In this blog post, I will share with you my first experience with dyeing fresh leaf indigo on cellulose fibers. I fell in love with this leafy shade! When I read that this is best on protein fibers, I didn’t know it would work on cellulose, but I was very excited about the results.
I grow a few pots of Dyer’s Knotweed / Japanese Indigo (Persinaria tinctoria) on my balcony this summer (6 plants in total). The plants did not like strong heat in spring, but bloomed in autumn. The leaves looked so watery that I knew I had to try to paint them soon. It was now or never! We will have a frost soon and it will be too late …
Several plants begin to bloom. The pink buds are very delicate and beautiful. I will leave this plant (pictured below) and hopefully I will get the seeds next year. I understand that after the plants bloom, the amount of indigo in the leaves exceeds the peak. So, it’s time to paint with leaves …
The traditional way to dye indigo is to fertilize the leaves, but since I have a few handfuls of leaves, I thought I would try a faster method using fresh leaves. I’ve heard the “salt rubbing” method that’s been talked about a lot in the last few months This useful blog post and video that I use as a guide.
There is a different fresh leaf method that involves mixing the leaves in water, but since I didn’t need a blender, I resorted to rubbing more salt. I just needed salt and my hands.
Would you like to be with me in my indigo experience?
I will share with you what I did to make a beautiful pink color …
I took a few handfuls of stalks from the plants, except for the flowering plants that I would leave and allow to bloom. Then I took the leaves from the threads and pulled them.
I had 38 grams of leaves.
I added 1 teaspoon of table salt to the leaves in the box. I wasn’t sure of the exact amount I needed – and I don’t know exactly what that meant. In the video, the lady used a handful of salt for large bucket leaves. 1 teaspoon worked well for a small amount of leaves.
Then I rubbed the leaves in my hands and the leaves immediately began to shrink and for a few seconds a sparkling green juice dripped from my hand.
Then I added the piece. I wanted to draw a few pieces of fabric – a little bamboo silk fabric (a satin fabric that looks like silk, but is vegan) and a small organic cotton muslin. Both were pre-treated with soy milk in the usual way described in my book. I’m not sure if the soy protein could tell how the fabric took on the indigo, but the pre-processed fabric was ready and waiting to be dyed, so I used it. Next time I will compare the results of a soy or no soy milk to see if there is a difference on the fabric.
The juice immediately dyed the fabric green, and I continued to rub the leaves on the fabric, and the color began to turn more pink.
I decided to put the stalks in a jar of water. This is a clue I heard Liz Spencer – Dogwood Dyer. The stems should leave the roots and new leaves should grow. Exciting! In winter, I will try to grow plants at home.
I continued to rub the leaves on the cloth for about half an hour until the juice was gone. The end result is spotty and a little patchy, so I could do it by using more leaves or using less fabric. But in fact, I am very pleased with the soft marble pattern. It’s beautiful and above all I expected.
I dried the cloth for the rest of the day and then washed it in the evening. The water in the sink was bright green and the fabric looked more blue than unwashed.
The beautiful shadow of the dark sky amazes me! I plan to use the fabric in some small patch lavender bags. I have been dreaming of blue for a long time and it is a pleasure to enlarge it a little from my blue color! Maybe next time I will make a small fertilization pot. If my plants grow more leaves, I will try. I know this is the beginning of a lot of indigo coloring fun over the next few years.
I am updating this blog post, a year after writing the original post, with a top that I painted with salt. Since it was an early crop of the season, I didn’t have many leaves to play with, so I looked for a colorful pattern and rubbed the leaves on the fabric. The fabric is a mixture of hemp and organic cotton, and I pre-treated it with soy milk (the method is in my Botanical Color book on your fingers).
It’s a fun way to make an elegant and wearable model.
The gray cardigan above is dyed with acorns and immersed in a bucket of weak iron water (ferrous sulfate).