Home PageCentral AmericaCelebrate Natural Dyes Red, White, and Blue

Jul 03

Celebrate Natural Dyes Red, White, and Blue

Celebrate the Fourth with natural dyes explosion of color–crimson red from cochineal, white (how natural, no dye needed), and blue from indigo. Early Americans used natural dyes to create the flag’s signature red stripes and blue canton.

The small female insect cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), about the size of a grain of rice, yields a magnificent crimson red. It lives on cacti, primarily in the Oaxaca area of Mexico and between the highlands and coast in the Andes. During a visit to the Peruvian weaving village of Acopia, I encountered red dye day. The weavers of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco dye wool and alpaca yarns for weaving cloth. A visual feast showing the range of cochineal red.

Northeast of Guatemala City, in the community of Samac de Cobán in Alta Verapaz, the Ixbalam Ke cooperative continues weaving their traditional textiles. These decorative pattern motifs are formed by an inlay brocade technique called picb’il. Backstrap woven of fine white cotton, the motifs are placed, by hand, only in certain areas and lay on top of the plain weave.
Talk about perfect wear for warm days and cool nights!

I have sung my ode to rich indigo blue many times in my blogs and today I celebrate it once again. When dyeing the traditional way using a vat dye, the scum on the top of the bath shows its readiness and is a source of a “disagreeable” smell. But there are quicker, non-smelly ways to dye, like using the indigo dye kit.

Learn about the cultures and allure of indigo in the Blue Alchemy documentary and then dye your own shibori scarf with Catharine Ellis. The ClothRoads shop stocks many unique, artisan-made fabrics and products using these celebrated natural dyes. Come on in and take a look!

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