diaper 3.JPG

Folding origami is the easy part. Dyeing it is the hard part. Getting dye thru all those layers is the challenge.
Dyes have different ease of penetration. I percieve the penetration to be the highest with fiber reactive dyes , so in order of decreasing penetration

discharge (sulfur dioxide, a gas)
fiber reactives
acid dyes

My theory assumes that larger molecules penetrate less. Even so the book shows that good penetration can be achieved with even indigo. How do they do it?
First they buy ready-to-use indigo in a bottle:
bottled indigo.JPG
Aren’t you a wee bit jealous? I’d love to buy ready-to-use indigo.
Then they place the tied cloth in an appropriately sized plastic bag:
orgami dyeing 1.jpg
Then some ready-to-use indigo is added to the bag:
orgami dyeing 2.JPG
The air and blue indigo are removed from the bag and then the bag is clamped shut. This is the critical step– having the bag totally filled with the indigo bath and no air. Here is another picture of a larger piece: left: expelling the air, right: then clamped.
origami dyeing 3.JPG
Once you have the bag sealed, you can then massage the wad of cloth inside to increase the penetration.
origami dyeing 4.JPG
This way they have achieved good penetration on dense cotton with even indigo.
origami finished.JPG

Tidying up

28 November 2006

I promised you some pictures of finished things from our Dye Day. We did T’s and cotton bandanas. In indigo we did fold & clamp (itajime), stitching (mokume) and binding.
many indigo.jpg
Some pieces were more successful than others (per usual). We all seemed to forget that indigo does not penetrate very far — the underside of a thick cotton jersey does not look nearly as blue as the exposed side does. Folding a T-shirt in half before making the resists protected the inside from the indigo. We did get some good areas (as hoped for). On our last Dye Day we used fiber reactive dyes that really penetrated.
indigo detail.jpg
Here are two shirts made with the same technique, but different styles.
2 styles.jpg
I mixed up three fiber reactive colors and tried out the Dylon Black dye.
Dylon black.jpg
The Dylon black is really black but the lighter areas where the dye diffused in are definately blue. The tree is a stitched resist and the other is a combination of shibori -mountain path- with a tie-dye stained glass effect. Then there were some colors left over…
colored T's.jpg
Used standard tie-dye techniques. Matching bandanas and T’s.

And last was a request for a dragon.
dragon T.jpg
And then the bag that wouldn’t close got two drawstring put into it instead of one and it now closes tightly but in a line not a circle, and the bottom has a button.
finished bag.jpgbutton bottom.jpg
I’m packing for my last show of the year, Crafts Park Avenue. Come and see some shibori.

A Dye Day

22 November 2006

Yesterday was a Dye Day here at the ENTWINEMENTS studio. This is a day when we dye things for us instead of you. We have several each year. We do a lot of T-shirts and cotton; these require different dyes that the silk we usually dye. The request was for indigo this time ( the other choice being fiber reactive dyes).
We keep an indigo pot all the time. When not using it it stays out on the patio; it is in a small plastic grabage can that has a lid. So Mon. I brought it inside to warm up and added some thiourea dioxide to reduce and some more indigo stock ( see this entry on how to make and run a indigo vat).
There were 4 of us dyeing, and administrative assistant, a production assistant, another artist and me. We did fold& clamp, stitched and bound shibori.
before indigo.jpg
This is a cotton bandana all stitched and pulled up.
Here is our stuff airing to get the indigo to oxidize.
batch indigo.jpg
The shibori resists also are barriers to the air and it can take the indigo a long, long time to oxidize completely. When you pull it apart you can see the yellow/green of the un-oxidized indigo.
green indigo.jpg
We are still oxidizing, washing the pieces but will share them soon.

Resists for Indigo

1 October 2006

I am trying to find a fail resist recipe for a rice resist paste that will take many dips of indigo – any ideas please—Mary

is a comment left on an old entry.
Since I do shibori, in which the resists are created by compressing the cloth, I would recommend that. It will take any number of indigo dips.
But I think that you mean a chemical resist that you apply to the surface of the cloth. I have little personal experience with this kind of resists so all I can do is refer you to others.
Joan over at magic of light, mystery of shadow has recently done a post where she did 4 dips with a rice paste resist to get to this:
Sea shells plain.1.jpg
Wax is used as a resist and it is called batik and Rozome. Betsy Sterling Benjamin has a wonderful book, The World of Rozome: Wax -Resist Textiles of Japan. There are many books on batik.
Another technique used with rice paste resists is Katazome– Japanese for a technique where rice paste is applied thru a stencil and then the dyes, including indigo, are brushed on. This avoids the problems of soaking the rice paste and John Marshall practices and teaches this technique and has a website with a how-to section and a video.

Other chemical resists that have been/are used are mud, dextrins, gutta and a some special
products developed by dye companies .
Sometimes the resists must be applied to both sides of the cloth for this kind of long exposure to dye. An overview of all techniques ( not a how-to book) is in the amazing book, Indigo by Jenny Balfour-Paul.
I hope this points you in the right direction.