Caring For Naturally Dyed Silk
- Hand wash or use a lingerie bag in the washing machine on a gentle cycle in cold water
- Use a pH neutral soap such as Dropps, Branch Basics or Unscented Dr. Bronners (check there's no baking soda)
- Hang or lay flat to dry out of direct sunlight
- Iron on low to medium heat
Fibers have been dyed with plants, bugs and minerals for thousands of years. There is evidence of Madder Root being used as a dye material dating back to 5000 BCE! Cochineal, a parasitic beetle that lives on prickly pear cactus in Mexico and Central America, was used by Aztec and Mayan people as far back as the second century BCE. You can read about Cochineal and its fascinating history here!
That being said, while natural dyes have stood the test of time, they do take slightly more care. But keep in mind, even synthetically dyed fabric will fade and bleed!
I have carefully cleaned and prepared the fiber (called scouring and mordanting) to help form a chemical bond between the fiber and color molecules. This is the first step in creating a piece that will last for years and years. The second is using dye materials that are colorfast: this does not include beets, blueberries, turmeric, red cabbage or black beans, to name a few. Rule of thumb: Mother Nature didn’t create plants for the purpose of nutrients AND a suitable dye material; so if it tastes good, don’t waste it in a dye pot. That being said, experimenting with kitchen scraps is a wonderful, fun activity - especially with children! However, I will never sell an item that is primarily dyed with kitchen scraps in my shop and if I do include a sprinkle of turmeric in a bundle dye, I will tell you.
Plant dyes are pH sensitive. Our skin, bodies, hair, tap water and general environment have a specific pH which your plant dyed item will adjust to as you use it. I LOVE this idea of a personal patina: something that settles on its color based on your unique environment, creating a piece made with nature’s colors as shown through you.
So, some extra steps do need to be taken when caring for your plant dyed item. To prolong the color of your wearable piece of art, hand wash in cold water or place in a lingerie bag and machine wash on a gentle cycle in cold water with pH neutral soap. My favorite eco-friendly detergents that are plant dye friendly are Dropps Laundry Pods, Branch Basics and Unscented Dr. Bronner’s. Hang your item or lay it flat to dry and keep out of direct sunlight. Your item may bleed during the first few washes but don't fret! This won't dye other items and will diminish with each wash. I find that after silk has been washed and dried it can feel stiff and crinkly. Simply scrunch once it's dry and the softness and luster will return. Iron silk on low to medium heat to reduce wrinkles. For best results, iron shiny side down. This is the iron I used on your item, it’s my favorite!
Don't be intimidated to love, wear and use your piece often! You'll get the hang of handwashing (if you don't already) and may find it brings even more joy and love for your naturally dyed silk. Among many benefits, silk boasts antimicrobial properties which means you can stretch out your wash days. Most importantly, let life's spills and stains add to its personality and beauty.
Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!