Eco Dyeing with “Clotho” and Khaos”

15 Jun

When I first moved here four years ago, I left a 93 acre WV mountain farm. Had lived there 15 years or so. Of course it was a huge change and there have been trade-offs. And once here, it was clear that cloth was calling out to me.   I didn’t  know why, But just now, looking for the name of the Greek mythological figure that emerged from the very slow cloth, I found the answer. There she was. There she has been. Clotho. “The youngest of the Three Fates who spin the thread of life.” I’ve been seduced by Clotho.

And then Jude Hill serendipitously appeared and between her influence and the guidance of Clotho, this journey with cloth has been an amazing series of discoveries. A delving into. Into self. Into life. And maybe most importantly, a medium for maintaining a connection with the earth.

But first the very slow cloth is nearing completion. Khaos, Greek for “the nothingness from which all sprang.”

DSC03123 DSC03125

OK.  For the last three weeks I have been totally immersed in natural dyeing.  Dyeing utilizing vegetation in my surrounds.  And there is a ton of it here–vegetation–and not just quantity but the varieties are staggering.  So a lot of interesting cloth has emerged.  Some pretty ugly–and some really interesting.  I think I’m finally starting to understand on a very beginner’s level what steps to take to encourage cloth to accept color.   Wool is a protein fiber.  Much more receptive to color from the earth.  Silk is a hybrid of sorts.  And cotton/muslin/linen–well it really has to be encouraged.

I love muslin.  I love linen–especially old linen garments that have become thinner and softer over the years.  Two of my oldest and favorite linen shirts seemed to be begging for an update.  Shirts were soaked in vinegar overnight and then bundled up with peony leaves, yellow onion skin, purple basil that’s growing all over the place here, and a few mulberry leaves.

Close up
Close up
A few more peony leaves on linen:

And my favorites. Leaves on Muslin.



Now silk is another story all together. I bought several habotai silk scarves from Dharma Trading and have printed 5. Have 5 to go. If the results continue to improve I’m hoping to sell them either online or in a shop somewhere.




Unexpected joys are resulting from this exercise in eco printing. Yesterday a little plant called to me over and over again. Finally I referenced my 1968 Peterson Field Guide to discover it was Heal-All or Selfheal.

And so

Weld and Woad in the dye garden are starting to grow. The madder is taking it’s good time which doesn’t surprise me. Roots need to be at least 5 years old before they can be used. Marigolds doing great.



And finally, reminder to self. Don’t wait so long to post. Too much happens in between.

20 Responses to “Eco Dyeing with “Clotho” and Khaos””

  1. nanacathy2 June 15, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    I adore your leaf prints , an imprint on cloth, imagine a long leafy dress


    • Patricia June 16, 2015 at 7:07 am #

      not sure where i’m going with this eco printing–not a huge dress-wearer but i like the image. a cloak perhaps of green leaves stitched together with long strands of grass.


  2. Mo Crow June 15, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    the slow cloth is magic Patricia!


    • Patricia June 16, 2015 at 7:08 am #

      i’ve had to be very patient with this one. that seems to be the the lesson these days–having patience. so far it’s proving to be quite the challenge.


  3. beth June 15, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    wow x 3. The slow cloth, the shirts, the scarves. All magical.


    • Patricia June 16, 2015 at 7:09 am #

      hi Beth. the slow cloth–yes. it feels so organic and uncontrived to me. the shirts–yes also. committed to wearing them until they’re threadbare. that should be interesting. and the scarves? not sure. but interested in the process.


  4. joancts June 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    After soaking cloth overnight in vinegar and bundling , did you steam or just let sit ? I am new to natural dying and learning . Thank you


    • Patricia June 16, 2015 at 7:11 am #

      hi joan. i did steam the bundles. for maybe a few hours. kept flipping them over until i liked what was coming through. then opened them. still haven’t had the patience to let them sit for a week or even overnight.


  5. Marti June 16, 2015 at 7:33 am #

    Take all the time you need Patricia to gather, and bundle and steam and hold and reveal, tell of what you find when you have time or when you feel that it is the moment to do so. We will provide the patience to wait for your photos and words and here is why I say this:

    Look at what you have created, this alchemy of plant and cloth and yourself, this process that has fits and starts and when you least expect it, gives gifts…the ultimate recycle of plant material and cloth, a shirt that is so unique, scarves that when wrapped around, transport the wearer to a forest or glen… if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is…

    Also in going back and looking at the peony and muslin leaf cloths, these would make wonderful napkins. I could see an autumn table, set with a basket of leaves and your leaf imprinted cloths. used as napkins, could even see a table runner. This could possibly be another revenue stream for you.


    • Patricia June 16, 2015 at 8:23 am #

      thanks for the encouragement, Marti. i did find an amazing set of napkins w/tablecloth–linen–at a yardsale on Saturday. thought i’d rip them up for fabric but i could experiment with them as they are. bundle/steam/look. but as i read your comment, i realize that although i could certainly benefit from a boost to my monthly resource stream i’m really so unmotivated to sell my cloth. not because i want to especially hold onto it–but more because the “selling” of it seems so contrary to what’s moving me to create in the first place. i know this is somewhat of a universal conundrum. when i read your comment about perhaps creating another revenue stream, i realized that you were responding to what i said in the blog–about perhaps selling scarves–and all of a sudden a light went off. and it became clear to me that i’m not doing any of this, really, for any other reason than that i simply can’t help myself. this realization is very freeing and liberating right now. and i thank you from the bottom of my heart. sending much love.


      • Marti June 16, 2015 at 8:56 am #

        Your are welcome. I do understand this pull of making something because you simply have to do so; as we speak, right now on my stove, the first bundle of this year from desert willow and a few of my Chinese pistache leaves. On my morning walks, it is impossible for me to not stoop and bend and gather leaves, weeds, twigs, I carry a cloth bag for just that purpose. Sure I love to create my landscape collages and see how far I can go with my limited sewing skills but for me, what motivates me is what’s around the next dye pot…it’s all about the process of foraging and dyeing cloth, it’s all about my continuing connection to place and the unlimited joy of discovery of outer, as well as inner landscape.


  6. Totsy June 17, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    I love what you are doing! The leave prints on the silk are beautiful . Too bad you aren’t a color customer!! I know that’s an inside joke.


    • Patricia June 18, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

      so glad you like them. i’ll bring one by just for a look see.


  7. grace June 17, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    love imagining you in your relatively new work space, the vibrations of your concentration
    as you create. See you walking OutSide, around the gardens. All this. Love to be
    invited “in”…the Cloth…well, it’s just Fine. very very Fine


  8. Patricia June 18, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    you are invited. come in please.


  9. saskia June 19, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    loving the dye results, you seem so very well organised!


    • Patricia June 19, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

      you’re kidding! organised. i’m laughing now. glad you like them.


      • saskia June 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

        laughter is good for the soul;-)


  10. ravenandsparrow June 20, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    As you have shown your slow cloth emerging, I have come back again and again to look at it, but have found no words to articulate the feeling it gives me. It is primordial and beyond comment. Thank you for sharing it with us.


  11. Marianne van der Tas October 4, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    I like your enthusiasm and call for nature. Eco printing has got me excited too.i am trying different mordants such as alum acetate on protein fibres , gall oak on linen and cotton.
    It is taking me to a journey of discovery op and it is amazing what you can make with the samples so far I made a cushion and a scarf! Wishing you happy discoveries Marianne


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