Natural dyeing : a tongue in cheek look at the vicissitudes of a cotton sheet’s life

cotton label

Life as a cotton sheet can be fraught.  Not always of course.  The lucky ones get bought by people who use them on their beds for years.  They get to serve a very passive but important role. They mature and soften and are appreciated in a gentle way by numerous sleeping humans.

Not so for me. I am a victim of the “upsized bed” phenomenon.  That means that SHE (who shall remain nameless) decided that Queen sized was not enough.  When the King Sized bed moved in, with its accompanying sheet sets, I was lucky I suppose.  I was neatly folded and put into the back of the linen cupboard.

For a while I enjoyed the freedom of breathing fresh air (well, relatively speaking, if you imagine the cupboard was fresher than the bedroom….) and of not having my fibres stretched and polluted by the heaving of human bodies.

THEN something that is becoming increasingly common happened.  SHE got the “natural dyeing” bug. You will have heard of it.  Victims are usually members of a privileged society with every material benefit, yet they feel disconnected from “nature”. They may not be over-familiar with what “nature” is, but they know it is GOOD.

These natural dyeing converts often also feel guilt at their consumption patterns. Mind you, they don’t often eschew their purchases of Chinese or Vietnamese or Sri Lankan -made garments but they do want to make a statement.  One option is to put their bras into a (plastic) bag and mail it to China where it will somehow be used to power a city.

Another option is to create art or fashion based on  dyeing with plants on  “natural” fibres.

Natural fibres can be plant based (like cotton or linen) or animal based (like silk or wool).  Wait a minute!  What will the vegans think?  Best to stick to plant fibres, eh?

So notwithstanding the prevailing wisdom about animal fibres taking natural dyes better than those of us made of more cellulosic stuff, SHE decided to dig me out of the back of the linen cupboard.

And chop me up!

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I used to be a lot bigger than this……..

And boil bits of me in brews of oxalis or gum leaves or oak galls….

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And I used to be clean……

And put itchy bits of plants from HER garden or the local park onto me, pressing them in and screwing me up hard so there was “good”, albeit painful,  contact between these weeds and me.

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If you think leaves are painful, try these gumnuts!

“But wait, there’s more”, as one of those damned humans says.  I then get to be either boiled or steamed  for a couple of hours.  I can’t sensibly tell you which is better. SHE says it depends on whether iron or copper or ash or…..is involved.

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It takes a lot of rusty iron up close and personal to me to get this kind of geranium stain on me

 

Before I disappear entirely I want to introduce a distant family connection.  It is a sheet formerly owned by one of HER friends.  In a callous act of sheet trafficking it was passed into HER hands with malice of intent.  That is, the trafficker KNEW of the likely exploitation that would result.

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It’s hard to see from this photo but my fellow cotton sheet has a most distinguished set of stripes that will make it hard for sheet traffickers to disguise.

 

Ensuing blogs will undoubtedly feature this hapless victim *, albeit unacknowledged. Vale cotton bed sheet, originally woven for a very different purpose.

* for a taste of this sheet  exploitation, see the following result of BOILING a piece in avocado pips laced with caustic soda!!!!  Aaaaaagh!!

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To paraphrase Milton: “They also serve who only stand and wait”

Or should that be “.…….who only get ripped up and boiled“?

 

This entry was posted in dyeing with avocado pips, Geranium leaf printing, Iron mordant, Natural dyeing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Natural dyeing : a tongue in cheek look at the vicissitudes of a cotton sheet’s life

  1. Bernadette says:

    Hahahahaha..very well written Margaret..enjoyed a laugh while feeling slightly sorry for the sheet (anthropomorphising again..lol)..

    • Margaret Ford says:

      Thanks Bernadette! Yep, it’s anthropomorphism but also a way of respecting one’s materials I reckon. My daughter always thanks the fish she has caught and will eat….same idea.

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