Water Matters! When It Comes 2 Indigo & Natural Dyeing
Four generations of women in my family have all taught me that when it comes to indigo and natural dyeing, water matters! Long before the “Water Is Life!” movement, Doris, Minnie, Mat, and Grand-Mere had learned the importance of water in the natural dye process from their grandmothers. I was taught that rainwater was the best water to use for natural dyeing and that hurricane water was twice as blessed. We describe hurricane water as, “De heeby wet harricane raan.” In contemporary practice, when rainwater isn’t available, I use purchased distilled water.
How To Ball-Mill Plant-Based Natural Indigo Powder Using Indigenous Salt Water Geechee Peoples’ Ways of Doing
Since Eastern North Carolina is expected to have a hurricane later this week, I’m sharing my great-grandmother’s teachings on how to collect rainwater, and how to soak indigo for ball milling to use in a fruit vat. She would have used dried indigo plants to soak, however, I’m using purchased plant-based natural indigo powder instead. *NOTE: If you’re using a synthetic or pre-reduced indigo power, these instructions will not work. Instructions are for natural indigo powder only.
I remembered Grand-Mere’s teachings earlier this summer when I was teaching indigo dyeing at the University of British Columbia at Okanagan during my art residency. The plant indigo powder didn’t dissolve well. I don’t know if it was the water or the high altitude, but it didn’t thoroughly dissolve in either the fructose or henna indigo vats. Consequently, I’m returning to my great-grandmother’s Geechee ways of processing indigo with fruit sugar even though I’m using contemporary dyestuffs.
I have two in-person and one online art sale coming up at the end of the year. My goal is to create enough ball-milled indigo stock solutions to dye my fabrics, wearables, and home goods. Supplies needed include large Mason jars, glass marbles, and a container to hold the jars. I’ll also need plant-based indigo powder and fruit sugar. I’m using quart-sized wide-mouth Mason jars and black stone flower vessel fillers.
My Plan: Place the Mason jars in a dish pan, and place it outside to collect the rain. The location of the outside placement depends on the wind gusts produced by the hurricane. I need to collect rainwater in the Mason jars without having them flip over. It may mean that I place the jar while it’s raining. I’ll take pics and make a video. Stay tuned!