Home PageNorth AmericaGoing Green with Natural Dyes and Shibori

Mar 06

Going Green with Natural Dyes and Shibori

Jacquard woven shibori, naturally dyed with indigo, weld and chlorophyl.

Jacquard woven shibori, naturally dyed with indigo, weld and chlorophyl.

With spring approaching, my thoughts turn to “green” and what that word means to me as a woven shibori expert and natural dyer.





Naturally dyed samples, yellow and greens, top to bottom: pomegranate, marigold, weld, osage, and myrobalan with various mordants and indigo.

Naturally dyed samples, yellow and greens, top to bottom: pomegranate, marigold, weld, osage, and myrobalan with various mordants and indigo.

The Range of Greens
From a technical perspective, the natural dyeing of green requires two different steps: attaining a yellow dye from a plant followed by dyeing in an indigo vat. There is no shortage of yellow dyes and each one will result in a slightly different green. From the mordants used before dyeing to the strength of the indigo vat at the end, these variables determine the final green shade.

But “green” also means a responsible approach to mordanting and dyeing. This is something I’ve been very conscientious about in these last few years. Last winter, I taught a week long class at John C. Campbell Folk School that was all about dyeing green. We combined indigo with different yellow dyes to create a variety of green shades. Here are some of the initial naturally-dyed color/dye tests we did at the right–top to bottom: pomegranate, marigold, weld, osage, and myrobalan with various mordants and indigo.

 

 

A Collection of Shibori Fabrics
Then each student was encouraged to experiment with all the yellow dyes, but when it came time to dye their shibori woven fabrics, they were restricted to using only ONE yellow plus indigo. It was interesting to observe how that limitation resulted in very coherent “collections” of fabrics.

A “Green” Process for Shibori
This year’s weld plants are just starting to come to life in my garden after a very tough winter. It seems like a good time to explore green and new growth shades for a spring scarf. The weld I dried from last year’s garden makes a clear, beautiful yellow and, when combined with my organic indigo vat, it should result in some lovely greens. I’ve used one of the woven shibori scarf blanks The Oriole Mill weaves for me and is available here. Refer to this past blog on using a shibori blank–no need for you to weave your own. Following is the abbreviated process I took to make my new scarf for spring. 

Step 1: Scour the fabric.
The shibori scarf blank is woven of mercerized cotton–it’s very clean with no waxes in the fiber, but it will dye best if scoured. Put it into a pot with a little bit of neutral soap and boil it for about 10 minutes. Then, rinse it well and squeeze out all the excess moisture.

Woven shibori scarf blank before scouring or dyeing.

Woven shibori scarf blank before scouring or dyeing. The blue threads are gathered to make the shibori pattern.

Step 2: Mordant the cloth in aluminum acetate. Let it dry. Then gather the cloth by pulling the blue threads and apply thickened ferrous acetate to the edge of the pleats.

Mordant ferrous acetate is applied to gathered pleats.

Mordant ferrous acetate is applied to gathered pleats.

This mordanting approach is based on mordant printing processes originally done in India and Europe. It is a great approach for environmental sustainability and working with woven shibori. The DVD, “Colors of Provence Using Sustainable Methods,” produced by the Natural Dye Workshop with Michel Garcia (2011), describes this process in detail.

Step 3: Fix the mordant in a chalk or bran bath.

Step 4: Remove a third of the gathering threads at the two edges in order to create layers of resist.  Dye in a bath of weld.

The finished "green" shibori scarf.

The finished “green” shibori scarf.

Step 5: Remove another third of the gathering threads. Dye in a weak indigo vat.

Step 6: Remove all gathering threads. Neutralize the indigo in vinegar and water and boil out to finish. Let dry, iron, and it’s ready for spring.

If you want to try your own hand at dyeing a shibori scarf, I’ve simplified the process for you. Here’s a link to a short video on using the shibori blanks. Give it a try and you’ll have your own lovely shibori scarf.

Thanks to our guest contributor Catharine Ellis, woven shibori artist and author of Woven Shibori (Interweave, 2005). Catharine created the woven shibori, a process of weaving and resist. She teaches natural dyeing and shibori around the world. All images are courtesy of Catharine. Find out more at ellistextiles.com.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • Elaine from weaving

    I took that class at the Campbell Folk School, that dreary week in January, and it was amazing to see the greens appear! Catharine, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us!

  • Gail

    Hooray for you and Catherine and GREEN!
    A refreshing post for spring as I see snowflakes swirling outside my windows…
    Gail

  • Pingback: Going Green with Natural Dyes and Shibori | Spi...()

FREE Shipping on all U.S. purchases over $50.00. Select option at check out.