We have been working with indigo-dyed cotton jersey for years now. Between Father Andrew and Goods of Conscience in New York City and Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee, there has never been a need for us to start our own indigo vat. And in the quantities we dye, it’s better to leave it to the experts. However, there has always been this little part of me that covets an indigo bath and I dream of one in our studio for “play.”
Since we set about exploring indigo this week, it seemed a perfect time to also explore recipes for a vat (which Father Andrew says is “very much like making beer”). While investigating recipes, I remembered a text message I received last fall from friends A.J. Mason and Jeff Moerchen about an indigo vat they created in the woods of upstate New York. Here they share the story of their vat:
On October 20th, Jeff Moerchen added 5 simple ingredients to a vat and carefully followed a process which has been used for thousands of years around the world, to dye clothing and ceremonial fabrics and dress. An indigo dye bath was underway and was successfully shared 7 days later with friends of 16 Spears.
DYE BATH INGREDIENTS
Finely Ground Indigo Processed from indigofera sp.
Washing soda or Soda Ash
The pure indigo requires a fermentation process brought on by the combined ingredients of water; pure indigo powder (for color); soda ash (to create an alkali solution for penetrating an article of clothing’s fibers; madder root (causes the fermentation), and organic wheat bran (for feeding the fermentation enzymes). Once combined, the fermentation process was underway. For the next 7 days, we only had to ensure the vat was kept warm and stirred gently each day. By day 7, the surface of the dye bath had taken on the anticipated copper color – it was time.
A GOOD DAY TO DYE
On Saturday, October 27th our dye bath was ready and friends of 16 Spears had begun to arrive to share in the day’s festivities: an open-pit hog roast; live musical performances from Levi Barrett, Aotearoa, Hallways, and The Franklin Electric; a welcomed kitchen cook-off; and of course, a clothesline filled with various articles of indigo-dipped clothing brought by guests. While indigo blue has long been associated with the less than aristocratic classes, 16 Spears was happy to have the guests who participated and shared in our “blue-collar ways”. Not to mention, we all ate and drank like royalty.
We plan to share more stories from A.J. and Jeff in the coming months, stay tuned.