I am a graduate of the Ryerson Theatre Production program, where I took one single Introduction to Dyeing course where we briefly touched on the existence of natural dyes. As a costume major, I was also in the habit of using tea and coffee to tint and age fabric without ever thinking of it as 'dyeing'. In my final year, in a History of Costume course, I decided to do a project on traditional French Canadian 'Habitant' blankets, and how they were created. With extensive research (about 20 pages over the 5 page limit assigned by the professor), I included information on traditional farming, knitting and spinning techniques, and a sample of blanket dyed with Logwood and Madder (for black with red stripes) and hand-knitted by me. This sample was selected for a display at the Textile Museum of Canada, and more importantly, kick-started my fascination with natural dyeing.
I have been experimenting with dyes for more than 2 years now, and have a small craft company called Mouse & Owl where I create usable household art, made, painted, and dyed by me using only natural dyes. Everything I know I have learned from books, the internet, and a whole lot of trial and error. For now I get all of my materials from suppliers, but eventually I would love to get into producing my own natural dyes from local materials (beetroot, onion skin, carrots, berries – things I could grow in my own garden or buy at local farmers' markets). Every dye bath I make is a little bit different, and as such I learn something new from every batch.
I feel very strongly about the preservation of traditional techniques, and think it's extremely important for both cultural and practical reasons that skills like natural dyeing don't fall by the wayside.
To learn more about Mouse and Owl visit their Facebook and Etsy pages. To see the products up-close-and-personal, visit the vendor tent at the Museum between 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Sunday, December 1st.