Indigo vat continued

Having an indigo vat in the garage is a very pleasant thing. It was started in the last days of 2014 with Claire (posted 3-Jan-2015) and now it sits there, ready to colour and pattern in just minutes. In odd moments over the past week there’s been:

  • a time series experiment in a mid-weight cotton fabric, 11 swatches, single dips in the vat for periods from 30 seconds to 30 minutes (not shown here because the gradation is minor and it makes a boring photo)
  • some paper-based work (waiting for a sketchbook post)
  • a series thinking about the patterning on the Emperors’ cloak, from my Aztec research (see 17-Nov-2014). That’s the subject of this post.
  • Codex Mendoza folio 108r

    Codex Mendoza folio 108r

    This was spurred on by an article I’ve only recently found, A New Look at Tie-Dye and the Dot-in-a-Square Motif in the Prehispanic Southwest (an aside: one of the advantages of blogging – in my stats I followed a link from a referrer, which was a page of citations of one of my previous sources, and included a link to this new source).

    Earlier attempt

    Earlier sample

    Could I get the appearance of a dot in a square? I chose a white voile cotton as my base – it had produced the brightest, clearest colour and patterning in the comparison done the first dye day.

    indigo_dot_02On the left are a tied and a clamped sample. The tying was done with teflon tape – I didn’t want any additional patterning from thread or cord.
    indigo_dot_03The first idea was white squares in an offset placement, each with an internal dot of blue. I ironed folds in the fabric to help align my ties. It didn’t go so well. Placement is off and there is huge variation in shapes and sizes of “white squares”.
    indigo_dot_04The second piece was accordion folded in one direction then the other, then two rectangles of perspex were tied around – being careful not to distort the fabric or introduce any extra patterning from the thread. I wasn’t clear about the pattern I expected, but this fits the “dot in a square” brief quite well. While this is a good, strong and clear pattern I really wanted a border of blue around the white squares, and to have the squares aligned with the grain of the fabric instead of on the bias. The scale is also rather larger than I was looking for.

    indigo_dot_05On the left is the next set of prepared fabrics. The sample in the centre is the critical one. This time the accordion pleats were folded on the bias, to align the pattern with the grain of the fabric. The package is held in two places, which I planned thought would produce the desired blue border. Instead of the 5 cm wide perspex, the resists are now paddlepop sticks.

    indigo_dot_06I am absurdly smug about the result. The sticks were wide enough to be effective (I hadn’t been sure), all my other adjustments worked as I hoped. There’s a lot of extra layers of patterning, on the bias where the fabric was folded, plus a faint grid in blue – presumably from the bowing of the thin wooden sticks in between the two end ties. The white squares are about 8 cm across, compared to 19 cm on the first attempt.

    By this time a plan was forming for a garment – although not a cloak. The other two fabric pieces shown prepared above gave the results shown below.
    indigo_dot_07The tied pink fabric gives me a small stock of fabric pieces with that colour, and patterning at a smaller scale. It’s interesting to see the different effect on each side. The white stitching was seen on a linen sample earlier (2-Jan-2015).

    My final pair of fabrics is shown above, with a few process shots and the result. Pink and white fabrics accordion pleated, then wrapped around a pole, tied and scrunched arashi-style.

    indigo_10I’m now playing with everything, looking at how they sit together. More later as the project progresses.

    Laurie D. Webster, Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin and Polly Schaafsma “A New Look at Tie-Dye and the Dot-in-a-Square Motif in the Prehispanic Southwest” In Kiva Vol. 71, No. 3, Recent Perishables Research in the U.S. Southwest (Spring, 2006), pp. 317-348 Published by: Maney Publishing [online] Available from (Accessed 11-Jan-2015)

    6 Responses to “Indigo vat continued”

    1. 1 Claire B January 18, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Oh my goodness, how far you’ve come since our play day. These samples are superb and you deserve to feel smug. The paddle-pop stick fabric is wonderful. Wow, keep going until the vat runs out.

    2. 3 aliak77 January 19, 2015 at 1:28 am

      wooden pegs are good to. you get little squares. you could try hard drive platters or old cds for the dot in the circle? these are all looking great

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