Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Dying Art

Lately, I have been dying a lot of our old hemp and linen sheets. I think I might have overdosed on the whole clean, crisp look of white linen - and now, I am loving the deep, rich, saturated colors the cloth takes on once it is soaked in a bath of color.  I have been using a dyer out in the valley - who specializes in dying t-shirts and once in a while he will throw a few of our sheets into the vat.  The linen and hemp love the dye - they eat it up.  Sometimes, when the sheet has been woven out of different fibers, each fiber takes the dye differently and you get a striped effect.  You can see the different wefts used in making one full sheet.
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.


somepinkflowers said...

you make me want to run
right out
purchase some Rit Dye!


i haven't done that in YEARS...

molly said...

that's funny...cuz i just bought some rit dye in a chocolate brown to dye some pants of mine...and more, i think.

Anonymous said...

I always forget about Rit Dye. I used to do that all the time before three chilren! Thanks for encouraging me to recycle a little more.