Making a natural indigo vat

A few weeks ago in the Boro workshop, I got my chance to work with natural indigo. To my surprise, making the vat wasn’t at all tedious or cumbersome as I’d imagined it would be. We used Michel Garcia’s 1-2-3 proportions to make two organic vats – one with fructose and one with henna! The recipe is quite simple to remember >> 1 part   X natural indigo || 2 parts X pickling lime (aka calcium hydroxide) || 3 parts X fruit sugar (aka fructose) || Detailed recipe and instructions are available in the handbook at the bottom.

I’ve been working with a chemically reduced vat, so I was curious about the differences in the process.The first thing I noticed was the smell. The henna vat smelled earthy and natural unlike my pre-reduced indigo vat that emits a strong ‘chemical smell when it’s reducing.

Some henna trivia >> Henna is believed to be medicinal in India and in olden days, women used to wear it quite regularly. ‘Mehndi’ is the term used for application of henna as a temporary skin decoration. Today, henna tattoos are super elaborate and are worn during festive occasions especially weddings. In fact, at times there is even a traditional pre-wedding ‘Mehendi ceremony’ which is an evening of music and fun where the bride and her girl friends get henna tattoos done together. Sort of a girl’s night-in 🙂

Now, back to the vat…

// The second thing I noticed was the rich hana (aka indigo flower) on the top.

// The third is the difference in the color of the vat. It was a dark golden green, almost brownish. Again, very unlike my pre-reduced vat which tends to be bright light green.

Yoshiko also gave an interesting tip during the workshop for oxidising and dyeing the fabric evenly. She suggests stomping or pressing the dyed fabric under layers of newspaper! This is to remove the excess indigo dye caught in the fibres and ensure that all loose indigo particles are removed before the next dip.

I found this useful Michel Garica X Maiwa Handprints OrganicIndigoVat_Handbook, which explains how you can make a natural indigo vat using different ingredients. The Dye Nerd’s blog is a forum where celebrated shibori artist Catherine Ellis has recently been sharing tips on how she maintains her 1-2-3 vat!

<< Disclosure: I work with World Shibori Network and hence am associated with the Dye Nerd’s Blog. However, I have NOT been approached by the organisation or it’s representatives with regard to this article. All opinions are my own. Henna images courtesy : indiatimes >>

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6 responses to “Making a natural indigo vat

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