the longing for blue

Posted: November 2, 2016 by Mo Crow in It's Crow Time

pale-indigo-week-1“Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.”
Rebecca Solnit “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”
I give up… dyeing with indigo is officially in the box of wishful thinking & pipe dreams along with the other epic fails of this lifetime
here’s the list in chronological order
oil painting
hot glass blowing
dyeing with indigo

admitting defeat helps me focus my attention on the possibilities at hand

“Sometimes it seems to me that, in the end, the only thing people have got going for them is imagination.
At times of great darkness, everything around us becomes symbolic, poetic, archetypal. Perhaps this is what dreaming, and art, are for.”

Helen Garner “On Darkness” 2015 (p 152) “Everywhere I Look” 2016

PS does anyone have any clues for how to neutralize a deranged indigo vat?

  1. nemo-ignorat says:

    This is really sad. You’re using a 1-2-3-vat? Did you heat the water properly before adding the lime and the indigo and fructose? In any case, you can throw a 1-2-3-vat on the compost w/o any further ado. The lime does not hurt a well working compost heap. If you really want to neutralize the pH, mix loads of air into the vat, to remove the reduction and then add a bit of vinegar, enough to neutralize the lime. But as I said, it’ not necessary with a fructose vat. In case of a hydrosulfite vat, you better air the vat to remove any ongoing reduction process and then you let the pot sit for as long as it takes to sediment. Then filter the vat through a fine cloth and throw the gunk at the bottom and in the filter cloth (after drying) in the trash to be burned in the incinerator plant. You can then safely drain the watery part of the vat in the sewer system.

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Ulrike))) thank you! yes, it’s the 1-2-3 vat which on the surface looked relatively easy but I didn’t think out the heating of the vat properly & have no space or the means to keep the vat warm … my mind is much better at thinking magically than scientifically

      • nemo-ignorat says:

        you don’t have to keep it warm. The main ingredient is to heat the water for the vat to exactly (not higher than and not lower as) 80 deg Celsius. When the water has the right temperature, you add the lime, check the pH (which should be about 11.5 – 12) and then you add the indigo. Add the fructose and let everything cool down to a nice hand warm temperature and dye with it. You can even let it stand to the next day (or later) and when you revive it, the most impportant thing is that you use a stick to swirl it from the middle to get a kind of maelstrom going. Check the pH, add lime if necessary and then check, how it dyes. If it works good, everything if fine, if not, add some fructose. The reviving process can be done with room temperature. I dye cotton and wool in a room temperature fructose vat w/o problems. The most important thing is just to have the right strater temperature.

  2. what’s wrong with them?
    and your quote….well…….

    • Mo Crow says:

      the vat has deranged because I couldn’t keep it warm enough… just jumped in without thinking it through & my hands even with chemical gloves cannot tolerate the lime in the mix + those pale blues will fade fast, I am so not a dyeing person… back to slowly tenderly stitching that beautiful quote from the last post, halfway through the word “intensely”

  3. so…ok….the hands and the fade. ok. But to me in the moment, they are
    intensly soft and elegant shades of blue..

    • Mo Crow says:

      the bits of cotton that were rinsed properly didn’t take at all and the lime was not kind to the leather, paper & especially my hands… I am happily embracing defeat

  4. Liz A says:

    Much to think on here … I’m tempted to write a companion post

    And what a list of epic successes you could write …

  5. nemo-ignorat says:

    If you really want to kill it but still want to use some of the indigo in the vat, add air to it (by mixing it vigurously) and then let it dry in the shade. Let the water evaporate and you can use the resulting crystals that will be left on the bottom for paint. Just grind them between two stones or in a mortar and mix them with soy milk and you have paint.

  6. nemo-ignorat says:

    I’m not quite sure what happened to my other two comments. Here the gist of them: you don’t have to keep it warm. It is absolutely necessary to heat the water before adding anything else to exactly 80 deg Celcius. Then add lime and then indigo after checking the pH. Then the fructose and then you let it cool down to under 45 deg C. I dye happily and successfully with it at room temperature. When you want to revive it, don’t add anything at first. Just mix it thoroughly from the middle. You will get some kind of maelstrom. Check the pH and then use a bit of cloth or string to test the dyeing. If the pH is right, use it if not, adjust the pH.
    If the dye doesn’t stay on the fabric or whatever, it is probably too well reduced. Let it sit for a day or two and try later.
    If you really want to call it quits, then add a lot of air into it and let the sediment settle. Remove as much water as possible and then wait until the water has evaporated. Grind the blue muck in a mortar or between two stones and add it to some strong soy milk and you can use it as paint.

    • Mo Crow says:

      your previous replies are here Ulrike and I love all this information. I was too ambitious with my first vat, it’s too big and made of plastic so I have no means of heating it to 80 degrees C. I will turn this lot into paint and later in the middle of summer when the weather is hot I will try again in a metal pot that I can heat on the stove

  7. fiona says:

    Your attempts at dyeing sound very much like mine Mo – altho I gaze wistfully at the success of others…I think I like my alchemy magical rather than scientific ;- ) Have fun with the crystals!

