Preparing the indigo paste is the first step for making an indigo vat. Making a smooth indigo paste is important and it can make quite a difference to your success in dyeing with indigo. The indigo particles become smaller by making a smooth paste and the indigo will reduce better in the vat. Your indigo vat will still work if you don’t make a paste, but you will be wasting indigo, as quite a few particles will be too large to reduce properly.
Making a smooth paste is a meditative process that can take 10 to 15 minutes; avoid making it when you are in a rush. Find a place with good light to make the paste. The wet indigo is almost black and you will find it difficult to see what is happening if you work in a poorly lit area.
1. Weigh 25 g of indigo (about 6 teaspoons) in a pyrex jug.
2. Measure 100 ml boiling water in another pyrex jug
3. Make a well in the centre of the indigo and add a teaspoon of hot water a few drips at a time.
4. Stir very well, and then add a few more drips. Repeat this slowly as the indigo gets wetter. This is similar to mixing corn flour or cocoa.
5. Continue stirring and adding water till the indigo is thoroughly wet and about half the water has been used up. From time to time press the indigo paste against the side of the pyrex jug with the back of your spoon. Take a good look at the paste. Is there any grittiness on the surface when you stir, or has it become smooth?
6. This is a slow process, and it should take at least 5 minutes to make all the indigo wet. Don’t rush it. If your arm gets tired, take a break and then go back to the stirring.
7. Add the remaining water and stir for another 5 minutes to make the paste really smooth and creamy. When you have finished there should no grittiness in the paste. The paste will be quite watery with this proportion of indigo to water.
8. The paste will keep for a few weeks, therefore you can make more than you need and store it in a closed jar.
The proportions are 20% indigo to 80% water, so, for example, you can use the following amounts
- 10 grams indigo for 40 ml water, or
- 20 grams indigo for 80ml water, or
- 25 grams indigo for 100 ml water, or
- 50 grams indigo for 200 ml water.