The plant dye demo on Saturday was great fun. Despite the rain we had a terrific gathering of ladies ranging from devotees of gardening, native plants, the fiber community, Waldorf and artists.
We arrived at the perfumery early to begin organizing elements for the day. Mona began warming the color, I hung the pre-dyed square kerchiefs to make selection more fluid. Although the heating of the dye bath took place in the interior of the space the dye process took place just outside to take advantage of the natural light and avoid clutter of bodies.
During the week I received a message from Mona telling me that in preparation for the class she was going to make herself a special shirt for the day with some of the rose petal printed leaf silks with some of the pink color added.
The lecture was presented within Mitchells Bookshop where there was ample space for all the attendees. Mona explained how natural dyes have a beautiful, long history where each color and plant has a story of its own. She shared how in the modern world, where synthetic dyes dominate, there are rivers in different areas of the planet that will run in different colors depending on what the big, multi-national factory might be dyeing that dye. The result of these types of practices is cities, communities and cultures are then poisoned by the toxic runoff.
With natural dyes we go back to our routes and the vital connection to plants. The process requires much time and patience but has the value supporting agriculture, our environment and handwork. I couldn’t help but see the perfect connection to the fine art of botanical perfume.
Mona shared with us her yarn basket which showcases all the different colors obtained from the natural world, except one. We were all asked to guess which one within her basket did not come from nature, do you know which? None of us in attendance guessed correctly.
Besides some biology and psychology of color we also learned a bit of chemistry that not all the dyes are fugitive and thus must be treated with a “mordant” so that the color can adhere to the fabric for washing. This has to do with positive and negative charges between fabric and dye.
After the lecture we walked down the hall, picked up our squares and formed a line. Mona gave suggestions on how to go about dipping our fabric and what might take place depending how various procedures such as moistening in water first or not, dipping only the edges, folding or tying, etc.
Each piece was then hung on a line to dry. The final pieces were as varied as each of the attendees. Here is a photo of Pia (below) as she got ready to leave the byproduct of the day: pink fingers.
The next class in this series will be the day long course where Mona will get into the nitty gritty of the process, share her personal formulas as we dye our very own wool shawl.