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May 07, 2011


Jane, I agree. I feel that ISEND strongly needed a well-researched presentation that clearly compared the environmental footprint of natural dyes, synthetic dyes as they are commonly used, and low-impact synthetic dyes in a non-polluting closed system. That kind of research and clarity is going to be absolutely necessary going forward.

This is so important! Natural does not equate with safe, but many of us are using totally safe 'ingredients' - alum mordant is the same alum as used in medicine (for relief of constipation amongst other things, so be careful what you do with it!, low energy - time instead of heat, so slow dyeing, and the damage that is being done to the earth by exporting our manufacture of dyes to China, India etc., because they are producing dyes that are too expensive for us to clean up, is monstrous. I recently challenged the UK textile person for the Soil Association and he admitted that environmentally friendly synthetic dyes are so designated because of how the END USER deals with the waste - their manufacture in Asia does not bear too much scrutiny.

Research it for yourselves, folks!

when years ago I moved to Vermont, I joined the Audubon Society to help learn how to identify trees, wild plants,mosses etc.. it was so wonderful...that and my Peterson's guides!!! had a wonderful time gathering materials for natural dyes ---what a color chart nature gives us!!!!

Meg, I definitely think there are no black and white answers here. There are sourcing and land use issues with natural dye plants that have to be resolved if it's going to happen at any wider scale, and possibly water issues -- it's not fully clear to me that natural dyes are automatically better than low-impact synthetic dyes used in a closed system where water is recycled and no toxins leach into air or groundwater. But I don't know enough about it yet to attempt any conclusions.

That said, it's a tradition and a knowledge base that I absolutely want to see preserved and protected and modernized in appropriate ways. And the palette is beautiful. It's not always what our contemporary eyes are trained to appreciate, but it's beautiful.

As we've discussed, I think you have a pretty darn good eco footprint, and the beauty of what you make adds so much to the world.

i have those same notions sometimes. glad you were able to attend and look forward to hearing more~

This is an interesting issue. Since I don't do my own dye much, but I would like to be kind to the planet, I have been looking for some natural-dyed cottons and wools, but nothing so far I can afford, and some I've seen were so pale they weren't my style. But with more emphasis on safety and sustainability, and meetings like this, it would be wonderful if more will be made available at an affordable price. (Yes, I know, Elaine, I use commercially-grown, commercially/chemical-dyed cottons... Groan....)

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10 Qualities of Slow Cloth, by Elaine Lipson

  • I defined Slow Cloth several years ago on this blog. Read the original post at http://lainie.typepad.com/redthread/2008/01/this-must-be-th-1.html. (Copyright Elaine Lipson 2007-2011; all rights reserved).
  • Joy
    Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. In other words, the journey matters as much as the destination.
  • Contemplation
    Slow Cloth offers the quality of meditation or contemplation in the process.
  • Skill
    Slow Cloth involves skill and has the possibility of mastery.
  • Diversity
    Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art.
  • Teaching
    Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions.
  • Materials
    Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source.
  • Quality
    Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made.
  • Beauty
    It's in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it's in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can.
  • Community
    Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships.
  • Expression
    Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.


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Books and Reports by Elaine Lipson

Selected Articles by Elaine Lipson