| My old buddy
Roy Kady, a Navajo Weaver Extraordinaire hailing from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona,
asked me if I’d present an indigo dyeing workshop for the weavers.
We could use Daisy Ute’s building located just across the road from Teec
Nos Pos Trading Post. This was a workshop sponsored by the "Spin-Off"
group of weavers, loosely organized in the Four Corners to promote hand
spinning and dyeing. The group includes Anglo, Hispanic and Navajo
I agreed immediately to do the workshop. For
one thing, Daisy Ute, Roy’s clan grandmother, was one of my first 2 weaving
teachers in 1995. I like the aspect of the " … big wheel being unbroken
… ", according to the song, so here I had an opportunity to keep that Big
Wheel rolling. And I always enjoy doing things with Navajo friends.
I haven’t seen Navajo weavers dyeing indigo on the
Navajo Reservation in my travels around it, although some weavers may still
do it. I have been dyeing a lot of indigo going on 3 years now, for
my inventory of restoration yarns, and also for Navajo weavers I know.
I drove over to Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, past the
Four Corners National Monument on the back road across the Ute Mountain
Ute Reservation. Teec is about 50 miles southwest of my Cortez home.
I arrived there early Sunday, July 27, 2003. The workshop building
at Daisy’s compound was ideal for this workshop: plenty of room, big tables,
large open windows for ventilation, benches, and a rugged aspect which
would accommodate any indigo dye spills without any problem.
The photos and captions speak for themselves.
I’m setting up the Coleman stove, getting out the chemicals and
indigo stock solution, and all the kitchenware. Note the breezy, informal
setting -- perfect for dyeing.
Roy Kady is practicing his technique of dipping his yarn gently
in the Indigo bath and swishing it back and forth for 100% exposure of
the fibers to the dye. Minimal agitation of the bath is preferred in this
step so that no oxygen is introduced to the dye solution from the air.
We also recommend wringing out any excess water from the wetted yarn to
prevent oxygen introduction from this source too.
Albert Jackson, here on the chair while dyeing, and his wife Susie,
of Red Valley NM brought over a bunch of yarn to dye. Unfortunately
we could not dye all of theirs in this 4-hour workshop but we did manage
to dye a lot of it. They brought yellows and pinks to over-dye with
indigo to get greens and other interesting turquoise blues from the pinks.
I met Albert at a "Sheep Is Life Navajo Shepherd
and Weavers Conference" at Farmington, New Mexico’s San Juan College in
1997. We have since gotten to know their family.
Albert, and Roy Kady next in line, are into it at this
point as we get the procedures and finer points down and the dyeing flows
with lots of fun and interest. Albert is involved with serious dipping
as he’s gotten above the pot to watch it and his yarn closely. As
the yellow dyed yarn is removed from the pot into the air, it turns blue
before your very eyes as it is oxidized, a fascinating and colorful chemical
reaction in the wool. Mr. Wizard loves this Indigo chemistry.
Roy, in the distance, holds up some of his newly dyed yarns.
He is planning to weave himself a Chiefs Blanket and is preparing himself
with this indigo workshop. You can see many skeins of dyed indigo
yarns we managed to dye using only about 2 ounces of indigo powder, my
entire stock solution.
Daisy Ute’s Hogan (left) and workshop building (right) are
visible in this photo.
James Henio, an experienced Navajo dyer of indigo (and rancher,
spinner and weaver), and Albert hold up some of their dyed yarns. James
brought his parents along.
After we completely used up the Indigo Stock Solution,
I took the group through the procedure of mixing up a new stock solution
for later use. The sources and prices of all chemicals and dyes were
provided to the weavers along with the chemical cooking procedures and
recipes we used. We had lots of fun and we all got some blues out
of it -- and not the sad blues, but the Indigo Blues.