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the blues

September 26, 2011

leaves into the jar

stripping leaves

the jar in the pot

pouring to oxygenate

green to bluegreen


Today we finally harvest the indigo! I’ve been a little intimidated to do it. Chemistry was never my expertise… and it proves to be true, but I learn something anyway—and it is very exciting to use a dye plant we have grown from seed. The recipe for Japanese Indigo is from from Rebecca Burgess’s book Harvesting Color.

Lukas and I are out there cutting a bunch of the Japanese Indigo this morning and filling a jar with leaves and water, then we simmer the jar in hot water for a few hours. In the afternoon, after it has steeped a while, I do a bunch of pouring back and forth between bowls and adding various substances. My friend was commenting how it reminded her of Harry Potter since it turns one color and then you add something and it turns another color! It seemed to do the opposite of what it was supposed to do however… I think it was because I added some water to the jar after it started heating up and it probably added oxygen too early, then I simmered it a long time waiting for it to turn burgundy, which it never really did. The water was sort of blue at first, and when I poured it it was more yellow, then when I added spectralite it was bluer again, hmmm. It did turn the white yarn from greenish to blue at the end, (and the gray yarn didn’t change much but has blue highlights) but it was more of a green-blue. It may not have helped that my thermometer broke into the dye vat (non-mercury, but still…)

There is a bunch more indigo in the garden so I’ll do another batch and see if I can get the color changing thing to go the right way this time! (Umm, anyone have a thermometer I can use?) It’s great to have recipes to follow but inevitably something happens and I wish I could ask someone “what is going on here?” Next time, I can now say, “well, don’t add water after it starts heating up or it will change the process!”

I love for it all to go perfectly when I’m working on a project, and I try pretty hard to make that happen because the imperfect makes me worry I am wasting my time. “If it isn’t right, then why am I doing it?” but really, what is right? Right is ultimately how you react when something goes “wrong” and I am certainly imperfect in a big way when that happens. I can honestly say, I even panic sometimes depending on what is going on.

For the next batch of indigo, instead of deciding I am going to dye yarn blue, I’m going to decide to learn something different than I did this time.

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