Natural dyeing. The process behind the label

 

Five years after typhoon Haiyan, weavers from Basey, Philippines are still weaving their lives together.

 

Viahera stands for fairly made, fairly sourced and above all ethically produced accessories.The process is the base foundation of Viahera’s products and naturally dyed plant fibres are used to create beautiful accessories like scarves and bags.

In her own words, designer Jeanny Buan explains the process and here is what she says:

  1. The process starts with harvesting the raw material- pandan, abaca or tikog when it reaches the proper maturity. Younger plants are not used as they tend to be shorter and softer.
  2. Removal of thorns- the sides of the leaves are manually sliced off, leaving just the middle part.
  3. Drying- Depending on the weather, the leaves are sun dried between 2-7 days. The hotter it is, the faster it dries up. This poses a problem during typhoon season (end of May- September) as the weavers cannot constantly dry the raw material
  4. Flattening/ pounding manually using flat sticks- the dried leaves are manually pounded and flattened using logs of wood in order to prepare for weaving
  5. Drying- 2nd drying process that can take 2-7 days depending on the weather
  6. Plant based dyeing process- the dried leaves are submerged in dye. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
  7. Drying- Dyed leaves are sun dried for the third time
  8. Flattening- To ensure that the consistency of the thickness and width is the same, the dyed leaves are flattened again and then cut into equal portion of strands
  9. Weaving- Once the weavers have lined up the dried and dyed leaves, the make the designs according to Viahera’s requirement

An experienced weaver holding freshly harvested tikog grass

SCARF DYE

  1. Plant based dyes are manually planted in a local farm in the Philippines such as indigo, turmeric, mahogany and cogon grass
  2. Dye is extracted by boiling the leaves, barks of trees or the plant itself
  3. Natural yarns made from pineapple fibers or organic Philippine cotton is soaked in the dye- detailed ikat dyeing discussed below
  4. Yarns are air dried
  5. “Warping” is done with hands- this is the process where the yarn is stretched on a loom to ensure the tightness before the weft is manually weaved, this is the first stage of the weaving process.
  6. Heddling and Reeding- Two of the most crucial parts of a loom is the heddle and reed. The heddle allows the warp thread to be separated so the weft can be added while the reed looks like a comb, which is used to push the weft in between the threads during the weaving process. Instead of using a loom, the threads from our scarves are manually inserted one by one.
  7. Weaving- once the heddling and reeding is done and the design is finalizes, it is then tightened using a loom.

 

IKAT

Ikat is a beautiful dyeing process which is widely seen in South Asian and South American countries. It is a dyeing technique where bundles of yarn is wrapped or tied together and dyed as many times as it needs in order to come up with the desired pattern. Unlike other dyeing techniques where the dye is applied to the fabric already after woven, ikat is a process where dye is applied BEFORE the yarn is woven together.

Once the yarn is dyed, it is then sun dried between 2-10 days depending on the weather. After it has dried, the thread is lined up together to form the desired pattern.

Ikat weaving

 

Shop Viahera

Solar dyeing process

In her book “Slow Stitch”, Claire Wellesley-Smith, talks about the process of slow solar dyeing. Part of my slow practice has always involved dyeing, printing and painting of the textile medium, however I had never tried using solar power as the medium to fix natural dye to the fibre. As I mentioned before, my process is becoming more and more sustainable as time passes. I am now growing my own dye garden which has become a very enjoyable part of my textile process. I felt it was time to try the solar dyeing method and this is what happened:

White yarn immersed in water and 1/2 a teaspoon of allum powder and two french marigolds.

White merino yarn immersed in water with 1/2 teaspoon of allum powder and coffee grounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarn in coffee grounds after 5 days exposed to the sun

Yarn in French Marigold after 5 days exposed to the sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the jar with the marigolds for the first time after 5 days…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the jar with coffee for the first time after 5 days…

Yarn in coffee before rinsing…

After a good rinse…marigold (left), coffee (right).