How to create a natural indigo fructose dye vat

How to create a natural indigo fructose dye vat

Indigo can be used to dye any natural fibres. It gives beautiful shades of blue and is definitely one of our favourite natural dyes to work with as the process feels so magical.

The colour achieved depends on the type of vat, the concentration of indigo, and the number of dips. 

Indigotin (the dye component of indigo powder) is insoluble in water, so to use it for dyeing it must be reduced to a water-soluble form.

All indigo vats need three things: 1) Indigo 2) A reducing agent 3) A Base.

Reducing agents are usually chemicals but we can use sugar instead.

A reducing agent lowers the oxidation state of the indigo molecule, transforming indigotin into leuco-indigo — which is soluble in water at room temperature. If we just add powdered indigo to water it will remain in pigment form, suspended but not dissolved.

In order for the reducing agent to act on the indigo, a basic environment is required. Chemically speaking, a base is the opposite of an acid. The reduction of indigo requires a basic (alkaline) solution. A recommended base for an indigo vat is calx (calcium hydroxide) also known as lime, pickling lime, or hydrated lime.

When the indigo is dissolved, the dye bath is a greeny-yellow colour. On the top of the vat, air oxidizes the indigo, resulting in blue indigo pigment. Resting on the bottom of the vat is the sediment consisting of any undissolved indigo, reducing agent or base. 

Ahead of your cotton fabric you need to scour it. This removes any oils which may be sitting in the fabric. You can do this by washing in a washing machine at 40 degrees with some ecover detergent.

The Fructose Vat

Don’t forget to scour your cloth or yarn before dyeing.

For a vat of about 8 litres

— 30 g (1 oz) powdered natural indigo

— 90 g (3 oz) fructose

— 60 g (2 oz) calx (calcium hydroxide)

Fill a 10 litre (2.5 gallon) stainless steel vat 3/4 full with hot water.

Add the fructose and stir to dissolve.

Add the indigo to the vat. Sprinkle on the surface of the vat and stir in until well mixed.

Add half the calx (reserve the second half if you find you need to raise the pH). Sprinkle on the surface of the vat and stir the vat gently. Do not do too quickly. You do not want air in the liquid. Wait for a few minutes. Then stir again. Repeat this stirring three or four times.

Heat until the liquid reaches 50°C (120° F). You may then turn off the heat. In about 45 mins - hour the vat develops a bronzy surface and a small dark blue indigo flower. The interior of the vat will be a clear yellow green.

Fructose can be used to quickly build a strong vat. However, fructose vats can also collapse easily or be difficult to revive. For this reason, we recommend making a smaller vat when using fructose. A smaller vat also uses less indigo and so (if your vat collapses) there is less dye wasted.

Note: Sucrose (refined table sugar) is not a reducing sugar and so will not work.

In order to achieve the shibori effect on our knickers we used natural rubber elastic bands wrapped around each section of the knickers. Take a look at our instagram reels to see this process in action!

Enjoy experimenting with Indigo.

Tag us in your experiments @bedstrawandmadder



The Lost Language of Flowers

The Lost Language of Flowers

More than 7000 languages are spoken in the world today but one you may not have heard of is the ancient language of flowers.  It is known as Floriography, a means of cryptological communication through the choice and arrangement of flowers. 

Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of year-end practised in traditional cultures across the world.  As great lovers of flowers and plants, utilising them in our natural dyes we love this ancient wisdom and wish to revive this knowledge. 

During the Victorian era this practise became very popular with the first floriography dictionary published in 1819, by Madame Charlotte de la Tour. At a time when expressing ones true feelings wasn't easy or was feared it opened a door.

We have put together a list of the flowers you can use as a starting point for sending your own messages and speaking from your heart. 


Roses – Nothing says I love you better than a red rose. Associated with the goddess of love, they symbolise love, passion, romance and desire.

Lavender – Don’t trust someone? Give them lavender. It is a symbol of distrust due to the fact that venomous snakes often make their homes in lavender fields. The origins of the word come from the latin “lavare” which means to wash. It was often added to baths for fragrance.

Daisies are associated with childhood which in turn is symbolic of innocence and purity. In an old Celtic legend God would plant daisies to comfort and uplift parents who had lost children.

Iris – Do you have sone good news to share. Iris is your flower. The word comes from the greek for "rainbow". Rainbows are a link between heaven an earth which the greek goddess Iris uses to travel back and forth bringing messages of hope and good news.

Chrysanthemum – In China this flower is symbolic of good luck and a long life.

Pansy – an edible flower whose name comes from the French verb “to think- pensée” is the perfect flower to give to someone when you want to remind them that you are thinking of them and are generally associated with platonic love.

Rosemary - the plant associated with memory is symbolic of remembrance so a good one to use on anniversaries.

Say it with flowers...

Benefits of Wild Swimming
July 19, 2022

Benefits of Wild Swimming

Reconnecting to our wild side and remembering our ancestral ways can help us thrive and encourage us to preserve our sacred wild places for future generations to enjoy.

Connecting to the element of water is particularly powerful and wild swimming is a great way to do it.

When we sit nearby or immerse ourselves in water it helps us connect with our emotions. It doesn’t matter if it is a lake, a river or the sea, the process of being in or near these wild watery places is healing. This healing power has been known for centuries. In greek medicine it was known as 'water cure' with therapies such as hydrotherapy and thalassotherapy becoming fashionable. There are still ancient cultures such as the Hindus who bathe in the river Ganges with the belief it will free them from sin.

“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached ourselves at birth. To swim is to experience how it was before we were born.”

-Waterlog Roger Deakin

At Bedstraw + Madder we have a strong desire to preserve our sacred waterways and keep them pure and free from pollution. With 20% of global water pollution linked with the fashion industry from   petrol chemical dyes and synthetic processing agents, it prompted our desire to work only with chemical free, natural plant dyes that had a positive impact on people and planet. 

Our co-founder Primrose was lucky enough to grow up on an Island and now lives next to the River Dart so wild water and cold water swimming is very much a part of her soul.

There are great benefits from swimming in cold water regularly and it is quickly becoming a global phenomenon with characters like Wim Hof inspiring us with their personal stories of triumphing over illness and depression through the power of the cold.

So what are the Benefits?

It helps to build up brown adipose tissue resulting in fat loss

It reduces inflammation through the body

It boosts our immunity and balances our hormones

Increases our sleep quality

Triggers the production of endorphins - the feel good hormones that naturally elevate your mood making it incredible for mental health which a study by the BMJ can vouch for. 

Salt water in the sea contains minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium and iron which activate the healing mechanisms in the body, reduce aches and pains as well as relaxing muscles and healing skin.

The best things in life really are free. If wild swimming can do all this then what are we waiting for?

The more you do it,  the less you feel the cold as your circulation increases. Focusing on your breathing as you swim makes wild swimming a very mindful process and reduces stress.

If you are looking for inspiring wild swimming reading material here are some of our favourites:

The Wim Hof Method by Wim Hof

Wild Swimming walks Dartmoor and South Devon by Sophie Pierce

Taking the plunge by Vicky Allan

Cold water plunges can cool our cool temperature, especially in the cooler months. It is at these times it is especially important to have tools at hand to warm up quickly when you get out. You can't beat a hot drink for this. Our favourite companion for cold water swims is a Kelly Kettle so you can boil a cuppa for yourself and your companions wherever you find yourself. 

Kelly Kettle - for that warming cuppa after your dip.



“Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the wild air”

 – Ralph Waldo Emerson