Recently I had a couple of email exchanges which turned into sales, that got me thinking about how so many people, if they know even just a little about natural dyes, carry long held beliefs that are not accurate.. I will not get into the mordant debate here, but rather, the non-colorfast natural dye belief and the natural dyes only make blah colors belief.
I had a a very interesting email from a historian who travels and presents lectures at Living History Museums around the country. She had come upon my yarn and was intrigued. The commonly held belief among her peers was that early on in American history woman wore blah colored clothing because the color options just were not available to them. This woman had been thinking about that and noticed I had yarn, brightly colored with goldenrod, sheep sorrel and tansy. She was certain that these same dye stuffs would have been utilized to make beautiful colors. I think she is right. We know the English Redcoats had red coats because of madder root and cochineal. She was mostly relating her color thoughts to pioneer woman typically depicted dressed in drab attire. I think they had plenty of color options available to them. It was only about 150 years ago that aniline dyes were invented, prior to that all color was derived from natural sources. I like to think of the pioneer woman festooned in skirts and tops dyed with goldenrod. Somewhere out there there is some of my brightly colored yarn dyed with North American plant material making the rounds to history museums.
So, rest assured, if you are thinking about trying out some natural dyes this year, the color options are endless and never dull. You can make beautiful, rich, nuanced colors with natural dyes and you should try it!
Last week I also had an email from someone asking about how long the color in my yarn would last because they had been told that natural dyes are not colorfast. This is a very common belief and I have seen that proclamation made in so many places. Again, remember up to about 150 years ago, natural dyes were the only game in town! There are lots of examples of antique textiles still full of color, such as this Persian rug.
Persian rug from the 1860’s.
Again, the important thing to remember is that natural dyes were used for thousands of years. Often people experiment with plant material that is not an appropriate dye and are disappointed in their results and declare natural dyes not colorfast. The correct plant materials are an important first step. The correct techniques are also important. Natural dyes are colorfast. The colors provided are complex, never garish and simply beautiful. The colors provided by natural dyes connect us to our past, keep a nearly lost art form alive and are sustainable. Soil to soil- natural materials dyed with natural color can be returned to the earth.
This year try natural dyeing yourself or make something to wear with naturally dyed textiles.