Dyeing is generally done by the weaver in her home from locally gathered plants. A few of the natural dyes such as indigo and cochineal come from other regions and are purchased as powders. In 2013, I took a class in natural plant dyeing from Carmen María in San Juan La Laguna using a plant called sacatinta.
I'd had other classes in natural dyeing where the process was long and elaborate but this class was both simple and effective. The steps outlined below are from that workshop.
MATERIALS & SUPPLIES
- Dye plant - in this case it is a local orange-flowered vine called Sacatinta
- Mordant - which is the thing that fixes the dye to the substrate (like vinegar is for dyeing easter eggs), in this case, the fresh inner trunk of a banana plant
- The cotton thread to dye
- 2 pots of boiling water
- Bucket of cold water
- A very hot stove
- Prepare the mordant: Chop up the fresh inner trunk of the banana plant and place it in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.
- Prepare the dye: Chop up the Sacatinta plant and likewise place it in a second pot of boiling water for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rinse the cotton thread in cold water to remove any chemicals used in manufacture.
- After the 20 minutes of boiling, strain out the banana trunks and put the thread in the mordant water for 5 minutes
- Meanwhile, strain the sacatinta out of the boiling water and return this dye water to the heat.
- At the end of the 5 minute mordant bath, place the thread in the dye bath for 5 minutes.
- Remove the thread from the dye bath and place it in a bucket of cold water for 5 minutes.
- Place the thread back in the dye bath for an additional 5 minutes.
- Bim shala bam - ready to weave when dry.
Sacatinta by itself creates various shades of blue or violet depending on how many times the dye bath has been used. When combined with other plants startlingly different colors emerge.
Carrots, rabbitbrush, and the bark of avocado tree are just a few of the other plants used to create colors anywhere from deep reds to rich green.