Posts Tagged ‘fermentation vat’

Woad Vat

August 6, 2009

First things first, hello SCA people!  Thanks for coming by my blog  🙂  I will be going to Tir Righ’s Summer Investiture in the Shire of Danescombe with even more stuff, so if you missed out at Clinton, bring your swatches to colour-match and I’ll see you there!

Back to the business at hand, sorry for the delay in posting – suddenly we were packing and there was no time to write!  However, as promised, here are my pictures and method of getting that lovely blue out of my garden.  I used kind of a combination of three different methods:  Teresinha Roberts’, Cheryl Kolander’s, and Jenny Dean’s from Wild Colour.

It starts off with these beauties (who have, in the two weeks since harvest, almost doubled in size again):

Woad

Woad

I took as many of the big, mature leaves as seemed appropriate – the mature leaves apparently have more pigment.  It was a pretty small harvest, I got about 250g of leaves.  Then I rinsed them to get off any dirt and the associated unwanted pigments, not to mention bugs.

First Woad Harvest

Next, I tore the leaves up into smallish pieces, small enough to get out the maximum amount of pigment, but large enough not to go through my sieve.

Torn up Woad

I put the torn-up bits into my dyepot and heated it up to almost simmering, and let it steep in the hot (not boiling!) water for ten minutes.  Then stuck the whole pot into a sink full of icy cold water, to cool it as quickly as possible.  Two of my three sources said that it’s very important to cool it to 50° C in about five minutes.

Quick Cooling

While it was cooling, I made up a soda ash solution with a very scientific couple of tablespoons dissolved in about a cup of boiling water.  The indigo pigment will only dissolve in an alkaline solution.  One of my sources says the pH should be 9, the other two say that pH is important, but don’t give a number.  I don’t have any pH strips, so I guessed.  It seems to have worked.  After straining the leaves, I added the cooled soda ash solution to the woaded water, which turned it from green to a pinky-brown kind of colour (which I forgot to take a picture of, sorry!).

Next in the process was the incorporation of air into the dye liquid.  I chose to pour it between two buckets instead of using my kitchen mixer.  It took about 10 minutes for the foam to turn blue and the water to turn back green.

Pouring

Pouring, with Bee

Still Pouring

Pouring one more time

Pouring Green

Blue Foam

After that, I added about a cup of liquid from my experimental mother vat a few weeks ago.  Did I post about that?  I decided to try to do the ginger beer thing and make a tiny woad vat that’s always fermented and then add some of that starter solution to temporary larger ones, instead of having to either maintain a big one or start it from scratch any time I wanted to dye something.  I used about the same proportions of madder, wheat bran, and woad powder (purchased) as my indigo vat, but in a 650mL jar.  I knew it was ready the day my boyfriend came home from work and went looking for the dead rat under the bookshelf . . .  Anyways, I added a cup of that, with the pre-grown yeast, along with some more wheat bran for the yeast to feed on so it could multiply in the larger pot.  Then I put it in the bathtub so it would have a good steady temperature, and waited, stirring it once or twice a day.

After about three days it was getting the ‘functional vat’ odour, so I started testing it with bits of paper.  Which was frustrating at first because it didn’t seem to be doing much of anything.  It looked right, but it just wouldn’t dye the paper.  Then I remembered the small amount of pigment I was working with (not to mention the fact that I’m used to working with chemical indigo vats), so I wetted a strip of cotton and left it in the vat for a couple of hours.  Ta da!  Gorgeous blue.  Which, I’m sad to say, I have no pictures of and it’s night-time now, so they’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

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Somebody Murdered Spock in my Bathtub

July 25, 2009

SpockAt least that’s what it looks like right now.  Have no fear, though – the world’s favourite Vulcan is alive and well (as far as I know).  Nope, the green liquid in my bathtub is (dun dun DUH!)   . . . WOAD!  That’s right, folks, my lovely little plants have done it.  What, you don’t believe me?  Here’s proof:

SilkSee the blue on that silk?  That came out of my very own garden, people.  I’ll post some more pictures tomorrow when it’s dry (along with some of the process).  It’s a gorgeous colour, a shade greener than indigo.  Very nice.

Speaking of colour, check out this sunset:

Thunderstorm SunsetWe had a (very rare) thunderstorm this evening, and this is what the sun did through all the rain and clouds and strange weather.  It was incredible.

Woad Woes, Indigo and Some Bragging

June 26, 2009

My poor woad.  Through a combination of nasty soil and an overly-friendly cat, I have only one really healthy plant remaining.  Norman gave up a few weeks ago, Stanley is about to join him in the big vat in the sky, and Claire, Jingles, and Bobo aren’t looking too good.  Ol’ blue eyes Frank, at least, is growing like mad.

Frank

I’m not sure if it will be worth it to try dyeing anything much with only one plant’s worth of leaves, so I think I’m going to harvest as much as I can from the other four, plus Frank, and make a woad ball or two over the summer, and see what I can do with them next year.  Which means, alas, I’m stuck with purchased indigo.  Oh, well.

I don’t have to give up on my plans to try a fermentation vat, even though it’s not my own dye plants, so I started that this evening.  I followed approximately these directions with the only exception being that I used some old indigo stock solution instead of fresh powder.

Indigo Vat s

I have no idea if it will work, but I have all that ginger beer brewing experience now, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Indigo Detail

And now, I can’t help bragging about my garden for a minute.  It’s tiny and insignificant, but I love it all the same.  First up on the brag-roll are tomatoes.  After some other seeds failed to come up, I planted two tomato plants, and they have grown up and are just starting to flower.

Tomato

Next the sugar snap peas that I made the netting for back in May.  They (and my netting) have been a complete success and are now taller than the fence and give me a few peas to munch on every couple of days.

Sugar Snap Pea

Last of all are my favourites, sweet peas grown from seed.  I’m rarely in the garden this time in the evening, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I turned the corner to see the sun just coming over the roofs of the houses across the street and lighting up my sweet peas from behind.  They were glowing.  It was gorgeous.  I took pictures, but you really don’t get the full effect.

Sweet Pea

Isn’t that amazing?  The other thing I can’t share with you is the smell that comes off these babies.  Pure flowery sweetness.

Sweet Peas