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14 Oct

I'm Dying

Posted by Wendy Ives

What do wear next to your skin? GMO cotton? Dyed with coal tar colors? Minimally radioactive mineral colors? Something to think about since your skin is your biggest organ and the one we can see easily.

Many years ago, I made the decision to wear natural fibers, especially against my skin. I noticed that synthetics made me itch, had an oder, wore out unevenly, didn't stretch properly with the natural contours of my body. As I began my search for natural fibers, I learned a lot about world history. Dynasties, royal families and governments struggled (and still do) for control of land, which was used (and still is) to grow these fibers. Skilled small farmers spend their lives learning the secrets of growing the best natural fibers are constantly faced with the threat of the weather and these larger forces. They battle with pests, pesticides, GMO's, and the general business of running a farm.


Once the fiber is grown, it needs to be processed. Whole towns and countries base their economies on textile production. Producing good textiles is a specialized skill. Remember? The USA used to be a major world producer of textiles and clothing. Now all the newest knitting machines are produced in China and India, as they struggle against each other to clothe the rest of us. America is having a renaissance of fiber growers, producing organic cotton and wool, which is being turned into clothing. 

Then there's the colors. Synthetic colors are dull, not in their brightness or pigment, but in the feeling they give; synthetic colors aren't alive looking. You may not notice this until you see synthetics next to natural pigments. Natural colors glow, even earth tones, which are sometimes muted due to a specific dying process. As I learn the the art of natural dying, I am fascinated by the chemistry and the origins of where each color comes from. Whole economies are supported by growing these colors. For example, there are villages in Mexico and Central and South America that specialize in growing cochineal or indigo. One color supports a whole community. Once again, world history takes it's shape, defining a country by the color it grows. 

       My sunrise was the same colors as my yarn.

Natural dying uses the elements, in conjunction with the ingredients to get specific colors.

Funny. It's just like natural soap making, in finding the best growers for our organic ingredients, using natural methods. It may take longer, but the end resulting products are superior.

I should have quite the color assortment of American grown organic Rambouillet yarn at the Ithaca Farmers' Market this weekend. This yarn is dyed in small batches, so the supply is limited. Rambouillet is a long fine wool. It's VERY soft, making it comfortable against the skin. This yarn has a lively spring, giving it great memory. It's a worsted weight, 2 plus oz. skeins, 180 yards,  and knits up quickly, making it a great choice for a larger project. I also have some hats for sale here, made by Mary from Pear Tree Studio, with my dyed wool. You can also find a whole booth of Mary's knit hats at the Ithaca Farmer's Market. If you can't make it to market and would like some yarn, contact us here. It won't add much weight to a soap package. 

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