FAQ: Prep for workshops, Indigo questions answered and more


Welcome to my FAQ page. Please check back often as info will be updated frequently. I've tried to answer most questions that come up during a workshop or private lesson. If you have a question that you don't see below, please email me and I'll address it! Thanks. 

Questions about indigo

Where can I get indigo?

I love dharmatrading for most of my indigo needs. Please check back again as I'll launch an in-depth Resources page for a list of suppliers for indigo and other natural dyes

What’s the difference between organic indigo, natural indigo and pre-reduced indigo?

Indigo dyes are extracted from the plant Indigo Tinctoria. There are different species, native to different countries. Like any plant, Indigo can be raised organically or with pesticides. Organic indigo is the most beautiful of all giving a deep blue with a red cast. Natural indigo derives from a plant but might be raised with pesticides. The most common indigo to purchase is pre-reduced indigo. This is still natural but has been preprocessed into crystals and pre-reduced so the user doesn’t have to wait too long for the indigo to reach a dyeable state.
 

What other chemicals do I need to use and why?

You need to use a mineral salt (soda ash or lye, same chemical used for scouring), and a reducing agent (thiox to reduce O2 from the water). Indigo is a finicky dye that needs coaxing away from the water molecules you’re your fiber. I like to say think of the mineral salt as the first date. It’s purpose is to raise the pH in the water so that osmosis happens and the indigo molecule is pulled away from the water towards your fiber. So if the mineral salt is the first date, then the reducing agent is the marriage proposal, helping indigo bind to the fiber. The reducing agent reduces the O2 in the water, putting indigo into its leuco state, or, state in which it’ll dye the fiber.
 

If I want to do indigo dyeing at home, what's a good list of basic supplies I should get? And where?

I recommend the following shopping list:
Hardware store
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • reusable gloves
  • dowels
  • twine
  • clamps
  • pieces of wood
  • tarp
  • 2 additional buckets for soaking and moving to the clothing line
  • clothing line
  • clothes pins
 
Dyes, chemicals and dyeables - Dharmatrading.com hands down the best one stop shop for all your dyeing needs
  • Jacquard Indigo kit
  • Soda Ash
  • Thiox
  • Dyeable blanks
 

Prep for a Shibori Workshop or Private Lesson

What can I expect from taking a workshop?

I’ve been teaching at the Handcraft Studio School in Emeryville now for about 3 years. I’ve learned to divide my classes into separate techniques as the first classes were totally overwhelming for my students.
 
Classes are for all levels from Never Touched a Dyeing Vat Beginners to Need More Ideas and Techniques Advanced Dyers. When you walk in, I’ll have a table set up with all my samples laid out from easiest to most involved. Indigo vats will be prepped and ready to use by the time I finish intros.
 
We’ll start with an in-depth lesson on indigo dyeing. Advanced Dyers are welcome to listen or I can get them started with advanced resist techniques. I love this part because I get to explain the magic of indigo and see your faces light up as we witness the oxidation process.
 
I’ll explain every technique you’ll learn and then you can decide what to design. I’ll have tons of fabric for you to play with and you’re welcome to pull out your own items at any time.

Are you available for Private Lessons?

Yes, I teach private lessons out of my backyard in Berkeley. My rate is $100/hr. All private lessons are tailored to what you’d like to learn. Please email me for further inquiries or to schedule time. 
 
What are examples of the different techniques of Shibori that you teach?
I teach a Binding class, a Pleating/Origami class and a Stitch resist class. I’m always evolving my artistry and techniques, so every class will be different. You can keep up on my work on my instagram @modernshibori.
 

What should I wear to a workshop?

Please keep your beautiful clothes at home. Wear studio-ready comfy clothes that you don’t care about. Think painting or gardening day at your house. We won’t get that grubby but you want to be in the moment and not have to worry about getting your clothes dirty. As well, bring warm layers like a sweatshirt as the studio can be a little chilly in the morning.
 

What is scouring and why do I have to scour my pieces before class?

Scouring is the process of removing oils and dirt that may exist on the fibers. Even Prepared For Dye (PFD) fabric needs to be scoured or at least washed before dyeing. Scouring helps to open up the fibers to ensure maximum dye take up. 
 

How do I scour?

