The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Fashion Revolution

Posted by Kristine Vejar on April 20, 2016 2 Comments

This past weekend, I held a class helping people dye their own Gilded Cardigan and Iron Age Tank, a project from The Modern Natural Dyer. As you may know The Modern Natural Dyer includes shade cards which features a series of widely available natural dyeing extracts, the color they make, and the quantity of the extract needed to make that color. The Gilded Cardigan and Iron Age Tank is designed to show how one can expand on the colors featured on the shade card through the use of iron-infused water. Sarah, who works in the Verb dye studio, came to class and dyed her own A. Chanin cardigan and tank using pomegranate. Then, she dipped her cardigan in the iron-infused water to get green. I love her results.

As you are poking around the internet this week, perhaps checking your Instagram account, you may have noticed photos of people holding a sign which reads "I made your clothing" -- or -- just an image with the words asking "who made your clothing?" These photos are tied to a movement called Fashion Revolution, and is a particularly hot topic this week as it marks the anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex.

On April 24, 2014, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Rana Plaza was a garment sewing factory who made clothing for Bennetton, Walmart, and many other large-scale clothing companies. The complex collapsed due to poor upkeep and over-capacity of workers. This type of working condition develops because corporations are trying to sell clothing at too low of a cost (and are possibly using too much money in marketing and paying top CEOs). In honor of those who have lost their lives, those who have lost a loved one, and for those who are still working in these conditions, this tragedy inspired the start of Fashion Revolution, a movement encouraging you "to use your voice and your power to transform the fashion industry into a force for good."

Fashion Revolution is encouraging people around the world to be curious; to consider who grows the cotton to make your t-shirt, or the wool to make your sweater, who is dyeing the fabric (and with what dye), who is milling the fabric, who is sewing the garment. And to present these questions to those labels you love to wear: #whomademyclothes

The movement has expanded from asking major labels to explain "who made my clothing" to people who make clothing and who care about transparency and trace-ability to come forth and declare "I make your clothing". This is a great time to learn and explore this exciting and burgeoning time in fashion and to support those making the effort. It's easy, search on the hashtag #imadeyourclothes

In the Gilded Cardigan and Iron Age tank, I specifically chose A.Chanin pieces because I could trace where the garments and the cloth come from. The garments are made in Florence, Alabama. The cloth is milled in the Southern United States of organic cotton. Regarding organic, my general rule of thumb is - if I wouldn't want to use a chemical (like a fertilizer or pesticide) for the sake of my health or the health of the environment, then I don't think its ok for a farmer to use it. Their health, and the health of the Earth, is as important to me as my health. We are one in the same. The pieces are undyed. In this project, you get to be in the driver seat as the dyer, and choose exactly what you would like to use.

I see the next evolution of this movement expanding to "I make my clothing".

I find making my clothing such a powerful way to cultivate new skills, engage my creativity, feel connected through meeting others with similar interests, and have even more of a voice over which materials I choose to use and why. I can support local farmers who are making a determined effort to live sustainably and to cultivate harmony between Earth and humans.

To support your efforts of making your own clothing, we have a winner for the West Water Tunic sewing pattern: Martina, who wrote "Dreaming of Squam…and wearing a West water Tunic made with indigo dyed linen with EVERYTHING!"

Fashion doesn't have to be bad. It doesn't need to hurt. Dressing ourselves can be filled with joy, a medium to express our journey and our ethics. You can help make a change!

Looking forward,


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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Printing with Flowers + Alabama Chanin

Posted by Kristine Vejar on April 12, 2016 2 Comments

Last Summer, Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin visited Verb, which is a cause for celebration. We invited the Verb community to gather and and to share in her company. There were many beautiful handmade, Alabama Chain-inspired clothing in the room. There was a heavenly buzz, as people chatted, swapping stories about the process of making their clothing. Natalie and I had a conversation about a topic I am very interested in; how clothing, what it is made of, what it is dyed with, motifs which are embroidered or appliqued on it, can communicate what is meaningful to the wearer and how it can be used as way to map our journey. Natalie shared with us her process of creating new patterns and stencil designs. I wanted to give Natalie a gift inspired by the evening's topic of conversation. I used flowers from the Verb garden, to print a pattern on Alabama Chanin cotton jersey yardage. So she would have a little piece of California to bring with her, home to Alabama.

