Often I think the photos I take of the indigo process are as lovely as the piece it when it's finished. There's something especially intriguing about the moment of reveal. Often I've been thinking about and working on a piece for a week before I actually see what it looks like. It's a multi-step process:
I start with fabric that comes from the mill prepared for dying, or if I'm using other fabrics I scour them by boiling in Soda Ash and Synthrapol. I do this in batches so I always have fabric ready to go when an idea strikes.
Here's the rest of the process: (someday I'll take photos of each step, but usually I get so involved in what I'm doing I forget)
1. I imagine what I want to make
2. I figure out how to make that happen. This is subject to change as I try something and it doesn't work.
3. I do the pre-dipping processes. In this case I stitched it on a Pullen Pleater, which is a wonderful little machine that I recently acquired. They're a bit hard to find these days, I added a link to ebay which is where I found mine.
4. Presoak it in clean water. In this case, I left it outside in the rain overnight for zero water use, important even though our drought is coming to an end.
5. Pull up the threads tightly to create areas where the dye cannot penetrate
6. First dip in the indigo vat.
7. Let it oxidize by hanging in the air and on this piece using a chopstick to get into each fold and allow air to penetrate.
8. Rinse in clear water to finish the oxidizing and remove excess dye.
9. Repeat last two steps until it looks about 2 or 3 dips darker than I want it to end up. (Dye is lost in the rinsing process and the color is lighter when it's dry.)
10. Final rinses. When I want the whites to stay really white I use the chopstick again to separate the folds and let the rinse water penetrate the folds. Repeat until the water runs clear.
11. Unbind the piece.
12. Rinse again to be sure all the dye is gone.
13. Soak in a citric acid bath to brighten the colors. If it still looks dull after this I boil it in a citric acid bath for even brighter colors.
14. Launder in Synthrapol to set colors.