  8. margaret johnson says:

    EEEEEEKK, was thinking of planting my indigo seeds, until I read your post. Too complicated for my worn out brain. Are your hands ok now? I ‘ve yet to see a piece of indigo dyed cloth in person, so I’ll continue to drool at it online. ox

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Margaret))) please don’t let my experience put you off, give me any problem and I will find the most circuitous complicated way to do it, for example most people can stitch a bag together in a day, my first attempt took three weeks! My hands are fine but react strongly to working in wet conditions even with gloves on, I can only carve glass in short bursts these days as the work needs to be held under running water and my hands swell up horribly. Will put a little bundle together of some indigo bits for you to enjoy very soon!

  9. You need not give up–Look at this site about cold extraction

    Also I had luck with pre-packaged natural dyes I got from Dick blick–

    But Jude has a better source as I recall and although she is abstaining from social media in protest to stand with STANDING ROCK, I think she is answering emails. I never asked if you were working with dry leaves, fresh leaves or if it were Japanese Indigo. Anyway it’s such pleasure I hope you don’t abandon it.

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Michelle))) I believe in magic & after this latest foray hold the cloth conjurors who can coax the blue into this world in even higher esteem! It was with great relief that I dumped the vat out today, it is simply not for me.

  10. you make such beauty and blue makes you longing but kindred spirits will sent you stuff or was your longing part of the making?

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Yvette))) I have bought and been gifted lots of beautifully dyed indigo cloth and thread over the last 5 years, attended India Flint & Roz Hawker’s Bower Bird Blues workshop in early 2015 and swapped the Talisman for The Blues for some indigo cake from Tarla Elward’s Tambourine Mountain Indigo farm but put making a vat on the back burner until after the Crow Show. 2 weeks ago I started Glennis Dolce’s Let’s Dye with Indigo workshop, thought I had it worked out & last weekend made a 1-2-3 vat which deranged with no way to heat it up, hence the epic fail. I am better off leaving indigo magic to the people with an affinity for the process!

  11. arlee says:

    Don’t give up on indigo! I successfully revived a vat t that froze through two Calgary Alberta winters–and i’ve never worried about the temp even in the basement! It’s worth the effort.

    • arlee says:

      And WEAR GLOVES IN IT!! Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you can’t have only healthy results on your skin.

      • Mo Crow says:

        I wore gloves and a mask throughout the process, my hands do not tolerate wet processes even with gloves on, they swell up horribly and I have zero tolerance to any types of dust since the throat cancer surgery and removal of 30 lymph nodes in my neck in 2004, indigo dyeing is simply not for me, deep bow of respect for those who do!

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Arlee))) you are one of the indigo magicians! I loved working with the indigo and rust dyed silk I bought from you back in 2012 combined with some of Glennis Dolce’s moons. This is the best of both worlds, the indigo dyers have an appreciative customer and I have a way of working with indigo without the anxiety, dumping the vat yesterday made me feel so light and free, when that happens I know I am heading in the right direction!

  12. fiberels says:

    Ohhhhh I’m glad (ummm you’re nót) that you have “dyeing with indigo” on that list too ….
    just like me … And I didn’t even manage to have a “first vat” at all …… ;-(

    But you will succeed with good advice of all these “indigo-witches” !!! Lucky you, Mo !

    • Mo Crow says:

      (((Els))) I feel so relieved to have emptied the vat and the responsibility! The next time I see a hand dyed indigo cloth that holds the good magic I can even allow myself to buy it!

  13. handstories says:

    If we could all do everything, we wouldn’t need or appreciate each other’s magic! Well done taking care of yourself!

  14. saskia says:

    gave up trying to learn the guitar, well there’s only so much time one has I suppose – I’ve finally learned to listen to my gut-feelings (although admitttedly not all the time!) when the gut nudges me towards NO, i.e. I feel serious doubts I am now able to say to self DON’T DO IT
    I think Hazel has phrased it beautifully

  15. debgorr says:

    laughing in empathy because of course I know this too with other things (funnily enough I have everything assembled for a 1-2-3 vat and am hoping to start today). As Hazel says we all have our talents…

  16. deemallon says:

    have you thought about chucking the batch and starting over? ‘course there is freedom in letting something go and the gloves issue won’t go away, even with a successful batch. So, who cares? The ‘epic success’ list, as someone above noted, must be very long!!

    Dyeing is problematic for me too for a couple of reasons — measuring and precision are not strong suits and there is a lot of stuff to store — bins, rubber bands, bags of mordant or powders, more bins, empty jars, resist forms… it takes up a ton of space.

    Falconry — hmmm, I can see that for you. Have you read the fairly recent British memoir, “H is for Hawk”? I hope not. Because I would love to be able to return the favor of turning you on to a good book. And this one is so well written it will make you swoon. All about goshawk training, which will interest you.

    • Mo Crow says:

      I’ve kept the big glass jar aside and may have another go with a fermentation vat in the middle of summer when I won’t have to worry about heating it up. I learned a lot from the epic fail & have even more admiration for the indigo magicians of the world!
      H is for Hawk was a beautiful book, loved TH White’s The Goshawk & An Eagle to the Sky is another rare gem. I looked after a tiny just hatched baby owl for three weeks with dreams of hunting mice at night but it died from indigestion when I fed it some minced beef from the butcher on a friend’s advice.I had been feeding Owlie an assortment of bugs and mice that the local children helped me find.

please leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s