I have had lots of blue adventures this summer with my homegrown Japanese indigo and woad, and they are not over yet. Today’s post is about blue ice and leaf pounding.
To learn more about fresh indigo dyeing, pop in at the Dogwood dyer‘s!
I love that I can dye straight from fresh indigo leaves. I have tried the salt rub method a few times with both Japanese indigo and woad, and they have all given lovely results. Another fresh leaf method is the ice method, also called the blender method. You blend freshly harvested leaves with ice cold water, strain the blended leaves away and plop prewet textiles in the indigo juice for 5–20 minutes.
Usually when I play with indigo dyeing, I test with handspun silk yarn, a linen button and strips of linen and antique cotton. This time I had an addition to the dye bath – a white silk shirt I bought second hand online. It has wide and billowing cuffs that I wanted to dye with the ice method.
I used two plastic clamps to make sure the cuffs came straight and organized into the dye bath. I also clamped the neck strings together with the cuffs. To keep them off the dye I tied the rest of the sleeves and the body in a plastic bag. I prewet the shirt with the rest of the textiles overnight and prepared some water to cool in the fridge and an ice tray in the freezer.
In the morning I realized the capilarity had done its thing and wandered up into the rest of the garment. I knew that was a risk, but I didn’t mind. It could turn into a lovely effect.
I picked 100 grams of Japanese indigo Maruba leaves and blended with the ice cold water, strained off the leaves and carefully added the cuffs and the rest of the fabrics into the green fluid. Anything could happen now. But I was okay with that, it was an experiment and I would learn from it either way.
After only five minutes in the ice bath there was a clear difference and after 15 the material had transformed into the loveliest baby teal.
I have a contradictory relationship to the colour teal. While I do love the colour, we don’t have the concept in Swedish so I am never sure whether or not I can call it teal. I don’t always know how to keep it apart from turquoise and other neighbouring colours. I decided though, that the colour of the cuffs is baby teal, and so it is.
The dye did creep up an inch or so above the cuff seam, as I suspected. I really like it, though. It’s a perfectly imperfect transition between dyed and undyed, like a blue shadow.
I had planned the blue cuffs for quite a while, but it was only a day or two before I dyed that I realized that the perfect partner to the blue ice experiment would be pounded indigo leaves. I would place them as a decoration above the cuffs and around the neckline. So I picked some Japanese indigo leaves, placed a piece of cardboard between the fabric and the hammer to protect the silk and and pounded away.
I used leaves of different sizes from both the rounded Maruba and the arrow shaped Koyoko. Both for their different shapes and for their different blues. I turned the silk shirt inside out and placed the leaves between the layers to take advantage of both sides of the leaves. This means that every leaf print has a mirror image somewhere on the shirt. Placing the leaves between the slipaway silk was a bit fiddly, but with pins and focus I think I did a pretty good job getting the pattern symmetrical.
I have been designing the yoke in my mind the past few nights. In the early hours I knew just the way: I wanted the yoke to resemble a knit Fair Isle yoke.
I started at the neckline with downward pointing Koyoko leaves. Below that upward pointing Maruba leaves and to give some structure to the base line I added the tips of Kyoko leaves. To create the tips I placed the whole leaf where I wanted it. I placed a piece of cardboard on top of the leaf, with the baseline covering the Maruba leaves to the left and right of it and pounded on the cardboard.
There is still some green left in the leaves, but I assume it will fade away and reveal some more blue. This shirt will mature and change over time, just like we all do.
My leafy garden blue ice shirt is finished and I have lots of ideas of more leaf pounding with my homegrown flowers. There is so much to discover and play with. I am buying another second hand silk shirt right now!
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