What everybody ought to know about dyeing with indigo part 2

shades of indigo

Here I am going to explain how to colour your fabric blue with indigo. This process is totally different from any other method of colouring or dyeing fabric. It is quite unique, exciting and enjoyable. We are going to create a dye bath and then piece by piece dye your fabrics blue.

Dyeing with indigo is a very pleasurable and magical process. It can seem quite daunting but with these step by step instructions it will prove quite easy. You will need a bottle of indigo stock and if you haven’t yet done that you need to look at What everybody ought to know about dyeing with indigo Part 1. If you have that we can proceed to this next stage of dyeing your fabric with indigo. It is best to do this outside or in the garage as the process is a bit smelly. And even better if it is a warm and sunny day.

Equipment & materials required:

Jar of previously prepared indigo stock

Large plastic or s/s dye bath with lid

Timer (I use a lovely old clockwork one!)

1 teaspoon sodium hydrosulphate (Spectralite or dylon colour run remover)

Misc plastic/ metal spoons

Buckets for soaking & rinsing

Rubber gloves

Old draining rack or similar



Assorted fabrics cotton, silk or wool which is ready and prepared for dyeing.

Dye Bath Preparation

  1. Fill the large plastic or stainless steel container full with water heated to 50º to 60º C/120 to 130 F making an indigo vat (2)
  2. Sprinkle 1 tsp of Spectralite on the water. Cover and let the Spectralite reduce the oxygen in the water, this takes about 30mins. making an indigo vat (3)
  3. After the 30 mins gently add 3 to 10 spoons of the stock solution to the bath. Amount added depends how dark you want the indigo blue. The dyebath should be a very pale yellowy green. Stir very gently to avoid introducing oxygen and cover the vat for another 10 to 20 mins. 

    making an indigo vat (1)
    The finished dyebath ready to use


  1. Soak your fabrics in warm water for at least 30 mins, allow it to drip in a colander for another 10 mins. You could spin it in an old salad spinner!
  2. Immerse the wetted fabric into the vat. Lower gently into the dyebath using rubber gloves or sticks.  lowering fabric into the indigo vatTry to disturb the surface of the water as little as possible so you do not introduce oxygen again. Leave in the bath for about 10 mins. This is where I use my clockwork timer.
  3. As you remove the fabric from the bath, squeeze it gently as it comes to the surface to remove surplus liquid. Do not allow oxidised liquid to drop back into the bath or stir air into the bath. When you first take the fabric out it will be pale yellow and very quickly turn green then to blue as the air hits the fabric.
  4. Leave the fabric to oxidise (allow the air to it), for about 10 mins outside the bath before dipping again. I use an old draining rack over a baby bath to spread the fabric on. And use my trusty clockwork timer to time it.

    Repeat dipping and airing as above until the desired blue is achieved. I recommend a weaker bath and more dips til you get the colour you want, this achieves a more even blue. Remember wet fabric is a few shades darker than dry fabric.

  5. Then rinse the fabric in water til it is clear. Add a cup of vinegar to the last rinse. This is just to restore the ph balance of the fabric as the ingredients in an indigo bath are very alkaline.


The stock solution does not need to be added all at once. It can be stored for quite a long time once made. As the dye bath gets depleted (the fabric does not get bluer) add more stock. If the vat turns very blue there is oxygen in it, so add more Spectralite ½ tsp at a time and let the vat rest for 15-20 mins each time. You will need to ensure the water temperature is at 50 degrees when adding more spectralite. This is where it is better to do this activity on a warm sunny day or make your vat in a stainless steel pot or urn that can be reheated.


Now you have all the information needed to successfully dye fabrics with indigo. The more times you do it the simpler it becomes.



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