FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: Great tips for the famous Michel Garcia 1-2-3 indigo vat!

Every week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community asking simple and complex questions that we thought might be worth sharing. Of course, all of your burning questions are answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors.

I purchased indigo from you recently to do the Michel Garcia 1-2-3 indigo vat. I need help!

I followed your instructions exactly TWICE, using up 200 grams of indigo, and I still don’t have indigo stock that looks good.

1. The pickling lime when added to the jar makes the jar as hard as a ROCK. The first batch I could barely stir it in, it took over an hour and a half to get it to mix in, and I still think there were chunks. The second batch I mixed it with hot water first and then added and that went more smoothly. Is this normal?

2. Your instructions didn’t really say that properly wetting the indigo is a vital step and extremely important. I followed your suggestions and added a little water to make a paste, but I definitely didn’t wet it like other videos are describing. I think my entire first batch using 100gr of indigo is a goner because of this.

3. My second batch, where I adequately wetted the indigo and mixed the other two ingredients in, started looking wonderful after about 15 minutes, it was finally getting that coppery color throughout. However, is it possible that your suggested quantity of indigo is WAY TOO MUCH for a 1/2 gallon or two quart jar as you suggest? If I put a spoon into the jar, there is still sediment. I wonder if there is not even enough water for all of the items to react? Your instructions say to use 100gr indigo to 200gr lime to 300gr fructose, with a few cups of water. That is what I did and there is a TON of sediment all throughout the jar, and my 1/2 gallon canning jar is filled to the brim. The jars in your pictures don’t even look like 1/2 gallon jars, they look closer to 1 quart jars. What am I doing wrong here?

4. My second got coppery colored throughout but definitely didn’t separate into layers.

I am desperate for your advice!

Sorry to hear you are having trouble. Don’t throw anything away – it’s all workable.

1. Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the thick mixture into another container and carefully add in very warm water and stir. It will change from a thickened mass to a thin liquid. You can use another jar or a bucket but make sure that it is enough so you can convert the paste to liquid. For the one jar that is super thick, you may need to hydrate it a few spoonfuls at a time. Once the liquid is thin enough, it will reduce and separate into layers.  If there are actual “rocks” in the mixture, let them hydrate overnight with some additional water and they should dissolve and become workable.

2. I reviewed the online instructions and what I find are directions that say 1-2 spoonfuls, which is about 15-30 grams of indigo.

3. This indigo method creates a lot of sediment. And yes, you can also hydrate the indigo the way that Michel Garcia does, which is to put the powder into a plastic jar with glass marbles, add water and shake vigorously. I just have a very strong marble aversion.

4. We are using a quart jar for amounts which are approximately 30 grams indigo, 60 grams calcium hydroxide and 90 grams of henna or fructose. For larger amounts, we use a larger container or small (1-3 gallon) bucket.

5. Use one of your reconstituted jars to create your vat. If you want a super strong vat with all 200 grams of indigo, then use a large bucket (5 gallon minimum) and add all the jars. This vat should last you for a long time and yield very dark shades.

Shop all indigo here.

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