Design, in so many ways is about problem solving - and natural dyeing is no different. Sometimes what we can do is limited to what is available in nature, and other times we get to push the boundary just a little.
Around a year ago we began looking for a tahini shade fabric - and felt like we struck gold when we discovered some of our weavers and dyers in Thailand had been making something suitable. We quickly bought some old fabric they had made and fell for it entirely.
The problem arose when we needed to make more - the ebony fruit they used to dye with is seasonal, and we had completely missed it for the year. We felt a little flat to say the least, but the weaver told us they sometimes make the same shade using the bark of the tree, in combination with mud.
We had to see for ourselves.
This is the tree bark above - its peeled off regularly without harming the tree as long as it is not over harvested. You can see it has almost a blood red inner and the wood is quite fragrant.
Collected together in an entirely unscientific measurement a giant's teabag is made and drawn over a rolling boil.
Natural, home-spun cotton yarn is left to boil and dip over quite a short period of time (this one was only in there about 10 mins) before it reached an almost grey hue.
Like hair the yarns here look much darker wet than they will dry.
To get our Tahini shade the yarn is taken about 200 steps away to an almost dried up pond (it fills in when rainy season comes round) where it's stamped into the mud and washed.
What's really interesting is the ladies have tried plain water and even other parts of the pond and found that only one little spot actually magically changes the tone of the yarn. We believe the iron content is to blame (it seems like a similar method to Japanese Kakishibu or Indian Myroblan).
Again, the finished yarn is markedly darker than it will be when washed and dried, but it's an incredible journey.
Once dry they're then loaded into the home-handlooms and woven into our fabric. I have to admit, it did make us smile that the weaver was wearing a little coat she'd made herself out of the same fabric.
As with all our garments the natural dye process means theres an interesting variation in colour. Some pieces are almost a little striped - making each one totally unique.