In The Modern Natural Dyer, there is a project which teaches how to print with flowers, it is called Flowers at My Fingertips Sewing Kit. I used a process very similar to this when dyeing Natalie's fabric, though I want to take a moment to describe the process of printing Natalie's fabric, as it is a bit different, in the case you would like to create your own printed, Alabama Chanin fabric.

The main difference between the fabric I made for and the fabric used in Flowers at My Fingertips, is Natalie's fabric is made of cotton, also referred to as a cellulose-based fabric, where as Flowers at My Fingertips is made of wool, a protein-based fiber. So I followed the cellulose-based fiber instructions in The Modern Natural Dyer when I went to scour and mordant the fabric (p. 57 and p. 59). And I skipped the chalk / wheat bran bath all together.

Once completed, proceed to Flowers at My Fingertips for directions on how to print fabric using flowers and leaves from your garden. To print Natalie's fabric, I mainly used weld leaves and coreopsis. I decided to go with a less-is-more approach, and used fewer flowers, spaced apart, as I really wanted each leaf and flower to be well defined. Weld, coreopsis, and marigolds make great prints, and are trusted dye materials, though it is always fun to experiment with flowers in your own garden. If your flowers fade over time, you can always print your fabric again with new flowers.

In the next few weeks, I am going to print a new piece of AC fabric, and have many ideas of what I might make it into. Right now, I think I will print on the natural jersey, layer it over a piece of white jersey, and probably make an A-line dress. I hope this process inspires you to create your own printed Alabama Chanin garment. If so, do share with us what you think you might make!


Next month, May, the focus of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, will be on the project titled Flowers at My Fingertips. In case you would like a little help souring the materials, we have a kit you can purchase.

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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan

Posted by Kristine Vejar on April 05, 2016 0 Comments

When I began to write The Modern Natural Dyer, I could not wait to somehow incorporate the work of Alabama Chanin. I received the opportunity to meet Natalie Chanin, the founder, about four years ago, and quickly responded to the beauty of her designs and set out to create an Alabama Chanin-inspired wardrobe.

Alabama Chanin was founded on the act of hand-sewing cotton jersey fabric into garments and home goods. Natalie has published four books teaching the techniques she uses to create her line of garments and goods, so that those of us who prefer to create our garments and goods can follow in her footsteps. One of the things I admire about Natalie's business is her dedication to creating local employment. About two years ago, Natalie launched A.Chanin, a series of simple and wearable garments machine-sewn Alabama-based facility out of the same organic cotton jersey used in the rest of her line. This is yet another avenue within Alabama Chanin which cultivates employment, and due to the speed of the machines, provides a lower price point then the hand-sewn garments, allowing another avenue to support the work and efforts of Alabama Chanin.

When I first considered how to include the work of Alabama Chanin in the Modern Natural Dyer, what first came to mind, was dyeing fabric, then using her patterns to sew a garment. Though, on second thought, I imagined it would be fun to support the A.Chanin line, as it is the new kid on the block, and also because the garments are pre-sewn, so the focus could be on the dyeing. That said, I still think it would be great fun to naturally dye your own fabric and hand-sew and stencil an Alabama Chanin garment. 

So once I established I would use the A.Chanin pieces, came the planning of the project. The Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan is the sister project to The Wanderlust Bag. Both projects guide you towards looking closely at the shade card and to recognize that there are colors missing, like one of the world's most beloved color, green, and to start thinking creatively about how to make them. Though we use plants to dye, and plants are green, a single plant rarely gives green dye. Whereas the Wanderlust Bag project uses a combination of any yellow dye and logwood to achieve green, logwood fades quickly on cellulose-based fibers. So instead of using logwood, to get green, create and use a bath of iron-infused water.  If green doesn't float your boat, or maybe it does, but you want to explore other options, here are a few examples of how iron affects color. From top to bottom, this is Alabama Chanin jersey dyed with cochineal, madder, quebracho red, pomegrante, and weld. The second column is each of these dipped in iron-infused water. For the third column, I applied a slight twist or pinch to the fabric to create a slight pattern...more on that in the next section.

 So let's look a little closer at the ways I pinched and twisted the fabric.

And the patterns created after these fabric samples were dipped into iron. Unfortunately, color is tricky to capture. The pink sample in real life looks a bit more like the peach sample located just below.

Though I dyed the fabric, manipulated the fabric, and then dipped it into iron, another idea is to try to create irregularites in the dyebath, like I did with this madder red sample. Then, when I dipped it into iron, the iron water exacerbated those imperfections, making what I think is a really pretty, complex, and mottled fabric.

