dyeing with japanese indigo (and woad)

Long time no see! But here  I am and here is how my micro-plantation of Japanese indigo looked like a month ago (20-25 plants or so in total, seeds are  from Wildcolors in UK)

Japanese indigo

For growing the plants and then dyeing (sodium hydrosulfite method) I followed this instructions from the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (free download article) and peeped in Wild Colour by Jenny Dean.

Japanese indgo

thick blue film appeared on the surface of the bath after simmering the leaves for a couple of hours at 50-60 degr.C



(the “foaming” stage after adding sodium carbonate didn’t really work for me, there was no blue foam). But the dyeing worked anyway:

yarn dyed with j. indigo from the garden

a week later I tried the same process with woad, with same amount of leaves and this time there was the blue foam.


Woad dyebath gave paler and cooler blue compared to japanese indigo.

Here is some woollen yarn (and little pieces of rya wool) dyed with j.indigo on the left and woad on the right, same number of dips:

yarn dyed with indigo and woad

Next year I want to try indigo with yeast bath or urine bath and fermenting the plant material (mainly just to try and see if it works)

Being in indigo mood I have finished the shawl from my handspun yarn (which I dyed  with synthetic indigo last year).

shawl Coeur de Lion

the pattern is Coeur de Lion from Ravelry. I first saw here in February Twelve blog.

shawl Coeur de Lion


14 responses to “dyeing with japanese indigo (and woad)

  1. Quimper Hitty October 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    A friend is trying to grow indigo…maybe we can work together on a project!

  2. ulitasloom October 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Nice results! I did some indigo experiments , too, using the organic vat recipe (http://www.maiwa.com/stores/supply/instructions.html)

    • Alfia October 26, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks! Hope next summer is warm enough to try some organic vat. And thank you for the link, I have been to Maiwa site before, but forgotten they had so many different instructions!

  3. onesmallstitch October 26, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    great colours. the shawl is beautiful. I have just picked the last of my Japanese indigo for next year’s seeds.

    • Alfia October 27, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Thanks, Jean. I managed to collect some seeds this year too, hope they turned out ok. When I think about it – it started from seeing you growing your Japanese indigo and dyeing, all your wonderful shibori and yarns. And I just want to try it, mostly for the sake of trying, so I know what people mean when they say “indigo vat”.

  4. Febr12 October 27, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Thank you so much for referring to my blog!
    OMG, I love your version of Coeur de Lion!!! It’s absolutely stunning: the color and WOWW for that handspun yarn.
    I’m just in the process of learning how to spin and my yarn still looks very much like “art yarn”, except that that’s totally undeliberate :-(

    • Alfia October 27, 2014 at 10:48 am

      You are too kind! Honestly, I felt my yarn was a bit too fluffy and the color is too dark for a lace shawl like this, the patterns calls for plain and light colored yarn, your choice feels more right for me. But I just contunied blindly and now i have the shawl.
      I think spinning is something one keeps improving all the time, (there is always ways to make it better) and with your diligance you will master it quite soon!

    • Alfia October 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      I have been spinning for not so long, 2,5 years may be, on and off. And I try to buy fiber locally – (both sheep wool and alpaca) and card it myself. In the beginning I bought some wool samples here http://www.worldofwool.co.uk/ mainly because it is already processed and easy to spin. I started with drop spindle first, just to see if i like it and then switched to spinning wheel. but even with a spinning wheel – making enough yarn for a sweater is quite a project!

  5. Lillemor (Ullemor) October 28, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Considering my own failures in dyeing with woad and japanese indigo, I just say: Wow! to your results. But new year, new tries!

    • Alfia October 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks! It must be beginners luck I had – but then I didn’t go for any particular shade of blue – just any blue would do. I was mostly fascinated that the pigment was there all of a sudden! Though next time it would be nice to have real dark blues…

  6. Anonymous October 30, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Wow! Super gorgeous results! And I think your shawl is beautiful.

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