Answers to some questions about the Natural Indigo method
I have received e-mails with some very good questions about the Indigo Kit and thought I would post the questions & answers here.
What is different about this method?
While there are many ways to make an indigo vat the two most widely used are the chemical vat and the natural ferment vat.
The chemical vat requires lye or caustic soda and thioureadioxide (Thiox). Lye is not so easy to obtain, is toxic and must be used with care. Thiox imparts a very strong odor to the indigo vat and requires good ventilation. This type of vat is very PH sensitive and not the most stable. To adjust the PH you would use Soda Ash or lemon juice.
The natural ferment vat takes 7 – 10 days before it is ready to use, requires a dedicated space, must be kept from getting too cold or too hot and care to keep it going. The most basic formula calls for indigo, ground madder root, soda ash, bran and water. The vat requires rest periods between dyeing, it needs to be fed and nurtured. With proper care it can last for years.
With Michel Garcia’s method there is no strong odor, it is ready to use in an hour and is very stable. Like the natural ferment vat this type of vat can be kept indefinitely – it just needs to be woken up when ready to use again. It does not require dangerous chemicals (lye or caustic soda) instead it is made with fructose and lime.
Can I do this at home?
Yes. The process is virtually odorless. You can use your kitchen stove for the heat source. The goods that you dye can be rinsed in your kitchen sink. Any mess can be cleaned up with Clorox- Cleanup.
What do I need?
- A heat source, your stovetop is fine
- 16-liter (or larger) enamel or stainless steel pot with a lid
- Thermometer (a candy thermometer or digital thermometer)
- White vinegar (for neutralizing the dyed goods)
- A place to let the goods oxidize, a drying rack with newspaper underneath works well
How long does the vat last?
Indefinitely, as long as you don’t let it freeze or get too hot. The vat should be stored covered until you are ready to use it again. Store it in the cabinet under the sink, in your basement (as long as it can’t freeze), somewhere safely out of the way until you are ready to use it again.
What if I don’t want to store the vat?
In my teaching this method I explain two ways of using the vat.
The first is to use it, then store it and revive or wake up the vat when you are ready to dye again.
The second is to set your self up to do all the dyeing you are going to do until the vat is exhausted of indigo, then dispose of the vat.
How do I dispose of the vat?
Simply put – you can pour the vat in your garden or down the drain. If you have any concerns bring the PH of the vat to neutral by adding white vinegar and then pour it down the sink or in your garden.
How much can I dye with the Indigo Kit?
This is a bit of a tough question – it depends on how many dips you decide to do – at a minimum you should be able to dye one to two pounds of yarn, fabric or fiber. You can easily add more indigo to the vat as it becomes exhausted (used up).
You can purchase the Indigo Kit and additional supplies here: Indigo Kits