natural dyeing: black tea

I think I may be falling hard for natural dyes. When I go to the grocery store, the farmer's market, I think about my menu for the week, and think about the natural dye properties of everything I'll consume that week. My freezer right now is half food, half dye materials (avocado, pomegranate and mushrooms, if you want to know). And on Friday as Brandon and I were in search of a piece of clothing for his Halloween costume, I found myself perusing the tops, looking for cotton or linen or wool that would be suitable to dye. 

I was successful, and brought home a 100% cotton tunic for my next project. Saturday I woke up and mordanted the tunic, an organic cotton dishtowel, and a small linen project bag for a few hours, and then brewed up a vat of black tea. In they went! I've noticed that though the process of taking the dye takes at least an hour, I can tell pretty quickly whether or not the color is going to really take in the materials I've put in the dyepot. Still, the anticipation is so fun as I come back every few minutes to poke the items around and watch the progress. 

After an hour, I took the materials out, let them drip out a bit, and then washed them in my washing machine on cold with a tablespoon of dish soap. And then out on the clothesline!

It's a bit hard to tell from the picture, but the organic cotton dishtowel took the color the best, followed by the project bag and then the tunic, which dried into a soft tan color. And although the tunic and towel were both labeled "100%" cotton, the threads used clearly weren't, and stayed pure white, which was something I didn't even consider. Lesson learned!

Though time-intensive, I loved this day because it embodied what slow fashion means to me in our life right now. Reducing waste by buying second-hand, seeing beauty in an old, stained garment at a store and naturally, organically turning it into something beautiful and functional. I know that my "tea-shirt" is something that I will value and love and wear to threads. And then mend, and keep on wearing. :)

Slow Fashion October is officially over for this year, but I know I'll carry the principles I've been reminded of and the stories and perspectives of everyone who participated with me into this coming year, and for that I'm grateful. If you need something to read during your lunch hour, I encourage you to go check out Karen's round-ups of some of the best of Slow Fashion October on her blog. They're so inspiring!