Reconnecting with Nature - Eco Dye

Reconnecting with Nature - Eco Dye
Happy new year everyone! I cannot believe how fast 2016 went. For me, 2017 will be all about embracing slow, taking a step back and reflecting.

Reconnecting with nature

Reflecting is Very Important But...

Don't dwell on the past! Dwelling is when you judge yourself too harshly and the introspection goes haywire like a record on repeat. Stop! Reflecting is all about looking at what was good, what was bad and then LETTING GO. Making the improvements that you need and MOVING ON.  Would a walk in the park help?

"A Concrete Jungle Destroys the Human Spirit"

My friend, H, started illustrating nature. I saw her sketches of the birds she spots during her nature walks and thought how relaxing it would be. On my way to work last year, I decided to take more notice of what nature has to offer. We may be a city, but the trees that we have along the roads offer some respite from the concrete jungle. In fact, nature has a positive impact on our well-being, not to mention provide loads of inspiration to creatives (think the Bronte sisters).

"A concrete jungle destroys the human spirit" Lee Kuan Yew

When I am taking notes and making sketches in nature I notice how this process that evolves has a calming effect on me. But it has also made me realise that no matter how well intended our actions of reduce, reuse and recycle (the 3R mantra!) are, we sometimes forget that the main intent is not to create jobs, not to get the economy to grow year on year, but to protect what little fauna and flora is left. The rest is just secondary.
My recent visit to Pulau Merambong just off the coast of Singapore couldn't have left me feeling anymore so. It is full of marine life but unfortunately its existence is being threatened by recent reclamation works. In fact our tour guide mentioned that the rich diversity of species there would mostly likely disappear by 2018 - we saw seagrass, seaweed, anemone, mangroves and crabs.
On a more personal note, I have been asking myself should my work also reflect the beauty of our surroundings so that others would at least start to appreciate them?

free motion embroidery
My interpretation of Sea Anemone

Eco Dye

My thoughts turned to eco dye expert, Terriae Kwong, who I had interviewed several years back.  I contacted her and met up with her during my trip to Hong Kong. During my meeting with her, she was kind enough to share with me her process. I definitely learnt a lot from Terriae and here are some key pointers:

Eco dye with Terriae

#1 Know Your Plants 

I take this whole process of eco dye as an opportunity to know your flora. Terriae knew her eucalyptus leaves from her Chinese tallow.  Each type of leaf and flower imparts a different colour to the fabric it touches.

#2 Be Patient

This is something that can't be stressed any further. Slow clothing is all about, well, SLOW! The process of eco dye can take up to 4 hours or even more.  It's your opportunity to appreciate what you are doing too.

#3 Appreciate Natural Fibers

Terriae explained that it was important to use natural fibers in eco dyeing. While blends are good, she went on to say that dyes from leaves are brighter on non-synthetic textiles. If you are looking at changing the colour of synthetics, sublimation is the best.

Eco dyes can be toxic - wear gloves!

#4 Safety is Important

Although we associate eco and natural as being non-toxic, this is not true. Natural things can be toxic, the eco dye process can be toxic especially with the use of mordants. Wear gloves, work in a well-ventilated area - I don't think I can stress this any further. Terriae highlighted the need to do this and to ensure that her beautiful cat, Mogi, didn't eat her materials.

Terriae and Agy after the eco dye process

#5 Appreciate the Unexpected

It's like opening a present. As what I said before, there will be surprises and you don't know what the effect will be. Don't be disappointed if it's not what you are looking for but perhaps, like life, you can turn something disappointing into a positive!

Do you remember this post? Remember to check it out!
how to be an explorer of the world
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  1. Happy New Year Agy! I'm enjoying seeing all your explorations into fabric dyeing, and eco-techniques. I like the idea too of slowing down for this year and taking time to notice, be aware of and appreciate nature around us! Looking forward to seeing what you get up to this year!!

  2. Happy New Year Agy! Time flies and nice to see you again here. Well said about nature and it's positive impact to well-being. Wish you a prosperous Chinese New Year!