My good friend, Polly Lyster, from Gloucester, is a master dyer. Polly uses vegetable dyes to color natural fibers like cotton, silk, linen and hemp in rich contemporary colors. She then designs and sews furniture covers, cushions, table linens and bed covers. Whenever I am in England, Elizabeth and I pay Polly a visit at her Tasha Tudor like cottage on Frog Woads Lane. On her property, she has set up a full operation with multiple dying vats and washing machines. There are always beautiful, old sheets hanging from her clothesline - drying in the sun, fading out just the right amount. Once in a while, Polly's mum will be visiting from India - where she moved 20 years ago - she regales me with stories from Rajasthan to Jaipur. Together, Polly and her mum scour the Indian textile market to find antique indigo textiles and document fabrics.
If you haven't dyed anything lately - put on a big pot of boiling water, add a package of Rit Dye and a handful of salt (the salt helps the fabric absorb and hold the dye better) and throw in some white pillowcases or napkins that have seen better days. Once the color you want is achieved, rinse with cold water and set out to dry. You will be amazed how quickly you can revitalize and recycle old textiles.