Natural Dye Plants
The nursery is branching out and adding a new group of organically grown plants. Helen has been using plants to naturally dye fiber and it seemed right to add these plants to the list of plants we grow. While dye plants may seem to be unrelated to edibles, we see a strong connection in the bigger picture. We’ve been part of the Slow Food movement now for over 20 years. In the time we’ve been in business we’ve seen general acceptance that growing or sourcing our organic food locally is a significant step towards food security and it slows the environmental degradation we are facing. The rapid spread of farmers’ markets, local food restaurants and school gardens has educated us about the real costs of food production.
We believe the next challenge for us as a society is to ask the same questions about the clothing and home fabric items we consume. What we’ve learned about the real costs of fast food — from animal welfare issues, worker’s rights, pesticides/antibiotic misuse, and transportation pollution — to the health of the consumer, can be asked about the clothing we wear.
A $5 T-shirt from a big box store conceals just as many costs as that fast food burger. Cotton that’s not grown organically uses one of the highest levels of pesticides of any crop grown. Chemical dyes have killed off all life in some rivers in China. The quality of life of folks working in sweat shops is well documented. We know about food miles, what about fiber miles? And think about putting these toxic dyes and fabric treatments on the biggest breathing organ of your body — your skin. Clearly, it’s time to bring these processes back home so we can learn about how to reorganize our wardrobes for the better of all on this planet.
So, that’s a long way to say we want to be part of this movement. Helen was a fibre artist in the 1970’s before she moved to graphic design. Now she’s back at it and natural dyeing is a big part of what she’s doing now. She has co-published a book with Deepa Natarajan on growing and using plants for dye.
There are lots of resources if you want to learn more. Fibershed is a great place to start.