I know I have mentioned this before, but I think once I have achieved some sort of mastery of an idea, I quickly find out I have only scratched the surface. Thus is natural dyeing. I thought it would be so simple to go about planting the correct plants, many with the latin tinctoria attached to it’s scientific name. But this is not so. Those plants may be “dyer’s” plants, but they are not the only source of dye. Not to get all confusing, but I wasn’t under the impression that only tinctoria plants would produce viable dyes.
I was under the impression that naturally dyeing was a little known phenomenon, one that is only stumbled upon once in a while. I feel like I am making myself look more and more stupid as I progress. I am not sure exactly what I mean to say, but what I want to get out is that natural dyeing is a vast and expansive subject, one that can only be tackled with the understanding that there is no way you will ever know about half of the information about it.
First there are the plants involved. Not all plants produce good dyes, or sustainable dyes. Then there is the use or nonuse of mordants. Is using mordants really natural dyeing? I guess that might be a philosophical discussion for those in the know. Next, what are you going to dye? I was intially under the impression that wool was the best suited for natural dyeing, but you can find so many other materials that people have dyed from cotton to hemp, ribbons to yarn. The list is quite extensive and I am not about to put it all here. Then there is the process of dyeing. You can use heat or you can steep plants in water over a certain amount of time to achieve dye greatness.
And then there is the different methods to dyeing in general: tie-dye, batik, etc……You would think dyeing with plants would be relatively simple. But it’s not.
And then you can go even further and go into the realm of chemistry. You can figure out how dyes bond with materials depending on their (meaning the plants carbohydrates, proteins, etc) chemical composition and what mordants you use to “attach” the dye.
And this just scratches the surface. Barely scratches the surface. There is no diamond scratching the surface of glass, but a finger nail scratching the surface of a mirror. A faint line that can be quickly erased with some Windex and newspaper.
I once took a class with this amazing professor in Colorado. So many things that he said made so much sense. Of course many of the things that ended up sticking with me are probably really attributed to someone else, but one thing I remember him saying was that there are no experts. There is no way that any one person can be an expert in one thing. How can we ever pretend to know EVERYTHING about a subject?