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Friday, 16 September 2016

Indigo from Woad

The story stared last spring when my very good friend Henneke handed me some Woad seedlings. I had not got a clue what colours I could get.  My husband planted them out in our tunnel and with luck beside a heap of manure.  I have now discovered that woad needs very fertile soil to produce Indigo.
Fast forward to a about a month ago when I decided that something must be done with these plants.
I got out all my books and read through my options,  it was all so complicated with temperatures and pH and also I needed something called Spectralite.  Where would I get it?  I had everybody asked and then I got a message that I could buy it from a company that sells natural dyeing equipment.  Why did I not think of that myself??  So I ordered it and some soda ash.
Monday was the day set aside.
First,  choose which book to go by, so I chose the simplest and one that needed the least equipment.
Most important, they all said the woad must be picked and used as soon as possible.  Even then you can not be guaranteed any Indigo.
Rain water, no problem that morning, the saucepan was flowing over in ten minutes.
On with the pan to boil while the woad was washed and shredded and in two other saucepans.  What do they say about a watched pot?  Well it would not boil.  I am hopeless at waiting and how many projects have I spoiled by rushing.  In the end I took the chance and poured the water over the leaves and left them for 30 minutes.  I had them on the lowest heat that my stove can do as the water was NOT boiling.   Strained the leaves squeezed the last of the dye out of them.
Now I added some dissolved Soda Ash until the water turned green.  It needed much more than I expected. I gather this is a pH of about 9.  I then whisked the mixture with a electric hand whisk for 15 minutes.  The foam was blue to start with and then gradually became yellow.  Indigo was there!!
Now I placed the pan back on the cooker which I had set at 50 centigrade and heated it up for a few minutes and then sprinkled a large teaspoon of spectralite over the top and left it to stand for 15 minutes
Last stage,  I lowered the wet wool carefully into the pan trying not to disturb the surface.  Left it for 20 minutes.  It remained yellow in the pan but as I lifted out it turned blue.  The Magic of Indigo.  Contrary to what I had heard my kitchen is not dyed blue but the smell was not that nice

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