FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: A newcomer to natural dyeing tackles her indigo vat and has lots of questions…

Each week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community asking simple and complex questions that we thought might be worth sharing. Here are a handful from this week answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors:

HELP is needed. I am very new to indigo dye and dyeing at all. My first two vats worked exactly as in your instructions. Yesterday I (tried) to make my third. NOTHING happened. everything stayed a murky dark blue. I tried again. Again no reduction but there was some flowering. First I added more calcium and then more fructose. NO REDUCTION.I checked the PH and it was very + (14).
This morning I tried again. It was more successful, but still not like my first trials. Much less flowering, but it has reduced.
Have you noticed that in your instructions in”How To” you write to add the fructose first and in your instructions that I received with the powders it says to first put the calcium?
Does it make a difference.? Does the indigo powder get old? I purchased it a half a year ago.

Indigo powder has a very long shelf life if it is kept dry and away from direct heat.

If the pH of the vat was at 14, that is very, very high and may contribute to the problems with the vat. The best thing to do is add a mild acid, like white vinegar to reduce the pH to 10.5 or 11. Stir the vat, let it settle and then see how it is reacting. Usually adding fructose only helps balance the vat quickly but if it does not start turning green and then yellow-green, then try adding a little calcium hydroxide. It is the combination of proper pH (between 10.5 and 11) and a reducing agent that brings most vats into balance.

The sequence of adding calcium or fructose first when making the stock solution does not seem to make a difference but my preference is to add the calcium hydroxide before adding the fructose, as that makes the most sense for me.