I’ve had a couple marathon weeks getting the photo sample ready for the Women’s Workshirt, our design for the 100 Blouses Project, while moving through another busy period at my day job. I have previously shared that I have spent much of the Covid shut-in year experimenting with natural dyes in addition to learning about blouse making and the pattern software. I fell hard for avocado dying after a close friend taught me how to dye fabric with avocado skins and pits, which produces an array of hues from dusty rose to terracotta and rust. I relished in the transformation of fabric into surprising and beautiful colors. 

And then almost imperceptibly the fabric colors faded. My friend and Village Fabrics store owner Nicole Asselin gently encouraged me to look at other dye materials – regaling me with stories about fabric found in the tombs of Egypt that still hold their color. I held out – I learned her method of dying fabric to help the dye adhere to the cotton muslin I’m using for the 100 Blouses project. The steps are no joke – the process of steeping the fabric in the dye is a small part of nearly a day’s worth of  steps to prepare the fabric to receive the dye and then to make sure that the dye penetrates the fabric. 

At Nicole’s recommendation I purchased The Art and Science of Natural Dyes by Joy Boutrup and Catharine Ellis and found myself pouring over the pages. Asking questions, seeking answers. And then trying things out. I sought a vibrant, reliable, colorfast (holds up against washing, exposure to light etc.) natural dye that would mimic the elusive dusty rose color I once achieved – fleetingly –with an avocado bath. The owners of Village Fabrics sent me home with various dyes to try and instructions on the dye stuffs that would likely yield my desired hue: madder root and cutch (from the madder plant and the acacia tree respectively).

And so I found myself totally worn out on a Sunday evening, the date of my photoshoot fast approaching, whereby I need in hand a dyed, cut and sewn blouse in a color that would delight and flatter my clients. Instead, I held in my hands a couple of yards of light brown, washed-out looking fabric. And so I weight my options: I could try another batch of the avocado dye or I could try something new – knowing full well the people rarely succeed on the first try and yet I had to in order to be ready for the photoshoot. So I combed my natural dying textbook for all the relevant information about these two dye stuffs, how much I should use and the accompanying materials and took a leap. When you learn about dying its intricacies from the water to the materials you use to prepare the fabric, or the fabric itself, or the temperature of the baths – success was by no means a given. And yet – I pulled the fabric out of a deep red liquid and I had a sense that I had nailed it. A warm, rich, uniformly dyed dusty rose is what I had in my hands. And I had plenty of time to admire it spending hours meticulously cutting it. 

And now it is out of my hands with the tailor who will transform it into a beautiful garment out of a pattern I poured more than a year into. I have been thinking about how we can prepare and prepare and then sometimes we are forced to take a leap. We are forced to try something new, and we are forced to have faith. These past weeks have been a dance back and forth – preparing and then taking leaps. It is often hard to know which situation calls for which type of action. However, the proof is in the work – a beautiful, soft, vibrantly colored fabric to complement my design made sweeter by the intensity of the work that went into it –and accompanied by a treasure trove of lessons about preparing and letting go, again and again and again.

Go, fight, win


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