18 May The magic of natural dyeing
( Skaitykite lietuviškai: https://baltabalta.com/2020/05/18/augalinio-dazymo-kerai/ )
Did you know that currently there are more than 250 thousand plant species on Earth? To honor them, every year on May the 18th the International Fascination of Plants Day is celebrated. The purpose of this day is to encourage people to admire plants and talk about their significance in our daily lives.
Various plants are a crucial part of our creative process. Every baltabalta handmade designer product is full of colorful plant pigments and natural magic. We choose natural dyeing not only to acquaint the consumers with the powers provided by nature, but also to reduce the damage to the environment by fostering a respectful relationship. Furthermore, this dyeing method reminds of the ancient traditions, and can work as a way of relaxation and meditation.
One of the most reliable raw plant materials for textile dyeing is tree bark. It contains tannins, so the colour turns out resistant even without the use of metal salt fixing agents. This is the friendliest and most ecological way, and the colour scale is not dull but pleasing to the eye. Since old times the Black Alder and Oak barks were used in reaction with iron rust to get dark shades down to black. Widely known trees such as different types of willows are very common in Lithuania, so, while using the shrubs and fast-growing trees responsibly, there isn’t major harm to the nature. From these plants you can get ash pink, copper brown, steel gray and other shades depending on the used metal salt modifiers. The bark peels easily in the spring, and when the leaves appear, they can be used for dyeing too.
In summer, when there’s so many juicy powerful herbs, it is time to take advantage of the printing/stamping method. The meadows are full of variously shaped leaves, flowers and other plants, which are beautiful by themselves, so all that remains is to arrange the compositions on the fabric and enjoy magical discoveries.
Unripe chestnut fruits is another great dye, rich in tannins, so you can fixate prints just in the sun rays. A surprise to put a smile on your face – when cut, chestnut fruits reveal tiny “monkey” faces with different expressions.
In order to restore the population of the plant, providing blue-colored dye in Lithuania, we have been sharing the seeds of Dyer’s woad (latin name: Isatis Tinctoria L.) for several years. This plant is “Lithuanian indigo”. It’s very special, so, the usual way of boiling the solution won’t work for colour blue. To prepare the dyeing solution, the leaves of the plant must be fermented, then the alkalinity of the solution must be raised to PH 9 or PH 10. The oxygen has to be removed from the fabric before dipping it into the solution, there’s a special method for that. Only then, when the soaked fabric is pulled out of the dye, it will oxidize and, just like when dyeing with real indigo, it will miraculously turn from green to blue right before your eyes.