Monday, June 20, 2011

natural fermentation recipe

so i promised last time that i would detail out how i made the natural fermentation vat that we used at our dyeing party last week.  the recipe i used comes from cheryl kolander at aurora silk and you can find it right herethere is also a very similar recipe in "the art and craft of natural dyeing" by jim liles, which is one of my two natural dye bibles that i refer to all the time.  he has several indigo recipes, including old fashioned sig vats, which use just indigo and urine.  but i am nowhere near that hardcore.  and my vats are already stinky enough, thank you very much.

in any case, as i said, the recipe is very simple.  for my medium sized vat, which i did in a big stock pot (holds around 2 gallons, or 7-8 litres) i combined:

warm water, almost to the brim
50 grams of finely ground indigo
28 grams finely ground madder root
28 grams regular old wheat bran
170 grams soda ash

stir very well (especially when you add the indigo - it is notoriously tough to dissolve), put a lid on it (important, as the point is that you're trying to reduce the oxygen out of the vat), and put in a warm place.  

and that's it!  the key is that you have to look after it a little bit, but all this means is that you need to stir it once a day (quite well), and make sure it stays warm.  as i said, when i did this vat in the winter, it took almost 6 weeks to be ready to dye, but the vat that i started recently and have been keeping in a warm attic only took 5 or 6 days.  

gotta run to teach a class at the workroom (felting this time!), but i'll come back in a day or two and talk about how you know that your vat is ready to dye.

any questions so far?


  1. Thank you for the recipe! I am going to try this, I did some dyeing (on knitting wool) and am now getting more and more enthusiastic about dyeing with natural dyes. And that's all because of reading Arounna's, Margie's and your blogs! So thanks for that as well.

  2. Thanks, I can't wait to try this for myself! My only concern is the daily stirring. I'm worried of introducing oxygen to the mix. Do you have a special stirring "technique"?

    Your dyed piece is stunning, by the way!

  3. i have various ages of indigo and woad babies (vats) in the back yard now. It doesn't take but a few minutes to stir them once a day, for me it is usually in the evening after supper. I just use a wooden spoon that is now a very beautiful deep blue color. I put the spoon right to the bottom and stir slowly along the base. You can almost sense the thickness of the liquid there. I kind of wish I had a few of those magnetic stirrers from my chemistry days though.

  4. thanks julie
    will give it a try

  5. Could I use a big plastic bucket with a lit to make a vat?