The last couple of weeks, I’ve been busy dyeing my organic cotton jersey fabric with locally grown natural dyes. This has involved learning new things, because most of my dyeing work until now has been with wool. Plant fibers, like cotton, take dyes very differently, and require a different mordanting process. I feel the steep climb of the learning curve I’m on.
I chose purple basil dye for a part of the fabric that I was going to use for a skirt, to create pink or purple hues. The purple basil comes from the dye garden I planted at the Carolina Community Farm & Garden in the spring. Goodness! If you love basil as much as me, this is one of the most pleasurable natural dye plants imaginable. The fragrance of basil was wafting all around as I slowly simmered the leaves to prepare the dye… And I’m pretty happy with the end result, a subtle cool-toned pink for my skirt. Here’s a little sneak preview of the skirt I ended up making:
The rest of the fabric, which will become a shirt or a top, ended up being the shade of stormy gray I wanted — but entirely by accident! I collected comfrey leaves, knowing that they create yellow to green colors. But because the cotton had been pre-mordanted with tannin and alum, leaving it beige to begin with, in the comfrey dye pot that mixture of beige + yellow-green resulted in a not-so-distinct brownish beige. A little discouraged, and entirely in the spirit of experiment, I dunked the fabric into another dye pot I had going on at the same time: blackberry leaves with iron modifier. And right before my eyes, I saw it turn into a lovely, stormy gray, something that I think goes very well with the pink from the purple basil.
Lastly, I’ve been finally spinning the local alpaca fiber I got in the spring for a cardigan. I chose black alpaca fiber rather than the whites or browns I have. Somehow I like the idea of a dramatic and elegant midnight black to go with the softer hues of pink and gray. The first skein is done — and many more left to spin before I have enough for the cardigan I have in mind.