Kathryn Davey is an Irish dyer. She works with natural fibres – wool and Irish-woven linen – and creates her dyes from plants. Her colours have a character and subtlety that draws people to them, and to the process of creating them. ‘I try to keep sustainability to the forefront of everything that I do,’ she says. ‘It’s a gentle process. Everything goes back into the earth.’ Davey’s story begins with indigo: the colour of the night sky; the colour of denim jeans. Indigo is naturally colourfast and ages beautifully, but it is not a beginner’s dye. ‘Dyeing with indigo requires repeated dipping,’ she explains. ‘It’s not a straightforward process. But it was my first love.’ She was living in California, amid one of the world’s most vibrant handcraft communities. ‘I’ve always been drawn to natural fibres and the Dharma Trading Company was down the road. I used to go in there and have a look around.’ She saw indigo, a plant-based dye available in powder form, tried it and failed to achieve the deep dark blue. Then she tried again, moving from a light to a medium to a dark blue, with subtle variations. ‘Basically, I dyed everything we had. It was like a tide of blue had swept through the house.’ Eventually, she succumbed to the lure of creating her own natural dyes. ‘I started experimenting with food waste. Carrot tops will give you a range of yellows.’ Then came the warm yellow of onion skins; the soft pinks of avocado stones. Hibiscus. Dandelion... Article from Selvedge Issue 100.
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