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living pigments

dyeing with plants is fascinating because their color is also living - in a way, the plant continues it’s life through the pigment on the fabric. I am amazed to see the multitudes of color extracted from a rose petal – and how that color changes after the silk dries in the sun, after I wash the fabric, when I add different dye materials to the mix, the lighting the silk is viewed in or colors of surrounding fabrics or materials. I’ve also noticed that the silk shifts in color depending on the ink color I chose for the printed motif, so I am able to pull out subtle undertones. depending on the plant, some shifts are more visible than others. during one bundle dye using rose petals, the extracted color started out pink, then became green then finally yellow.

if the color doesn’t change during the dye process or immediately after, it is bound to change over time. some plant dyes are more permanent than others, so change is inevitable when using natural dyes. madder root, indigo & cochineal are considered “lightfast” dyes. their color sees little fade. (lightfastness describes a colors resistance to fading when exposed to light) some dyers have found that fabric dyed using black beans shift considerably as time passes. apparently color extracted from red cabbage is not very lightfast. to me, that’s the beauty of natural dyeing. if I wanted an exact color every single time I dyed with a particular material, I’d use synthetic dyes. but I love the unexpectedness and the different shades I can achieve just by changing one or more components during the dye process.


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