Why I don't Eco-Dye My Fabric

Why I don’t Eco-Dye Fabric
I do, however, dye, paint, and print, my fabric with natural dyes.

Photo courtesy of the Main Street Cultural District Ames, Iowa.

I participated in a local art walk last Friday and after three hours of questions about my natural dyed scarves, artwork, etc., I am once again reminded as to why I don’t call myself an eco-dyer, for the most part nobody is interested in the craft of eco-dyeing! 
While most people play lip service to protecting the environment, sustainability, fair trade practices, and all things “green” the fact of the matter is when most people found out that I was using tree bark, mushrooms, leaves, bugs, and other stuff to dye my art cloth the response was an overwhelming “that’s nice” or “that’s really cool”.  "That’s nice" is the kiss of death, it's the Mid westerners version of “so what” or “who cares”!

The whole experience solidified in my mind what I already knew, while there are some that are truly concerned about the environment and sustainability, the majority only cares if it saves them a buck or two.  Which leads me back to why I don’t eco-dye my fabric, fibers, and threads, but in fact dye them with Natural Dyes, to me it’s about the process and the relationships I form with other dyer’s, and most importantly with nature that surrounds and inspires me. 

Natural dyed silk scarves.

For me the process is not about immediate gratification, but about discovery, learning, exploring, and most importantly relationships.  Unless a local woodworker gifts me a bag of wood chips from their dust collection system or from their lathe turnings, the wood, barks, and roots I use to create my designs are collected over a period of years, often time’s decades. 

My finished artwork was a hit with everyone with plenty of people telling me they’d love to be able to stitch and sew like I do and do I teach classes?  The evening wasn't a total bust, I got plenty of hits from women of all ages that are interested attending a stitching party; the older women of course were very excited about the wine aspect of said parties. 

Click here to learn more about eClasses, Workshops, and my newest offering Out of the Box Art Parties!

Live Stream - Cancelled

I won't be able to live stream today, I have a stomach bug of some sort - most probably picked up from the place I ate lunch at yesterday.  Took my best friend out for lunch, to celebrate her birthday, and unfortunately gave her the gift of turning icky green!!! :-(  Well we're both sick now and have both decided that it's time to find someplace else to celebrate!

Garden Update

The potato patch has been mulched, I beat the rain this time. One of the upsides to checking the potatoes was I found something was munching on the leaves so tomorrow it's off to the gardening store for some organic bug stuff to kill off the buggies. Otherwise hubby is threatening to use Sevin on everything and that is the last resort around here.

Dyeing with Cochineal

Copyright Kimberly Baxter Packwood 2001

You can perform multiple dye extractions with cochineal bugs to obtain a concentrated dye bath.

Day One: I used two ounces of the bugs, cover them in water, then heat them to near boiling. I then turn off the heat and let them sit overnight, in the same pan. (one these days I need to buy another one of these pans as it is my favorite).

Day two I strain the bugs in a hand held sieve, into a much bigger stainless steel pan (about 8 quarts I guess).

I then place the bugs back into my smaller pan, cover with water and reheat them to near boiling. I then turn off the heat and let them sit overnight.

The next day I strain them again, placing the dye liquor into the previous days extraction. I repeat this process upwards of 20 times.

NOTE: You will need to heat the dye liquor every few days or so to prevent mold from forming on the dye extractant. When you are done it will be blackish in color.

This dye liquor is a super concentrated cochineal dye bath.When you are ready to dye just remove a smallish amount, about one quarters cup worth, from the dye liquor and place it into your dye bath water.

NOTE: If it's still blackish just add a smidge of Alum and it'll redden right up. I do this all of the time.

This is an excellent way to get the biggest bang for your dye resources. I do this all of the time with cochineal and other dye materials. Most dye materials lend themselves to only one or two extractions, beyond the original dye extraction.

Copyright Kimberly Baxter Packwood 2001