We welcome our guest blogger, Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors
The art of dyeing cotton with natural dyes using traditional methods is labor intensive as the fiber undergoes several steps including scouring, then mordanting and finally the application of the natural dye. Indeed, the complexities of cotton dyeing sometimes seem overwhelming to the new natural dyer who, after reading the detailed dye instructions is tempted to run screaming for the nearest package of Kool-Aid to get a quick and easy color fix.
Luckily, someone has been working to simplify cotton dyeing. Eileen Hallman of New World Textiles and Irene Schmoller of Cotton Clouds have collaborated on a cotton napkin project using EZ Dye cotton yarn and non-toxic natural dye colors from Botanical Colors to weave a beautiful EZ Dye Napkin kit. An EZ Dye Napkins: Spin Some Yarn & Weave It and EZ Dye Napkins: Spin All Your Yarn & Weave It kit using EZ Dye Sliver Cotton has also been added.
When I was approached to develop a color palette using natural dyes on cotton for this kit, I jumped at the chance to try out EZ Dye cotton with my natural dyes and started experimenting. I dyed several samples of EZ Dye cotton yarn with Botanical Colors Aquarelle natural dyes and was very pleasantly surprised at the results.
For my first tests, I tried madder, cutch, fustic, lac and indigo. Above you can see some of the colors that I got on cotton sliver and on the marled cotton yarn. They are very rich and beautiful.
The first level of amazement was that Saxon Blue (a liquid indigo originally developed for wool and silk fibers only) dyed a gorgeous shade of turquoise with the EZ Dye Cotton. This was very exciting as we had only been able to get the palest sky blue color previously using conventional cotton fiber. I was also shocked to see how purple the madder color became. Madder is normally a deep rich orange-red so purple was definitely unexpected.
The second surprise was how quickly the fibers absorbed the dye. I checked the dye bath after 20 minutes and the dye bath was nearly exhausted. The temperature of the dye bath stayed at 140 degrees F.
The final surprise was how little dye washed out when I rinsed the fibers. This was truly a very easy and rewarding dye experiment.
The final colors that we decided on for the EZ Dye Napkin Kit were:
-Squash Blossom Gold (using Fustic, a traditional dye wood)
-Summer Rose (using Lac, a traditional Southeast Asian red dye derived from insects)
- Palm Beach Blue (using Saxon Blue indigo)
Each kit will dye up to 6 napkins of one color. Once you’ve woven your napkins, follow the simple instructions for dyeing the napkins and get ready for your first picnic!
This new EZ Dye Napkin kit is featured on the Goods page of the May/June 2012 Handwoven magazine. Eileen Hallman’s article “Dyeing Gets EZ-er” explaining this process and whetting your appetitie to the possibilities of EZ Dye Cotton was featured in the March/April 2012 issue of Handwoven magazine.
Kathy Hattori is the owner of Botanical Colors in Seattle, Washington and sells natural dyes and textile supplies online to fiber artisans. She is teaching about European Blue – Woad and Saxon Blue at the Taos Wool Festival in New Mexico October 3 and 4 this year. Naturally dyeing cotton is her new favorite activity!