Monday, August 9, 2010

Indigo Tie Dye: a review

Being completely inspired by this blog post to do some indigo tie dye this summer, I bought the kit and picked up some white t-shirts and fabric at the thrift store (no easy task to find white t's without yellow armpit stains) to do some tie dying while we were at my sister's place last week.  All in all I probably spent a little more money than I originally hoped to on this project, but if I add up what I got out of it, I think it was worth it.

If you are planning on doing this project here are some things to consider:

-you need to be outside and in a well-ventilated spot to use the dye.  The acid you add to the indigo is really smelly and not something that should come in contact with any kitchen utensils.
-It's not really a kid-friendly project- you need long rubber gloves on to 'work the dye into the fabric' and no skin should come in contact with the dye, making it a little difficult for kids to be involved.
- The dye works best when not exposed to air for long periods of time.  In other words, if you aren't careful about squeezing out the water and air before you place your t-shirt into the dye, or squeezing out excess dye as you pull your fabric out of the vat, then you are adding extra air into your dye and you will limit how many 'dyes' you can get out of your vat of dye. 
-You may want to share this project with a friend.  I'm considering a family portrait of all of us in our tie-dye for Christmas this year (lol), but seriously, with a time-limit on the vat, does a person really need/want more than 3 blue tie-dye t-shirts in their wardrobe??  Next time around, I might be making table runners as Christmas gifts with the 'extra dye'.
-Disposal of the dye at your home might be a little trickier than you think.  If you have your own septic system (which my sister does) than the acid from the dye will mess up the ph balance of your water.  If you are doing this project in the city (where your septic is connected to a much larger system and won't mess up ph balances), I can't really imagine how one would dump a full 5 gallon bucket full of blue-black-green stinky dye down the tub without permanently staining the entire bathroom with indigo splatter.  I opted to take the dye to my studio where we have industrial sinks that can handle me dumping out dye down the drain.  Even so, kind of messy and a total after-thought.

All in all it was fun.  I only found the cotton fabric to dye day two and enjoyed that a bit more than the t-shirts, although they were fun to do as well.  Opening up all the little folds and seeing the patterns was really where all the fun was. Also watching the fabric turn from yellow-green to blue as it came in contact with oxygen was pretty amazing.


Candied Fabrics said...

Hi Heather! Indigo dyeing is fun, isn't it? I love when it turns from green to blue before your eyes - so exciting!

Although I've only done indigo dyeing a couple of times, and am in no means any sort of expert...I was my understanding that indigo dye vats last a LONG time - like months, or years. Now of course, this means one has to have the place to store it...but I was puzzled by a comment in your post that indicates the opposite. (also, although it doesn't matter, you're adding a very caustic base to the indigo to oxidize it, not an acid.)(oh GOD I hope you don't think I'm an a$$ for correcting you...sigh...)

I've got an indigo vat sitting in my wet bar (tightly covered) gathering dust - I'll put it on the list of things to do!

dahlhaus said...

Hi Candy
I guess I'm just going on the instructions on my indigo dye kit which suggested that the vat was good for about 8-10 items of clothing or so before the colour wouldn't be as saturated. The dye kit also indicated that the dye could be used over a few days, but didn't recommend that it would keep long term. Not sure whether this is just specifici to the kit I bought or what.
As for the 'Acid' vs caustic base- thanks for the correction- I didn't double check on that one before I posted this, I was just reading about ph balances and assumed that it was because I had added an 'acid'.
I actually haven't gotten to disposing of the vat yet, so maybe it's still good?

Anonymous said...

These look fabulous! Have you seen the indigo fashions at the Alabama Chanin website? I am not as crazy about her spring/summer collection as I have been about her previous collections but the clothes are interesting. I love the way her company uses hand work to embellish very humble fabric (organic cotton knit). She started out by recycling tee shirts as you have done. Lois in Yarrow