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THE CRAFT OF NATURAL DYEING

THE CRAFT OF NATURAL DYEING

The use of colors in human life has been present since the time of the Stone Age Period when humans lived their lives with just basic necessities; being food, shelter and clothing. Colors were the attraction that was needed even in those bleak times when the surroundings did not have any entertainment for the people. The introduction of colors to the textiles can be dated back to the artifacts which have been found at ancient sites, which show how humans derived extracts from natural surroundings to add colors to their lives.

Woolen textile excavated, with stripes of red produced from dyers’ madder and blue made from a plant-based indigo

In earlier times, the colors were derived from natural, organic components only, as those were the raw materials that were available to the people, unlike today where any shade of color can be derived from synthetic dyes that can produce hundreds of hues from just one color. Many organic materials like; flowers, leaves, roots, wood barks, spices, insects, animal skins/shells, and mineral dyes were used as raw materials to derive their original extracts on the textiles and this was how the legacy of natural dyeing started.

COMMON ORGANIC DYES USED:

MADDER

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INDIGO

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HENNA

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TURMERIC

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COFFEE

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POMEGRANATE

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MARIGOLD

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But the revolution of industrialization started the process of mechanizing every craft and hence with the start of machine-looms or power-looms, natural dyeing was ceased to commercialize the textile products and synthetic dyes were introduced. This became the on-set of producing textiles at a fast pace and at cheap prices which could be catered to the masses and in doing so, humans lost the essence of appreciating the skills of craftsmen who were left to support their communities with those dying crafts.  

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AN ARTISAN WORKING IN BHITSHAH WITH DYES

The impact of producing synthetic dyed textiles has affected our planet immensely and also the chemicals which constitute the synthetic dyes are harmful to us as well. The chemicals used are carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer) and may cause allergic reactions as well, because of their intensity with which they are utilized. The amount of water that is utilized in processing these dyes is unbelievable as we are just depleting our natural resources for our future generations, which is the cause of climate change.

Even though the process of natural dyeing is laborious and time-consuming there is no harmful effect which it produces for the environment, as everything is utilized organically and nothing is produced in bulk that would end up in the landfills. The craft itself is an art that is practiced by very few artisans now who work on limited orders, and everything they produce turns out to be bio-degradable that is favourable for the environment. It involves the raw materials to be boiled in a water bath where the color of the ingredient can be extracted and the desired shade can be achieved. Cotton fabric is hard to dye naturally therefore, mordant is used when dyeing it naturally as it helps with color fixation; common mordants used are Alum, Copper Sulphate, and Ferrous Sulphate.

In Pakistan, the brands which are working towards this sustainable approach of carrying the legacy of natural dyeing are Nasheman Studio and Koel. The dyes used by these brands are all organic and extracted from natural resources which have a unique essence, unlike all the other brands that use synthetic chemical dyes. Thus, natural dyes are considerably more subtle than chemical dyes as their intensity is derived from organic materials rather than chemicals.

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NATURALLY DYED FABRIC

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CHEMICALLY DYED FABRIC

Nasheman Studio uses natural dyes along with other sustainable crafts of hand-loom weaving  called Khais and Susi that are a part of our cultural heritage as well. The impact of fast-fashion has for sure changed our lifestyle that has become more reliant towards fast-paced products but in reality, their life-long commitment is not considered at all that can benefit us or the environment.

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FROM THE COLLECTION OF NASHEMAN, INDIGO DYED FABRIC USED

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