Tips and tricks to completing this project:

1. Cotton and cellulose-based fibers are fun to work with because you don't have to worry about felting.

2. Cotton jersey is more porous than wovens made of cotton. Cotton jersey needs less dye to achieve saturated colors.

3. I prefer to use wheat bran instead of chalk. I have found that chalk creates more streaking along the fabric and the chalk can change the texture of the fabric, making it slightly brittle, whereas the wheat bran is more nourishing.

4. There is a learning curve to achieving a solid, uniform color on cellulose-based fibers. If you are interested in achieving a solid color: purchase a larger pot so the garment can float easily in the pot. If the garment is scrunched into too small of a pot, those lines will show up on the dyed garment. Heat the dyebath until steamy, and then add the fabric. Keep the garment submerged under water throughout the dyeing process. You might have to stand there and keep poking any parts that stick out of the dyebath back under. Any parts of the garment that poke out of the dyebath during the dyebath will be a different color than the rest of the garment. Rotate the garment often during the dyeing process, every 5-10 minutes.

5. Accept imperfection. A hand-dyed, naturally-dyed garment is bound to have bit of imperfection and this is what makes it uniquely yours and lovely! You might encounter splotches or irregularities in color. Totally ok!

6. Invite "imperfection". Knowing there is a learning curve to dyeing fabric a single solid color, or desiring pattern, you can purposefully mar your work. Just like I showed you in the photos above. And this is where the work of Alabama Chanin can lend a hand. Commonly, Alabama Chanin garments are made from two layers of cotton jersey. First, the garment is cut from the material, then, the fabric which will be the top layer of the garment is stenciled, the two pieces of fabric are layered on top of one another, and then the two fabrics are stitched together, the stitches following the stenciled shapes. The center of the stenciled shapes are cut away, revealing the second layer of fabric. You can apply this process to your Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan in any number of ways. You could stencil your pieces. Add embroidery or a bit of applique. Natalie's books and journal provide tremendous inspiration.

For those of you who have purchased the Phase 1 Kit of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along (its never too late to join us!), we included 1/4 yard of Alabama Chanin jersey. This piece of jersey could be used as a swatch to test out the process of natural dyeing cotton jersey fabric, and it could also be used to create a reverse appliqued or appliqued piece upon your Iron Age Tank and Gilded Cardigan.

Happy Dyeing!


It's Alabama Chanin April at Verb! I hope you will join us to dye and sew your own Alabama Chanin-inspired garments!

Come to The Modern Natural Dyer Meet-Up, Saturday, April 23 - and show off what you have been making - or perhaps you're curious - all are welcome.

Announcing The Modern Natural Dyer Phase 2 Kit! This Summer, we will be working on indigo + grown and gathered dyestuffs. Join us!



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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Sandstone Shawl

Posted by Kristine Vejar on March 08, 2016 1 Comment

For the month of March, as part of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, we are focusing on the Sandstone Shawl.

When setting out the lessons I wanted to teach through The Modern Natural Dyer, I designed the Sandstone Shawl to demonstrate the four following principles:

1. Demonstrate how fibers made by different animals take dye differently.
To make the Sandstone Shawl pattern, I ask for three types of yarn: Malabrigo Rios (100% Superwash Merino), Blue Sky Alpaca Sport (100% Alpaca), and Shibui Silk Cloud (50% Mohair / 50% Silk). These are all protein-based fibers. So though they are scoured and mordanted, for all extents and purpose the same, though as you can see from the list - there is quite a range of protein-based fiber types. Each of these types of fiber, for instance if it from a goat rather than a sheep, will interface differently with the dye, and the resulting color will be affected. So, from our previous discussions, we know that protein-based fibers are different than cellulose-based fibers, and due to that fact, the scouring, mordanting, and dyeing processes are different. Though as we get to know the different types of fiber better, we get to understand how each of the types of fiber respond and react to the dye. To learn more about this, you can read the chapter in The Modern Natural Dyer titled Choosing Fiber. In the case of the Sandstone Shawl, we add the yarns made of various fibers in timed increments into the warm dyepot which does affect the dyed color, that said, even if you were to add them in all at once, you would still achieve a range of colors based upon fiber content.

