Artist, educator and fashion designer Sasha Duerr uses just about anything to dye clothing: from kitchen waste (coffee grounds, avocado pits and onion skins) to invasive "weeds" (wild fennel, oxalis) to the leaves, fruit or petals of nearly any tree or plant (maple, pear, fern, dahlia, etc).
Inspired by permaculture, Duerr believes in a slower approach to textile dying -- she founded the Permacouture Institute to help advance Slow Textiles -- both as a way to respect the environment, but also because she believes that plant-based color is more beautiful, and truly alive.
"Natural dyes harmonize with each other in a way that only botanical colors can," she writes in her book The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes. "A natural dye, a red for example, will include hints of blue and yellow, whereas a chemically produced red dye contains only a single red pigment, making the color less complex... The unique qualities of naturally dyed textiles can often make the color vibrate or glow, which is truly magical."
This isn't new information. As Duerr points out, during World War Two our grandparents were using things like red cabbage as a dye, but quickly the knowledge is becoming lost. Today, Duerr helps preserve the art of organic botanical dying, both by teaching these skills at the California College of Arts and Craft and at Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard, and showing them on the runway with the naturally-dyed knitwear she creates with partner Casey Larkin for their bio-regional line Adie & George.
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