Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Am I... blue?

Have you ever seen the "This Little Piggy" episode of Justice League Unlimited where Batman is forced to sing to save Wonder Woman?

It still makes me laugh. I am so easily amused.

At any rate, last Saturday started off perfectly normal, and continued as such, until the following conversation:

Bridget: (suddenly changing subject) I hate to say this, but I'm going to need containers to collect urine.
Daniel: (not missing a beat) You know, this is a dark, dark road we're going down...

I want to start a fermentation indigo vat. The old-fashioned kind. Now that I have ample backyard space, I'm thinking, why not?

Why not indeed. Never mind the smell, the chance of scaring our neighbours, attracting the wrong type of critters to my yard and confirming for all the world that I am full-on batshit crazy - did I mention the smell? My understanding is that however bad I think it will be, it will be worse. Bad enough that it could be used in a Klingon Rite of Ascension. I can hear it now:

"DaHjaj SuvwI'e' jiH.
[Today I am a warrior.]

tIgwIj Sa'angNIS.
[I must show you my heart.]

Iw bIQtIq jIjaH.
[I travel the river of blood.]


Wait a minute, that's not... eeew."

Here's a great story about a urine indigo vat in Toronto. She is totally my hero.

Really, I'm not into dyeing. Not a bit. Not really my thing. This need - yes, need for an indigo vat comes because some friends and I require a nice, naturally-dyed forest green for a maybe-not-still-secret-but-I-should-check-first-before-blurting-everything project.

As part of this ongoing quest, I tried a recommendation and dyed some of the DorsetX with carrot tops. Another friend tried it unmordanted, and got an olivey-greenish-brown. I decided to test it in combination with copper sulfate as a mordant. On the left is some mordanted wool, on the right, the results of the carrot top dyebath:

Not exactly the green we're looking for, but interesting, in a brown sort of way

I've been researching other options for green. Spinach? Tried and failed. I missed a massive pear leaf pruning at a neighbour's house last fall by a day. There are plenty of things that will give olives and brown-greens, but it seems nothing comes close to giving the strong, bright, colourfast green we're looking for better than overdyeing a good indigo blue with yellow (or hopefully, vice-versa). And the most well-known, time honoured, tried-and-true natural dye combination for this: indigo and weld. I already have some weld-dyed yellow from last fall.

The oldest, and a very historically accurate, way of reducing indigo is in a fermentation vat using urine: "the Good Old Sig Vat" (as per Liles 1990: 82). Yes, there are other methods. Methods that don't make me sound quite as nuts. Methods that don't smell anywhere near as badly. But we're going for historical here, preferably pre-1600.

So really: how much choice do I have? The need is great. I have indigo and recipes. And, I have plenty of the crucial ingredient needed to reduce it.

Sigh. How bad can it smell, really? (Please don't answer that.)

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