2. Inspire exploration of combining 3+ dyes.
I wrote the Modern Natural Dyer so the projects would build upon themselves, hoping to build a foundation for those of you who want to really understand the natural dyeing practice. So in this respect, we've built up to this project, first, making making the Northwoods Hat using one dye and the shade card as our guide. Then, making green by combining two dyes, again using the shade card as our guide. Now, let's up the ante by using three dyes to create a color. In the Sandstone Shawl, I give a recommended recipe.

Here is another recipe, to make a deep red-purple, similar to the color of red wine:

1 tsp cutch
1/4 tsp madder
1/16 tsp logwood purple

If you would like to experiment and try creating your own recipes (I hope you do!), keep this in mind: Adding too much dye can change the texture of the yarn, especially wool yarn. The texture could feel brittle, dry, or rigid. I would advise that the amount of dye I used in the Sandstone Shawl's recipe is the maximum amount of dye to use before the hand of the wool will begin to shift. With this being said, combining two or three different dyes widens the color palette, and can be an endless study of possibility!

3. How to create three different shades of color from one pot.
So now, let's say that instead of using 3 different yarn, each made of different blends of fiber, as done in the Sandstone Shawl, you were to choose 3 yarns, each made of the same material - let's say they are all made of merino wool. You can create three slightly different shades of color, by introducing them into the pot at three different intervals. This principle goes hand in hand with #4.

4. Teach what it means to exhaust a dyebath, and how to do so.
In order to make a dark color, you have to use more dye. The yarn can only take so much dye, thus, there will be dye leftover in the pot. When one uses all of the dye in the pot, it is referred to as exhausting the dyebath or dyepot. In the Sandstone Shawl project, by adding skeins of yarn throughout the dyeing process, we are practicing this dyeing technique. When I achieve a color by dyeing this way, I find it hard to replicate the color. Though the color which can be achieved can be very beautiful and unique, so it is a practice I enjoy, and one I encourage home dyers to explore to discover new colors and to create a range of colors closely related to one another, so that when knit or woven can create an ombre. Plus! You have used all the dye in your pot, so nothing is going to waste. 

So from using this dyeing technique, there are three skeins of yarn, made of three different materials, weights, and colors. I knew I wanted to design something that would highlight these differences. Before I knew how to spin yarn, I was always looking to how I could create my own kind of yarn. I began holding two yarns together - typically a light fuzzy yarn, like mohair, with, well, really any other kind of yarn - ranging from laceweight silk yarn to a heavier worsted weight wool yarn. This is still a technique we use a lot in the shop to create unique knitted fabrics. So when faced with designing a piece for the book using the yarn I just dyed, I definitely knew I wanted to hold two types of yarn together, as I have done in the Sandstone Shawl. I also wanted to create a piece which highlighted the range of colors, from dark to light, achieved this dyeing style. I thought a triangular shaped shawl would be pretty and something I like to wear to the beach when it is windy. When I went to try on the sample, I just loved the way that the heavier yarn, the Rios, curled around my neck, more like a scarf than a shawl, and the very light-weight Silk Cloud, kind of floated softly, almost like how the white foam on the incoming tide sits just on the water. The way the orange-gold color formed in bands reminded my of Sandstone, hence the name.

If you are in the area, I am teaching a class dedicated to dyeing the materials for the Sandstone Shawl - and - we have quite a few opportunities coming up to knit together, it would be wonderful to see you and your progress on your Sandstone Shawl. And if you are not in the area, I love seeing your progress via Instagram.

Always remember, I wrote this book as much for the Armchair Dyer as those who are diving into the dyeing process, so please, if you do like the pattern, no matter if you did not dye your yarn, I hope you will join us on this KAL - and knit your own Sandstone Shawl - the possibilities of choices of yarn and color are endless!

-- Kristine

Tomorrow night! Join us for an evening of conversation: Slow Fashion Forum, 7pm.

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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: The Wanderlust Bag

Posted by Kristine Vejar on February 08, 2016 3 Comments

It's February - which means our focus is now upon making The Wanderlust Bag from The Modern Natural Dyer!

Now that we have discussed how to create naturally-dyed colors through the use of a single plant. When looking at the shade cards with a bit more of a discerning eye, you might notice, though the colors on the shade cards are beautiful, they are lacking in colors which many of us are quite fond of - like green (and many shades of red, orange, purple, brown, and blue).  Funny enough, green, the color of plants, seems like it would be an easy, expected color to create with natural dyes. Though, it is a bit more complex than expected. It takes two dyes to create green.

