Natural vs. Synthetic Dyes
I frequently get questions about the type of dyes I use. Many assume that natural dyes are the best for the environment – and since I work with only natural fibers, the assumption is that I use only natural dyes.
Actually you cannot assume that natural dyes are the be-all-end-all of natural fiber works. The reason is that a substance – called a mordant – has to be added to the dye to get it to stick to the fiber. And many of these mordants are toxic. My primary source for good, solid information on the ins and outs of dyeing is: www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml. She explains that you can dye without a mordant or use a mordant that is non-toxic, BUT the dye tends to wash out and fade over time. Also, natural dyes produce more muted tones when used on plant fibers, which is mostly what I use – cotton, tencel (wood), bamboo, soy.
So, given all that plus the fact that most of my clients prefer vivid (not necessarily bright) colors, I use Sabracon dyes. Synthetic, yes. If, however, you’re interested in a woven piece with muted tones that has been dyed with a natural dye along with a non-toxic mordant, and you don’t plan to wash it much (or don’t mind fading), I’m happy to oblige!