Contemporary Interest in Natural Rug Dyes

The utilization of natural dyes to color rugs is an ancient art from many separate cultures – and it’s recently seeing a resurgence of attention today. Here’s a guide to some of the history of natural and vegetal rug dyes, and why exactly they are increasing in popularity of late – as prepared by the rug cleaning experts here at Aladdin Oriental Rug.

Vegetal Rug Dyes

Vegetal dye making is a complicated process, especially in terms of ensuring the recipe is correct to create the proper consistency. Materials including berries, flowers, roots, moss, bark, seeds, and leaves will all be used based on the the time fo year. Contemporary vegetal dye use became popularized in the 1920s in Chinle by a person named Cozy McSparren, and then in the 1930s by Bill and Sally Lippincott, the owners of the Wide Ruins Trading Post. The famous weaver of the 1950s, Mable Burnside-Myers, from Pine Springs, Arizona, created a special chart of Navajo Dyes to help weavers stay consistent in their color making. Her chart documented use of: red onion skin, sunflowers, sagebrush, rubber plants, juniper mistletoe, rose hips, juniper bark, brown onion skin, alder bark, and many other natural materials to create dyes.

Resurgence of Natural Dye Use

Consumers interested in keeping Green, as well as those who feel connected to the history and traditions of natural dye use have popularized the resurgence of natural dye use in weaving, and rug and carpet dying today. This has influenced a resurgence of interest in high quality natural rugs – however this has also been associated with an increase in cost, as the special methods used in natural dying takes a bit more careful artisan effort than the synthetic dying process. However, even with the interest in fully natural dying, two special dyeing materials are still commonly used today: Aniline dyes, and Blended Wool. Aniline dyes are a combination of synthetic and organic dye, which comes from coal tar. This type of pigment is usually found in very bright or very dark colored Navajo textiles. Contemporary anilines are made to match the subtle colors found in vegetable dyes. Blended wools on the other hand are made from a combination of natural sheep wools and goat fur fibers. This combination creates a new color, known as a blended wool – a combination of two separately toned animal wools combined through a physical process in order to create softer tones of gray. Blended wools are usually found within hand-spinned rugs.

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