Learning All About Indigo

February 9, 2015

Naturally my goats would start kidding just when I have to be four hours away in town or a workshop that I’ve been excitedly thinking about for weeks.

Not to mention the very cranky, very teeth-y kid of my own who had spiked a fever of 39 C the night before.

I’ve talked a little bit before about how impatient I’ve historically been about acquiring and honing all the necessary skills for knitting. The idea of one day having my own flock of sheep that produces the wool I then process, spin and turn into clothing or perhaps a pair of mittens…it’s a dream. A dream with a lot of work attached to it, but a dream I have nonetheless.



So when I heard that there was going to be an Indigo dying workshop with Brigid Weiler who happens to have more than thirty years of experience in the field…I was more than a little thrilled to immediately get in touch and sign up.

All of my kids settled and in Scott’s great care at home, I set out to the workshop where I was greeted to a group of women all very keen to learn but with (thankfully) varied levels of previous experience in the fibre arts. Everyone asked great questions and got their hands dirty (dyed?) throughout the workshop…that is except me because naturally I was having too much fun capturing all the beautiful colours as they came to life on my camera!



That’s truly the only way to describe when you witness the chemical reaction that makes Indigo such vibrant iconic shades of blue. Or a skien of bright magenta yarn to a rich, humble eggplant purple. Or canary yellow to a deep forest green.


Brigid was a fabulous instructor. Informative but flexible about enjoying the process and relishing what shades of beautiful colours would appear when the yarn was gently removed from the Indigo vat. There are some tidbits of information that were and are critical to the success and safety of natural dying (example: never ever pour water on lye. Gently stir the lye into your water. Otherwise you risk a serious explosion)…but for the most part, the anxiety around getting it ‘right’ or being ‘perfect’ about dying yarn couldn’t stick around in the room for long – there was just simply too much acceptance, even reverence, for the amazing bounty of colour that evolved throughout the day as various skeins were dipped and re-dipped.

The yarn I took home is now drying, a cluster of beautiful blues, lavenders, deep purples and greens. Not only am I excited to see what sort of treasure I make with this little bounty, but I’m equal parts looking forward to preparing my own Indigo vat, but also participating in the next workshop Brigid runs on Cortes. Or most anywhere I can be there for that matter.









  • Reply Heather February 10, 2015 at 5:07 am

    This is fascinating! I’m more interested in the plant part of the process – did she grow the indigo herself? I am looking to do a workshop on natural dyes with plants in our school garden. I wish I could knit as beautifully as you do but sadly my skills are limited to squares and rectangles for now. 😉

    • Reply rachel February 10, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Oh I still have sooo much to learn with knitting! I found that patterns for baby stuff really was the best way to try a bunch of different techniques without getting bored. 😀 Dye came from http://www.maiwa.com/ – there’s a fantaaastic post on http://www.folkfibers.com about growing Indigo though. Our climate isn’t ideal for it, but I believe she mentioned there’s another variety that does something similar which will grow here.

  • Reply Loretta February 10, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Beautiful photos and site Rachel. I missed the workshop due to illness, but I look forward to meeting you and the others in the future. I am a retired shepherdess and missing my girls in the barn too.

    • Reply rachel February 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Thank you, Loretta! I believe there’s going to be another workshop coming up in March. It would be so great to meet you and hear more about the flock you had. 🙂 Hoping you’re feeling better now!

  • Reply Jo-Anne Thompson February 10, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Your pictures are lovely. I could not make the class but thanks to your pictures I will make it next time for sure. We do a stitch I. Public day the first Thursday of every month till gardening is upon us. The next one will be at the Gorge Marina from 10 till 2. It is a good place to meet many knitters and pick up tips

    • Reply rachel February 10, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Jo-Anne! Thank you so much. 🙂 I’ve wanted to make it over there almost every single week but then there’s usually something baby/farm/work related that causes me to miss it..gah! One of these days…I need the extra time/motivation to finish this baby blanket for a friend. 🙂

  • Reply Elizabeth Anderson February 10, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I’m so impressed with the color varieties. I had no idea there were so many possibilities with indigo. I hope to take the next class too.

    • Reply rachel February 10, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Isn’t it amazing! The greens and purples were indigo dyed over yarn that was already shades of pink and yellow from different natural dyes. After this workshop, the possibilities seem endless!

  • Reply Bernice February 11, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    hi Rachel. Lovely to met you at the workshop. I left about 6 ounces of “thoroughly wetted yarn” in the dye baths overnight and got a couple of lovely deep blues. There would still have been more color I am sure but I had to leave so couldn’t carry on with exhausting the bath.

    • Reply rachel February 11, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      That’s so awesome, Bernice! It’s pretty incredible when I think of how much yarn was dyed and what kind of variations we saw that day. So lovely to meet you as well!

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