The Dyer's Guide. Chapter III. On Dyeing Silk. The blue vat of indigo for silk.

The Dyer's Guide
Being a Compendium of the Art of Dyeing
Linen, Cotton, Silk, Wool, Muslin, Dresses, Furniture, &c. &c.

With The Method of
Scouring Wool, Bleaching Cotton, &c.
Directions for Ungumming Silk, And For Whitening And Sulphuring Silk And Wool.
And Also
An Inttroductory Epitome of The Leading Facts in Chemistry, As Connected With The Art of Dyeing.

By Thomas Packer,
Dyer and Practical Chemist.

"Cet arte est un des plus utiles et des plus merveilleux qu'on connoisse."
- Chaptal.

"There is no art which depends so much on chemistry as dyeing."
- Garnett.

Second Edition,
Corrected and Materially Improved.

Printed for Sherwood, Gilbert, And Piper,

This should be so contrived that heat may be applied to it, which it now mostly is, by steam, as well for woollen woad vats as for indigo vats. For silk, take eight pounds of the finest indigo and six pounds of the best pearl-ash, and from three to four ounces of madder for every pound of ash, besides eight pounds of bran for the whole, washed in several waters to take the flour out. When washed, and the water squeezed out, the bran is to be put at the bottom of the vat; the pearl-ash and the madder being mixed by bruising them roughly together, are now to be l)oiled a quarter of an hour in a copper containing two-thirds of the vat; the fire being damped, the liquor is then suffered to rest. Two or three days previous to this the indigo is to be steeped in a bucket of warm water, and washed well, the water being changed once or more. Some dyers begin by boiling the indigo in a ley made with one pound of pearl-ash and two buckets of water; they afterwards pound it in a mortar quite wet, and, when it becomes like paste, fill the mortar with the liquor before boiled, and still hot, stirring it for some time. It is then suffered to stand a few moments, and then the clear is poured off into a separate boiler or into the vat. The same quantity of the mixture is then poured upon the indigo remaining in the mortar and mixed as before; again the clear is poured off into the boiler, and the operation is repeated till the whole of the indigo is dissolved in the liquor. The whole of the liquor in the boiler is now to be gradually poured into the vat on the bran at the bottom, adding afterwards the remainder of the composition, grounds and all.

After stirring and raking for some time, the mixture is left to cool till it will bear the hand in it, when a little heat is added to keep it in this state, and so continued till it begins to turn green, which is easily known by trying it with a little silk. When the green begins to appear it should be stirred with the rake, then suffered to stand till the brown and coppery scum which rises upon the surface shews that the vat is come to; or, in other words, the preparation of this part of the process is complete. But as it is necessary to be very certain of this, the scum should be well examined; and if, when blown aside, a fresh scum is immediately formed it is as it ought to be. In this state it is to remain for three or four hours, when a new composition is thus made: —

Put as much water as is requisite to fill the vat into a copper, boiling it with two pounds of pearl-ashes and four ounces of madder as at first. This new liquor is to be poured into the vat, raked and mixed, and being left to stand for four hours it is then ready for dyeing.

When a vat or vats are set for green, double the quantity of madder must be added. (See Chap. VI.)

The size of the vat for the above quantity of indigo, should be about five feet deep, two feet or two feet and a half in diameter at the top, and one foot and a half or two feet in diameter at the bottom: the form of an inverted frustum of a cone; or of a sugar loaf inverted, with the pointed top cut off.

In order to produce different shades of blue, the silk intended for the darkest, should be first dipped in the fresh vat and so on to the lightest; as the vat weakens, the silk should be kept in longer, till the vat, being exhausted, serves only for the lightest shades. When it begins not only to be weak but dull, it is then necessary to feed the vat with the following composition:

Take of the decoction of pearl-ash with indigo one pound; of madder, two ounces; and a handful of washed bran; boil them together for a quarter of an hour, either in water or a portion of the same vat if yet sufficiently full to afford it; after this mixture is added, it should be well raked and suffered to rest two or three hours, more or less, before the dyeing is resumed.

For the finest blues, however, a fresh vat is the best; and if only pale blues are required, a vat set on purpose with less indigo will answer better than a strong vat which has been weakened, because though weak it will give more vivid colours.

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