The land is always giving. She always has and always will, as long as we take the time and care to preserve the her. Our grandmothers knew the source of her strength and it seems somehow we have forgotten this ancient knowledge. But there it is right in front of us, in the plants and flowers we see everyday, in the leaves that grow on trees in our own communities, in the fruit, beans, and vegetables we eat.
Perhaps women inherently have this knowledge. We are gatherers, collectors of beauty, of nature, stewards of the next generation. We know the solutions are all around us, perhaps we just need to be reminded.
I recently traveled to the countryside outside of Marrakech on an artisan needs assessment trip with an international NGO. We are working on a ‘Women, Empowerment, and the Environment’ project and what we found was that women have been collecting and labeling samples from nature in preparation for a natural dye workshop. All of these natural materials are readily available in Morocco and I found myself wondering why this knowledge was not passed or written down? Sadly, the literacy rate is still very low for women in rural Morocco and I suspect that plays a part in there being a gap in the transfer of this kind of ancient knowledge.
In workshop preparation we searched the Mushmina studio for our natural dye notebooks, found our samples, and are planning for fall. This month Zohra and I will head to rural Marrakech and conduct natural dye workshops for weavers and seamstresses that are part of this important project in Morocco, ‘Women’s Empowerment and the Environment.’
How to Prepare Natural Dyes. A Mini Tutorial
Collect Materials: Natural materials: henna, eucalyptus, madder root, onion skins, tea, pomegranate skins, red cabbage, black beans, tumeric, etc.
Supplies: cotton if possible, wool, or other fabrics, large metal pots, a strainer, metal tongs, a stove or heat source, water, a measuring cup, scale, white vinegar, Alum or another mordant. Iron water if desired for color altering (this must be prepped a few weeks before).
Natural dyes are not overly saturated in color and produce beautiful subtle hues. Simple and sustainable.
Gathering natural materials from the local souk in Morocco.
Tumeric is one of my favorite natural dyes because it produces my favorite color, a vibrant YELLOW! Sharing some of our natural dyeing notes. Pomegranate skins also produce a beautiful yellow.
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to natural dyes. Stay tuned for a more detailed tutorial from our workshop with cooperatives outside of Marrakech this month.
Think beautiful Atlas Mountains landscape, women, creation, colors, and fostering new connections. Restoring ancient wisdom in rural Morocco. Our goddess grandmothers smiling down. 🌞
By, Heather O’Neill
Interested in trying this yourself? There many videos online about how to do natural dyeing. One we love is Margaret Byrd of Color Quest on Youtube.