Friendship Towels: Tintes Naturales

Many weavers dabble in dyeing even if they don’t put it on their list of skills. Indigo-dyeing days are always fun and a big hit with guilds. Last year, I heard a lot about dyeing with food coloring for baking. Rust dyeing seems to be here to stay, and some of us have even dyed silk scarves using men’s silk ties as our dyestuff. Eco-dyeing using leaves and flowers became a big hit a few years ago and continues today.

Natural dyestuffs remain popular within the weaving and dyeing community. I believe we lean toward it not only because it is less damaging to the environment, but also because of the beautiful colors. You may not get the entire spectrum with natural dyes (or at least not easily), but you do get colors that are stunning.

I like to think of myself as “dyeing-adjacent.” For many years I participated in a spinning, weaving, and natural-dyeing day in the Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California. (For those of you unfamiliar with The Huntington, I encourage you to visit it on your next trip to Southern California. It is an art museum set within 120 acres of beautiful gardens of every type imaginable.) Those of us who do consider themselves adept at dyeing set up pots of natural dyes, including an indigo vat, in the herb garden; d the rest of us settled in under a large oak next to the rose garden to spin and weave. It was one of my favorite days of the year. During our breaks, we weavers would wander over to the herb garden to check the dyers’ progress. It was always interesting to see the colors created and how these shades would shift depending on the mordants used.

If you want the pleasure of weaving with naturally-dyed yarns without actually dyeing yourself, try our Tintes Naturales Towels Kit. It includes yarns dyed by women in Guatemala using natural dyestuffs as part of the Tintes Naturales project, backed by the fair trade organization Mayan Hands. Tintes Naturales aims to help the women, who are also backstrap weavers, provide for themselves and their families by selling dyed yarns; this kit is part of the project. Sarah H. Jackson designed the towels using these yarns and drawing design inspiration from towels called Friendship Towels in a 1985 issue of Handwoven. Friendship Towels is a fitting name for this project that connects natural dyers in Guatemala with weavers in the United States.

dyeing fabric

Each kit contains enough yarn to weave 4 towels and includes Sarah’s draft and instructions in a downloadable copy of Handwoven September/October 2014. I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll get to weave with beautiful naturally dyed cotton, and you will also be helping weavers and dyers living in Guatemala—all without setting up your own dyepots!

Weave well,

Start your towel weaving today!


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