Making An Organic Indigo Fructose Dye Vat

The organic or fructose fermentation vat is based on the traditional dye baths of India and Morocco. This recipe works off the proportions by natural dye master Michel Garcia and is known as the 1-2-3 fructose vat -  1 part natural indigo / 2 parts lime / 3 parts fructose crystalline. 

The vat uses the reaction between lime (calcium hydroxide) and fructose crystalline to reduce the dye bath (remove oxygen) which allows the indigo to bond with the fabric fibres. 

The fructose acts as a reducing agent and the lime is the base.

Bio indigo powder derived from the plant indigofera tinctora is obtained through a non toxic fermentation of the indigo plant.

In this tutorial, I show you two different methods to mix your dye vat. The first method is by making a stock solution first before adding mixture to the vat and the second method is by mixing dye ingredients straight into the vat. For a beginner dyer, I suggest running with the second method to keep the steps as simple as possible.  Following method one allows you to see the chemical reaction take place and is pretty interesting!

RECIPE FOR A 15 LITRE ORGANIC FRUCTOSE VAT

50gms indigo powder

100gms lime/calcium hydroxide

150gms fructose crystalline

 

PREPARE YOUR FABRIC

It is important to scour your fabrics to remove oils and waxes that will inhibit the dye bonding with fabric fibres

Wash your natural fibre fabric in a plant based, gentle liquid detergent to remove any residues before folding and dyeing fabric. For a more thorough scouring of cellulose fibres (linen, cotton, hemp), fill a large pot with water to cover fabric, add 2 teapoons/10mL of Synthrapol per 500g of fabric. Simmer for one hour. I handwash my fabrics in cold water with a plant based liquid detergent from an Australian company called 'The Dirt Company'

 I suggest doing this before dyeing day so you are organised

 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED FOR DYEING

  • dust mask (lime can be irritating)
  • gloves 
  • small jar with lid to hydrate indigo powder
  • a handful of marbles or washed garden stones,
  • 2 litre heat resistant plastic container or 2 quart mason jar if making a stock solution first
  • wooden spoon or stick for stirring
  • 20 litre plastic bucket with lid or non reactive stainless steel pot
  • drop sheet
  • separate drip bucket or tray

METHOD 1 

MAKING A STOCK SOLUTION BEFORE ADDING TO DYE VAT

Hydrate indigo first by putting indigo powder in a separate clean glass jar with some marbles or washed garden stones, add warm water, lid on firmly and shake vigorously for a minute, your indigo is now hydrated! 

Add indigo paste/solution to your container or mason jar

Add 2 cups of hot water and stir

Add fructose slowly and stir thoroughly

Add lime (calx) slowly and stir thoroughly

Add more hot water until jar is almost full

The solution should be a dull, cloudy yellow green. Keeping it warm can help the vatting out process so you can sit jar in a pot of hot water if you wish

Leave it to sit for about 30 minutes. The solution will remain cloudy and will turn a yellowish green or sometimes brown, this is ok and some sludge on the bottom is normal too

 

HOW TO TELL IF STOCK SOLUTION IS READY 

A dark indigo 'flower' should form on top of solution and a layer of coppery scum.

Let your stock solution sit undisturbed until this happens, then it is ready to go!

Fill your vat/bucket with approximately 15 litres of hot water, not boiling water and preferably rainwater

Add the entire stock solution including the sludge on the bottom, add some warm water to the jar to get all of the solution out

Stir gently but thoroughly, a long wooden dowel works perfectly

The dye bath will gradually turn yellowy green over atleast 30 minutes

A coppery indigo flower should also develop on the top of vat and means it is ready to go!  You can test the PH level at this stage to make sure the vat has a desired PH of 10-12. Leave vat to sit for longer if PH not yet where it needs to be.

 

indigo stock solution

METHOD 2 - 

MIXING THE DYE VAT WITHOUT MAKING A STOCK SOLUTION

Hydrate indigo first by putting indigo powder in a separate clean glass jar with some marbles or washed garden stones, add warm water, lid on firmly and shake vigorously for a minute, your indigo is now hydrated! 

Fill your vat/bucket with approximately 15 litres of hot water, not boiling water and preferably rainwater

In a separate plastic jug, add the fructose and dissolve in a little warm water

Add fructose solution to the vat

Pour the hydrated indigo from the glass jar into the vat holding your fingers over the jar so the marbles stay in the jar. Add some warm water to the jar to get all of the solution out.

Now add the lime/calx 

Stir gently but thoroughly, a long wooden dowel works perfectly

The dye bath will gradually turn yellowy green over atleast 30 minutes

A coppery indigo flower should also develop on the top of vat and means it is ready to go!

 

DYEING YOUR FABRIC

Have a separate bucket or sink ready with warm water and submerge your folded and pre washed fabric in the water, remove and wring out excess water before placing gently in the vat.


Move indigo 'flower' to the side of vat or remove it with a spoon and return to vat after dyeing. Place fabric in vat for 2-3 minutes, holding fabric under the vat surface and gently massaging, then remove trying not to drip/splash back into the vat to avoid introducing oxygen. 

Place fabric in a separate bucket or drip tray while it oxidizes. Any excess dye in drip tray can be returned to the vat later. 

Your fabric will turn from a yellowy green/teal colour to indigo blue when exposed to oxygen. Fabric should be left to oxidize for roughly 15-20 minutes.


For deeper shades of blue, return your fabric to the vat and repeat the process until you are happy. Aim to dye your fabric two shades darker than what you want as the fabric will be lighter once rinsed and dry.


When finished dyeing your fabric, rinse with cold water until water runs clear and untie the fabric, rinse some more with a small amount of white household vinegar added to the water for a final rinse


Air dry in shade. Do not tumble dry.

REBALANCING THE VAT

Return any dye solution from drip tray/bucket back to the vat.

If you plan on using your vat more than once and over a few days, keep a small amount (tablespoon) of both the lime and fructose to rebalance the vat if need be.

Your vat needs a PH of 10-12. Test the PH level with strips and 'feed' the vat as follows to adjust the PH - 

If the dye vat has turned blue, do the following -

Heat vat to 50 degrees.

Add a tablespoon of fructose and gently stir.

Wait atleast 30 minutes for the vat to turn back to a yellowy green.

If this doesn't work, add a tablespoon of Lime, stir and wait for 30 minutes.

You may need to repeat the process to rebalance the vat.

 

Follow @weaveandburrow on Pinterest where I have saved some useful and easy to follow shibori tutorials

 

Good dyeing!

 

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