From Maiwa.com in Canada:

Scouring cotton and other cellulose fibres:

1  Use a large vessel and fill with enough water so that the yarn or fabric may be well covered and not crowded.

2 Add 1 tsp Synthrapol (5 ml) and 4 tsps. soda ash (20 g) for each half-pound (250 g) of cotton.

3 Simmer for approximately 1 hour. Cotton is full of wax, pectic substances, and oil, all of which must be removed. The resulting wash water will be yellow brown. Bleached white cotton yarns and fabrics may not need as long.

Scouring silk and wool:

1  Use a large vessel and fill with enough water so that the yarn or fabric may be well covered and not crowded.

2 Add 1 tsp (5 ml) orvus paste soap for each pound (500 g) of dry fibre/fabric.

3 Add yarn, fleece or piece goods and heat gently (60º C, 140º F) for approximately 1 hour. Turn gently but do not agitate

4 Allow fibre to cool down slowly and then rinse in warm water. Remember overheating or sudden temperature changes will cause wool to felt.

 

How do I prepare an indigo vat?

Depending on the type of indigo you’re using, you’d need to extract the indigo. The easiest and most available indigo to prep is pre-reduced. Check out my short video on youtube. In this video I’ll show you how to prep a pre-reduced indigo vat.
 

What happens if I don't prepare the vat correctly?

If you don’t prepare the vat correctly, your garments will stain your skin and furniture with blue when it’s dry. This is also known as “crocking". What is happening is, the dye hadn’t come completely out of solution and hasn’t fully bound to the fiber and hasn’t been fully washed off the item.
 

How do I tell if my vat is prepared correctly?

Please see my video to see how to tell if your indigo vat is prepared correctly
 

How much time do I leave in vat?

Minimum 15 minutes. Any longer doesn’t make a difference in the depth of color. I've left pieces in over the weekend!
 

If I leave my piece in the vat over the weekend is it ok?

Sure thing!  See above. Just make sure the entire piece is submerged. See my youtube video for what happens if your piece rises to the top and oxidizes when you’re not watching it. SO annoying
 

When do I stop dipping process?

I like to tell people if you LOVE the color the piece is while it’s wet, dip it 2 more times. When anything dries, a painted wall, a piece of fabric, a tshirt, it’s always a few shades lighter than what you see.
 

Are the chemicals used in class safe for my skin to touch?

Yes
 

If I get my hands stained during the workshop, how long will the stains last?

About 1 - 2 days. The soap we use called Synthrapol does take off the majority of the stains.

If my nails are manicured, should I attend a workshop?

Yes, however please note, manicures will be ruined, or at least, your nail beds might get blue. Gloves are always provided to prevent hand staining.

What types of fabrics work the best with indigo?

Natural fibers such as cotton, silk, hemp, ramie, rayon, and wool work best with indigo. Note DO NOT put wool into the dryer at all times. See my video on what dryers do to wool. 

What is an indigo dip?

Please check back. Info to come.

 
What's the full process of dipping in indigo?

Please check back. Info to come.

How do I get solid color instead of uneven color? 

Please check back. Info to come.

What is badly dyed vs. well dyed? 

Please check back. Info to come.

 
When do I untie my design?

I recommend untying your design when you’ve reached a shade 2 times darker than intended. I also recommend washing out and hanging to dry very soon afterwards to ensure any excess dye doesn’t rub off or stain your clothes. If you know you have to interrupt this process, please see my video on how to handle and package your pieces.

When do I know when to stop dipping?

Every time I dip a piece and let it oxidize, I look at the color and see if I’m happy with it. If I like the depth of shade that I have, I recommend dipping it 2 more times. Every wet piece dries 2 shades lighter. 
 
If my pieces are wet and untied, will they stain each other and ruin the design?
Dyeing fabric with indigo takes place when indigo is in the green stage under the surface of the water, with reduced oxygen. After untying your design, staining could happen but should be able to be washed off with a ph neutral detergent such as Synthrapol. Please see my video as to safe options to protect your beautiful designs. 

Post Dyeing and Care

How long can I keep a vat of indigo?

Please check back. Info to come.

How many times can I rebalance my vat? 

Please check back. Info to come.

How to I wash out my pieces? 

Please check back. Info to come.

 
All photos and videos are the property of Jenny Fong of Modern Shibori