Natural Dyes - Indigo, 3 Organic Vat Recipes

by - Monday, August 26, 2013

The Maiwa Guide to Natural Dyes
What they are and how to use them

This post gives three additional recipes to make an organic indigo vat. See the previous posts About the Organic Indigo Vat (for essential background information) and The Fruit Vat (for procedure).

The Date Vat

For a vat of about 15 to 20 litres
  •    75 g powdered indigo
  •    90 g sodium carbonate
  •    300 g chopped dates (no pits) or sweet date paste
  •    250 g lime (calx)
Prepare as with the fruit vat.

This is a good vat to prepare over a three-day period. Allow the vat to reduce and come to the correct pH slowly. Remember that sugar reduces the pH so you must keep testing the pH and adding lime.

The Fructose Vat

For a vat of about 15 to 20 litres
  •    20 g powdered indigo
  •    60 g fructose
  •    40 g lime (calx)

Prepare as with the fruit vat.

The Henna Vat

This is an easy vat to make. The method is the same as the Fruit Vat, but instead of boiling fruit you boil plant material that is rich in antioxidants. These are dyes that contain flavonoïds, for example, henna, madder or osage. Remember that these materials are used as reducing agents, not as colourants. If you have a strong henna vat (for example) and have finished dyeing, you can use the half-exhausted vat for this recipe.

For a vat of about 15 to 20 litres
  •    75 g powdered indigo
  •    150 g henna (200 g of madder or osage)
  •    50 g lime (calx)
The procedure is the same regardless of the dyestuff used.

Prepare as with the fruit vat. 

Boil the henna for a few minutes and filter. Then boil again in order to extract the full potential of the plant. Combine the two batches of liquid together in the vat. Add 75 g indigo and more boiling water. Add the lime. Heat to a temperature of 120° F / 50°C. This vat will give better results if used the next day. When you are ready to dye you must first check the pH. If it is low, correct it by adding some lime. Then warm the vat to 120° F / 50°C - stirring gently from time to time. This vat can be used until exhausted, or it can be combined with a fruit vat.
These organic vats were originally developed by French dye chemist and botanist, Michel Garcia. Michel has been teaching and lecturing at the Maiwa Textile Symposium since 2009. He has worked with Maiwa in India as a dye specialist, most notably at the 2011 Maiwa Masterclass. Michel and Maiwa founder Charllotte Kwon meet on a regular basis to conduct natural dye research, explore recipes and test procedures. Together they are always looking for techniques that give the most exquisite colours - made to outlast the fibres they adorn.

The Maiwa Guide to Natural Dyes

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  1. Your henna indigo vat recipe varies from Michel Garcia's recipe (on his video) regarding proportions.Your recipe calls for less lime and more indigo. Could you please explain why this is so?
    Thank you so much for this blog, your products, instructions and answering my questions!


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