A combination of hand and manmade dyes are used for our fabric selection (over 45 colors and growing) at Alabama Chanin. Today we share some information on the natural dye processes, which we use for four of our fabrics: our current Coral and Indigo, Light Golden, and Goldenrod.
Our organic cotton jersey is dyed at two locations in the southeast region: Tumbling Colors in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Bronx, New York, we dye Indigo with Father Andrew at Goods of Conscience.
Artisan Natural Dyeworks naturally dyes our cotton jersey fabric from the following plants: common madder root to produce Coral, the indigo plant to produce Indigo, and osage orange wood and myrobalan fruit for our Light Golden and Goldenrod fabrics. (More on Artisan Natural Dyeworks this Friday.)
In the introduction of Indigo, Madder and Marigold, Trudy Van Stralen explains her upbringing of “waste not, want not,” which is the exact greeting visitors receive upon entering our Florence studio. The “waste not, want not” approach when applied to dyestuffs, mordants, and fibers can produce a truly sustainable effort, one that we are proud to support as we continue to expand our selection of naturally dyed fabric.
Natural dying includes the growing and harvesting of plants from a dyehouse (or your own) garden, plants found regionally, and plants that are found in abundance in the wild. Lessening the amount of chemicals and synthetic materials used in dyes, sourcing locally, and adopting a Slow Design philosophy are all ways to lower your impact on the environment.
Rebecca Burgess’s Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes provides simple dye recipes and techniques for a DIY approach. The beautiful book photographs each plant side-by-side with its final dyed fiber.
Hand-dying also promotes a craft and art-form that has been in existence for thousands of years, dating back to a time of ancient textiles when paints were made from substances found in nature, worn even as body markings, and created colorful drawings on cave walls.
The beauty of natural dyes is that each product is unique in color and consistency. Coral hues can demonstrate a dominant tone of orange, red, or brown. The indigo blues can be faint or highly saturated, depending on the desired effect with mordants.
This Thursday, to showcase our newest naturally dyed fabric color, Light Golden, and the celebration of our Anna Maria Horner collaboration, we will feature one of Anna Maria’s patterns worked Alabama Chanin style, in Light Golden and Goldenrod.
And for The Heart on Friday, we will feature two sisters from Artisan Natural Dyeworks who naturally dye some of our cotton jersey fabric.