One of my favorite parts of design school back in the 1980s was the hand-dyeing class I took in the fall of my third year. For me, it was a perfect combination of science and creativity that, to this day, I believe fostered some of my best work. A few years later, after I graduated and was working in New York City, I was working for a designer that wasn’t particularly fond of me—or, it seems, anything about me. During the rush of fashion week one season, the dye house that would traditionally run the designer’s garment dye program failed to deliver in time. So, I sequestered myself in the company washroom and used my dye book from design school to complete a full 28 garment program for sales meetings the coming Monday. My job was saved, I was promoted from reporting to said designer, and, in my design career, I never looked back. Dyeing and color, of course, became one of my favorite parts of design.
While I do most often dress in black, the interaction of color is one of the most inspiring parts of my everyday job. In the last few years, I came to learn more and more about natural dyes, through our friends at Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville and Kristine Vejar from A Verb For Keeping Warm in Oakland, California. Last fall, Kristine’s book The Modern Natural Dyer was published and we’ve fallen more deeply in love with the science and creativity of dyeing. The subtitle says it all: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home.
Expert instructions and beautiful photographs accompany the step-by-step process of dyeing. Kristine covers plants, roots, and mordants, and everything you need to know about lightfastness, washfastness, and colorfastness. And while the projects are great, it’s the shade cards on pages 96-99 that I find most fascinating—and relate back to my own experience as a hand-dyer.
Over the last few years, Kristine has become a dear friend, supporter, and teacher of the Alabama Chanin method of sewing. She’s hosted us for stitch-ins, helped us during our One-Day Workshops in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, and answered many questions about our own indigo vats. On page 120 of The Modern Natural Dyer, you’ll find the Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan that are made with pieces from our machine-sewn collection. Look for more from us on these pieces later this month—and now on Kristine’s blog.
Each Thursday in the month of April, we’ll have more from The Modern Natural Dyer. Get your copy here.