I designed this the Wanderlust Bag to teach you how to use the shade card to combine dyes in order to make shades of green on protein-based fibers. And to open the question of what other colors can be made by combining two (or more) dyes.

This project is also a great foray into practicing dyeing wool fabric which is quite different than dyeing wool yarn. I also wanted to make sure to include sewers - so this is our first sewing project in The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along.

The Wanderlust Bag comes in two sizes. When designing these bags I wanted to make something with the traveler in mind. I find that when I travel, using smaller vessels, almost like dresser drawers inside my suitcase helps me stay organized. I particularly like box-shaped bags because they are easy to see inside. They are great to be used around town too - during your daily commute. The smaller size makes a great pouch to carry colored pencils and art supplies and the larger bag is good for carrying your current in-progress knitting or sewing project.

Here are some tricks and tips to dyeing fabric green:

+ Right now, the logwood at Verb is very strong. You can use half the amount as stated in The Modern Natural Dyer to achieve the given shades. I adore the aliveness nature imparts - that said, it can come as quite a surprise when going along and getting one shade at a specified amount of dye, to receiving a new batch of dye, and getting a stronger (or weaker) result the next time around. This is another reason why it is important to use your dye journal to record your process. So you can adapt your recipes and can be assured that it is the dye which has changed, not the amount you used.

+ Typically, I use one of the following three yellow dyes, in combination with logwood purple, to create green: weld, fustic, or pomegranate. Weld will give a green with very bright, brassy undertones. Fustic will give a rich green ranging in shades from jade to grey-green. And pomegranate will give a more dusty, brown-green, reminiscent of olive green.

+ When dissolving the dyes, dissolving them in the same liquid measuring cup and combining them in the dyepot will provide the same color results. Creating one dyebath of yellow, and heating the fabric and dye, and then creating another dyebath of purple, and adding the yellow dyed fabric, and then heating, will provide a different green.

+ Sometimes you can alter the color while in the dyeing process. For instance, if you were hoping to achieve a darker green than what is currently showing up in the pot, you can add a smidge more dissolved logwood.

+ Logwood attaches to wool very fast. Once it has attached, it is almost impossible to lessen the purple color. So if in doubt, it is better to go from light green to dark green, then trying to lighten a dark green to a lighter green.

+ You can create an ombre effect by adding the fabric slowly to the dyepot over the course of 20-30 minutes.

+ You can fold or twist the fabric to create a slight pattern, and purposefully making a mottled finish.

+ Fabric can be a bit more persnickety to dye than yarn because blotches can appear on the fabric. They can be on the yarn too! It is just harder to tell - and once the yarn is knit, blotches can make the knit fabric more interesting - rather than perhaps like a stain. There are many reasons why a blotch can appear. During the scouring, mordanting, or dyeing process, the fabric may have been sticking out of the bath, so not treated the same way as the rest of the fabric, or there could have been an air-bubble. Turning the fabric often in all three processes helps. When going to cut out your pattern pieces, you could always "fussy" cut. This means, looking at where any blotches or imperfections are, and strategically place them on the bag, or avoid them all together. There is also the attitude one could employ which to accept the nature and essence of natural dyeing and to embrace all imperfections as beauty.

Do let me know if you have any questions.  At my Oakland studio, I just completed teaching a class dedicated to dyeing the wool fabric used in the wanderlust bag. Each student created their own green fabric. It was very exciting to see all of the different outcomes - from different shades of greens to various methods of twisting and tying in order to make patterns upon the cloth.

On Saturday, February 14th, Tasa is teaching The Wanderlust Bag sewing class. This is a great way to practice sewing a zipper.  And to really help you to complete your Wanderlust Bag (I know from experience how hard it can be to create space to finish projects, and how happy it makes me when I do!). Even if you have not dyed your fabric, but want to come, no worries, simply buy or bring fabric. 

Annually, we attend Stitches West, the largest yarn conference on the West Coast, from February 17-21. Every year, we team up with knitwear designer, Rosemary Hill, to create new naturally-dyed colorways and patterns. This year, I will have my book there, and all of the samples from the projects in the book for you to see. On Sunday, author Clara Parkes is signing her newest book, Knitlandia, in our booth. I do hope if you are in the area, you will come by. I promise it will be great fun!

When I return from Stitches West, I will post an update about my dyeing and sewing of The Wanderlust Bag - so see you soon!

-- Kristine



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