Muezart is working closely with farmers, Eri silk weavers and, most importantly, with nature itself. We believe in using natural dyes for the Eri silk yarns that we sell, dyes that we can get from the plant kingdom.
Many of you would have noticed the juice from freshly cut beets or crushed pomegranate, or spilled black tea, can stain your clothes. But did you know that they can be used to dye cloth and fiber? We are used to such a variety of colors in clothes and material that is dyed with chemicals that we have forgotten about natural, plant-based dyes. In fact, many of us may not know that fruits, leaves, berries and even tree barks can be used as dye for fibers and textiles.
Plant Rich Traditions Are at the Heart of Muezart’s Natural Dyeing
In Muezart our mantra is to revive traditions and open markets for weavers of the Eri silk, a heritage cottage industry. It was not surprising, therefore, that the team was determined that we stick to using natural dyes. That too, we had heard that many locals who weave know the art of natural dyeing. An artistic skill passed down generations.
As we explored, it was fascinating to see how rich the plant kingdom was in providing us resources for dyeing fibers and textiles. Of course, we need to use these natural resources responsibly, ensuring sustainability.
What We Learnt About Natural Dyeing–We are Sharing With You
Our team set out to meet weavers and farmers of Meghalaya to learn about the world of natural dyeing. What we gathered is available on our website as posts – collated here for an easy read for you. Please dive right in, read, enjoy, and perhaps, also learn something new.
1. Get an intro to natural dyeing, learn what a mordant is,and take atrip to a silk village of Meghalaya.
As you see in the 4th story, even the mordant we use is plant-based!
Silk and wool are protein-based fibers (come from animals). They absorb color better than plant-based fibers like cotton or linen(which are cellulose-based). Eri silk is a protein fiber, hence easy to dye.
Interesting Titbits From the World of Natural Dyeing
- If you use tannin-rich dyes, like tea, there is no need to use mordants(what is used to ‘fix’ color to the fiber). More the tannin, the faster the color.
- It is always a challenge to standardize the final color you get when you dye using natural ingredients. Here are some tips to help you get almost the same color each time you dye using natural ingredients:
- Maintain a register to record the weight of the fabric you are dyeing, the name of the natural ingredient you are using for dyeing, its weight, and its source and the name of the natural ingredient you are using as the mordant, its weight and its source.
Stick a small sample of the dyed fabric in the register, along with the above observations. Refer to this journal to get a color you are looking for, but with fingers crossed! You never know what the final color will be like, as that is how nature is – always at its creative best.
- Make note of the season/month the plant was harvested. Climate and harvest time can impact the color.
- Always scrub and pre-wash the textile before dyeing it. Use a mild detergent for Eri silk fabric or fiber. Scrubbing or scouring helps to get the material ready to receive the dye. This results in a richer color that spreads uniformly.
- Mordants help the color to bind to the fiber. Mordants are applied while pre-washing, or along with the dyeing ingredient, or after, depending on the dye and the textile. They help create ‘fast’ colors. Mordants can be chemicals but are also found in the plant kingdom. In Muezart we use naturally occurring mordants like Sohkhu Leaves (Baccuarea Ramiflora), Jyrmi vine leaves, sohtung leaves (terminalia chebula) etc.
Do you know something more about Eri Silk or do you have a question? Add a comment with your thoughts and queries and we will follow up.