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 Hidden Power of Plant Dyes in our GMD

The Hidden Power of Plant Dyes in our GMD

 At Bedstraw + Madder we have a continual love affair with plants and flowers.

Within their often-delicate petals or leaves plants contain hidden powers. The bright coloured pigments are actually made of anthocyanins which have healing antioxidant qualities.

Colour also has a secondary effect which often goes unnoticed but which studies show is very impactful.

Colour therapy is based on the idea that colours create an electrical impulse in our brain, which stimulates hormonal and biochemical processes in our body. These processes either stimulate or calm us.

Colour influences our energy system by its vibrations, affecting both our physical and emotional well-being.

By using the right colours, we can change our negative aspects into positive ones, be healthier, and acquire a higher level of consciousness and connectedness to our body and nature.

Whilst we can change the colours in our interiors with a lick of paint actually the easiest way to change the colours around you is through your clothing.

Our underwear is brightly coloured with natural plant dyes. As the first point of contact to your most intimate areas on a daily basis, sitting against your skin it enables you to absorb the healing qualities of the natural plant dyes we use.

How our new GMD range of underwear may be of benefit?

Tacoma Yellow

These sunshine yellow knickers are dyed with Tacoma flowers.

The plant possesses powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activity due to its content of natural chemicals called flavonoids.

Yellow is associated with the solar plexus chakra which is linked with liver, pancreas, digestive system, gallbladder, empowerment and well-being. The chakra is located between the navel and sternum. Yellow is related to the ego and our sense of self-worth, to how we feel about ourselves and how we are perceived by others.

Madder Pink

Our pink knickers are dyed with madder root, a dye that has been used for 2,000 years.

Madder has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for cold deficiency of spleen and stomach. A powerful anti-inflammatory agent it helps with arthritis, joint pain. Studies show it can raise white blood cell counts in chronic dis-ease. It acts as a good expectorant and is a great skin healer for acne.

Embodying nurturing, unconditional love pink calms and reassures our emotional energies, alleviating feelings of anger, aggression, resentment, abandonment and neglect. Studies have confirmed that exposure to large amounts of pink can have a calming effect on the nerves and create physical weakness in people.

Marigold Orange

Marigold otherwise known as calendula are used to create our orange knickers.

These flowers promote healing. Due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory activity, it helps heal the skin from minor burns and injuries and regenerates new skin cells. It reduces Inflammation and is a great support in chronic skin disease.

The colour orange relates to 'gut reaction' or our gut instincts and stimulates the appetite. It represents endurance, strength, vitality, celebration, self-respect, abundance, joy, openness to others and enthusiasm for life. It supports our creativity. 

Vembalum Purple

Our violet underwear is dyed with the bark of the vembalum tree. 

The bark is used for skin diseases as it has anti-allergic properties. Vembalum is also known for its use in the healing of cuts and wounds.

Violet links to the crown chakra and is associated with the brain and pineal gland. It is linked with our higher consciousness and can have a calming effect.

Bring some colour to your life in more ways than one.

Start with one pair of knickers at a time.

Love + Knickers 

Prim and Ness