Dyeing with Indigo

Handspun wool yarn hanging to dry after being hand dyed with indigo

Handspun indigo dyed wool yarn

In an earlier post, I shared my first time dyeing with Madder. At the same friend’s dye-in, we also played with her indigo vat as well. In this post I’ll share some of the photos and videos from that.


Linen and silk fabric along with wool yarn in the madder dyepot

Fibre in the madder dyepot with the mordant pot in the background

When I first arrived, I was a bit late (darn transit) so there were already items in the dye pot.. but that meant I got to throw my wool (along with about 2 meters of white linen) into the mordant pot. Indigo doesn’t need a pre-mordant apparently, but I actually intended to throw that wool and linen into the madder pot (the yarn worked well, but I didn’t like the linen at all. See more about that in the Madder post).

Indigo vat

The rest of my handspun wool (and later my linen as well) went into the indigo vat, without a pre-mordant. For the wool skeins and the linen yardage, the fibre was in the vat for at least an hour before being removed, rinsed, and hung to dry.


Madder on the stove along with indigo-dyed fibre in a post-mordant pot

Madder on the stove along with indigo-dyed fibre in a post-mordant pot

I commented to our host that my previous indigo experiment had lost a LOT of colour in the rinse, so she suggested we play with a post-mordant this time. We put some of my wool yarn into the mordant before it was drained, while another batch of wool went into the indigo vat. I was happy to see when I rinsed them all that the post-mordant didn’t lose any colour… so the vat must have just worked better with this wool than the previous handspun.

Finished dyed wool

Once it was rinsed and dried, I LOVED the final colour from the wool dyed in the indigo. The only problem…

Some of the wool was Shetland Top, and the resulting yarn was fabulous.

The other wool was US Grade A Top, and it dried very crunchy and brittle. A teacher at Harvest Feast who was teaching an indigo class (and who is a master spinner too!) said that it was likely that the pH of the dye vat was set for cellulose and it was wrong for the protein fibres – and that the US Grade A Top was just too sensitive for it – more than the Shetland.

My friend who runs Black Sheep Handspvn suggested re-scouring the wool, which I did, and it helped a little bit, but it still isn’t great. Then the teacher suggested to give it a protein rinse… or give it away to someone who will chop it up and re-use it to re-card into art yarn. I haven’t tried the protein rinse yet… I’m actually feeling a little disappointed in the yarn, and hopefully some time will make me feel better about it. It was such nice yarn… (pictured below, along with my Marigold & Aster dyed yarn).

Undyed, Indigo dyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool

Undyed, Indigo dyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool

Follow me!

Shetland top handspun wool hand dyed with indigoCome follow me on Facebook to get regular updates when I post new articles to the Dawns Dress Diary blog!

I’ll also have more photos from dye projects on my Instagram feed if you’re also on Instagram!

Come back in a few days… I have more photos and videos to share of the indigo dyeing day!

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