Using less to get more

"Prairie Burn" by Kimberly Baxter Packwood

“Landskin 18” by India Flint

I’ve been thinking about how to get more natural color while using less water and energy.  Here are some simple tips:

1.  Try some of the innovative dye techniques as practiced by India Flint and Kimberly Baxter Packwood.  Both these artists create using low-water and low resource methods that yield surprising and very beautiful results.  Each has developed her method of eco-dyeing using windfall and waste materials and the pieces they produce are evocative of the spirit of a leaf or the wild meanderings of decomposing plant matter.

2.  Take up fabric or yarn painting with natural dyes.  You use  less water and energy with this method.  Natural dye extracts make it easy to create your own inks and paints.  You can thicken your dyes with Organic Printing Gum and use soy milk to bind the color to the cloth.

3.  If you are a hard core immersion dyer like me,  try reusing your alum mordant bath a couple of times.  The number of times you can reuse your pot varies, but most dyers can reuse their mordant water at least once, which means you just reduced your mordant water consumption by half!  The basic rule is to add half of the original amount of potassium aluminum sulfate for your second mordant bath.  Hint:  you can tell when it’s time to make a new mordant bath when you can see little flakes of sediment floating in the water.

4.  You can also measure the amount of water by the weight of your yarn or fiber.  Traditional ratios are 1:20 all the way up to 1:30.  This means for every ounce of fiber, you measure out 20-30 ounces of water.  Try experimenting with lower ratios such as 1:10 or even 1:7.

4. Immersion dyers can also exhaust their dye baths by having additional mordanted fiber or fabrics ready to add to the dye pot once the main dyeing process is completed.

How do you conserve resources when you dye?  Anyone using solar energy? How about cold water mordanting or dyeing methods?



2 Responses to “Using less to get more”

  1. There is an ongoing discussion on the natural dyers list on yahoo about the efficacy of solar dyeing and mordanting. Better results on wool both color wise and as far as the hand.

    • Thanks for the information, Diane. I’ll check it out. I’m so interested in solar but wonder how effective it would be in Puget Sound – sunshine can be a bit elusive!