India was once the textile hub of the world before the arrival of the British. Though the handmade craft of textile faced stiff competition from machine-made goods, sustainable textile crafts in India still survive. Sustainable textile crafts of India range from basic dyeing to laborious surface ornamentation works. Traditional dyeing crafts are a huge chunk of this.
Indian textile artisans have always found a way to dye their fabric sustainably. Natural dyes are obtained from barks, leaves, flowers, fruit peels, and even food waste. They are interlinked with health benefits as well as divine symbolism. Marigold is a symbol of devotion in India. It is a widely used dyeing material too.
The health benefits of natural dyes are not a myth. When our skin is constantly in touch with a fabric, it is bound to absorb the good and bad of the fabric. If the fabric is dyed with toxins, this can lead to chronic illness including skin cancer. These effects multiply when it comes to sensitive skin such as that of babies. With natural dyes, you can skip all these dangers.
Indigo and Madder were two dyes from the pre-industrial revolution era that provided high fastening of colors with less processing. Madder is also a traditional dye to create red shade. A blend of madder and Iron Acetate creates black, but when you add alum it becomes red.
Indigo was introduced by the British and is still used in parts of Rajasthan, especially in Bagru printing, to create the luscious blue color. It gives a cooling effect to our body. Around the same parts of Rajasthan has Dabu printing that uses pomegranate peels and tamarind seeds for dyeing and printing.
In Chhattisgarh and Odisha Aal (Morinda citrifolia) dyeing is a tribal craft. Locally produced for local consumption, it is used by handloom weavers. It is also a medicinal plant used to treat gout and wounds. Food waste such as used tea leaves and onion peels are used to create natural inks.
Due to shrinking material availability sustainable dyeing crafts of India are under threat. The only way to save them is when sustainable shoppers can spend on them. Sustainable dyeing crafts require a large user base so they can be produced in bulk for everyone. Only a higher demand creation can produce optimum quality products.
Courtesy - Image courtesy: Jelleke Vanooteghem