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Natural Fabric Dyeing for Textiles in Kabul, Afghanistan Sustaining Tradition & Craft

Updated: Jul 16, 2023


Ingredients from Nature


In the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, a family of artisans keeps the ancient tradition of natural fabric dyeing for textiles alive. Saleh Mohammad, a natural dyer with a deep-rooted love for his craft, shares his story and the process behind creating vibrant and sustainable textiles.



Saleh Mohammad left Afghanistan for six years, seeking knowledge and expertise in silk dyeing and weaving. He honed his skills in neighboring Pakistan, immersing himself in textile creation. Today, he leads a team of dedicated artisans who work diligently to produce exquisite textiles using traditional techniques.



The weaving process starts with carefully selecting four types of yarn, each with unique characteristics. These yarns form the foundation for the textiles, providing rich colors that are achieved through natural dyes.


Sustainable Practices: Harnessing the Power of Natural Dyes and Traditional Techniques


Natural dye ingredients
Natural dye ingredients

One of their work's fundamental principles is using natural dyes sourced exclusively from Afghanistan. The rich and diverse flora of the region provides an abundant palette of colors. Plants, roots, and other raw materials are meticulously collected and processed to extract their vibrant pigments. This sustainable approach preserves the environment and ensures that each piece embodies natural beauty.


Spools of dyed threads
Spools of dyed threads

The dyed yarns are carefully dried in the shade to achieve the desired hues & allowing the colors to deepen and set. Once dried, the threads are gently reeled onto spindles, ready to be transformed by the skilled hands of the weavers. The weavers, also part of Saleh Mohammad's family, bring the yarns to life, then get meticulously crafted into beautiful clothes and scarves.


Kabul Yarn Spinner
Kabul Yarn Spinner

This family-based enterprise is a testament to the power of collaboration and heritage preservation. By working together, they sustain their livelihood and uphold the rich cultural legacy of Afghan traditions. Through their skill & craftsmanship, Saleh Mohammad and his team embody the spirit of sustainability. They achieve the beauty of natural dyes, honor traditional techniques, and contribute to the global movement toward more sustainable practices in the fashion industry. Their creations contribute to garments with stories woven with care, passion, and a deep appreciation for their Afghan roots.


 

Example of Textiles dyed with Madder: (Rubia tinctorum) is one of the oldest and most frequently used traditional dyestuffs known to man. It has an extensive history in Turkey, India, and Iran. There, it is still being used for dyeing knotted and woven carpets. The secret for Turkey red, a deep rich red color, was guarded for centuries throughout Central Asia. In addition, it involved more than twenty steps to create this prized shade.


Want to learn more about textile dying with ingredients from nature? check out more recommended reading:


 


Botanical Colors Dyehouse: If you are a designer or brand looking for natural dye solutions, we would be happy to discuss your needs. We specialize in natural dyes derived from plants, roots, bark, and other natural materials that are GOTS (organically) certified. We provide garment and short-length piece dyeing scalable from small to high-volume runs. The colors are earthy, brilliant, and non-toxic and meet standard light and wash tests.


 

Deke Dyes offers a supply store for natural dyes, mordants, and blank fabrics and ships materials to a worldwide audience of artists and hobby dyers. ​The DekelDyes Research Lab consults museums, dye factories, and the high-tech food- and textile industry in best practices, technical solutions, and problem-solving. We often host textile and design student groups to teach and inspire about natural dyeing and printing. ​The DekelDyes Studio is where we dye and print commissions for artists and clients. Workshops in Israel usually take place here.



 

Recommended Reading:


"Organized by season, Natural Color is a beautifully photographed guide to the full range of plant dyes available, drawn from commonly found fruits, flowers, trees, and herbs, with accompanying projects. Using sustainable methods and artisanal techniques, designer, artist, and professor Sasha Duerr details achievable ways to apply these limitless color possibilities to your home and wardrobe. Whether you are new to dyeing or more practiced, Duerr's clear and simple ingredients lists, step-by-step instructions, and detailed breakouts on techniques such as shibori, dip-dye, and block printing will ensure beautiful results. With recipes to dye everything from dresses and sweaters to rugs and napkins, Natural Color will inspire fashion enthusiasts, home decorators, textile lovers, and everyone else who wants to bring more color into their life." from Amazon.com


 

The Wild Dyer: A Makers Guide to Natural Dyes with Projects to Create and Stitch: Natural dyes are colors and pigments that are derived from plants and minerals. They teach us the value of color and how to work sparingly and be mindful of our consumption of water and energy, and fabrics colored with natural dyes have a beauty and subtlety all their own. Nature’s bounty like onion and avocado skins, chamomile and birch bark, and nettles and acorns can produce lovely, ethereal colors and effects. The Wild Dyer demystifies the eco-conscious art and craft of natural dyeing, comprehensively covering topics such as:

  • Foraging and growing dying materials

  • Repurposing kitchen trimmings

  • Making and using long-lasting dyes

  • Creating stitched projects

  • Workspace setup and equipment

  • Fabric choices and care

Beautiful accompanying photographs and easy-to-follow instructions also illustrate how to make eight exquisite household items, from a drawstring bag to a gardener's smock to a reversible patchwork blanket, and more. The Wild Dyer is a complete guide for both beginners and experienced artists seeking to expand their knowledge of this increasingly popular craft.


 

“The plant-lovers alternative to the Pantone color guide.”—Julia Sherman, creator of Salad for President

Renowned natural dyer, artist, and educator Sasha Duerr envision a new age of fresh, modern color palettes, drawing from our original source of inspiration and ingredients—the natural world around us.

This innovative plant-based color guide includes twenty-five palettes with five hundred natural color swatches, providing a bounty of ideas for sustainable fashion, textiles, fine art, floral design, food, medicine, gardening, interior design, and other creative disciplines. Bring the healing power of forest bathing into your home with a palette of spruce cones, pine needles, and balsam branches. Move past Pantone and embrace the natural balance of a pollinator palette with Hopi sunflower, red poppy, echinacea, and scabiosa.


 

A practical and inspiring guide to creating and using natural dyes from plants, Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition, offers the latest information on current environmentally friendly dyeing techniques and more than 65 species of plants and natural dyestuffs.


This comprehensive book outlines all the necessary equipment, how to select fibers and plant parts, choose the right methods for mordanting and dyeing, test color modifiers and the fastness of dyed colors, and obtain a range of gorgeous colors from every plant, from alter to woad, shown in more than


 

Back in 2019, we hosted a Wine and Dye event for Portland Textile Month. We had a great time stirring, mixing, and dipping linens in vats of dyes made from bark and pine needles. Kerry Cotter of Belmont Blankets uses natural dying in his products and showed us the ropes! Included is a downloadable recipe for DIY Fabric Dying from the event!


Do you have a favorite resource or how-to for natural fabric dying or have tried it yourself? Let us know- we would love to hear. Also, we dug around looking for a resource for textiles from Afghanistan and had no luck- if you know of a resource let us know so we can help support it!



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