The Navajos:

An Indigo Workshop for Navajo Weavers
- ON THE REZ IN TEEC NOS POS, ARIZONA
July 2003
 
 
    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 weavers.
    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.
 

 


 

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