Colorful Traditions
Purple Nails, Purple Thread:
Eric Mindling follows traditional
Purpura pansa dyers
Painted Shipibo Textiles: J. Claire
Odland explores labyrinthine
designs in Peru’s Amazon Basin
Shape It Up: Malka Dubrawsky’s
contemporary take on itajime
+PDF Download: Itajime-dyed
Luncheon Napkins
Guatemalan Jaspé: Deborah
Chandler explains the complex
techniques of a simple cloth
Woven Shibori: Catharine Ellis
and the Oriole Mill bring the
weaving technique to dyers
Colorful People
Life and Times in Color:
Nell Znamierowski
Preserving Natural Color:
Olga Reiche
Earth Tones
Bingata: John Marshall paints
pigments on cloth with an
Okinawan technique
Dyeing with Mushrooms,
Earth’s Colorful Fungi: Jessica
Gates fnds color beneath our feet
Editoi’s Coinci
Tiy TLis: Natural Dye Workshop
with Michel Garcia
Souiccs 8 Supplicis
In Closinq . . .
In This Issue
AsiisAu Huzs iu Fiszs Auo FAssic.
Srsiuo zo:z
Life and Times in Color
Woven Shibori
Shape It Up
Shipibo Textiles
en with purple fingernails are not a common sight along the
remote coasts of Mexico. For a thousand years or so, an elite crew
of such men worked their way along the rocky shorelines of Mexico and
Central America. These men were the harvesters of one of nature’s most
unusual, exotic, and coveted colors: purple. They were the shell dyers,
the “milkers” of Purpura pansa, a mollusk cousin to Mediterranean
Purple Nails, Purple Thread
by Eric Mindling
Purpura pansa, a
cousin of Murex,
is a nobbed shell-
fish that lives
along the tropical
Pacific coast of the
Americas. ALL PHOTOS
from clear to yellow to turquoise and
finally to purple, where it stabilizes.
The cotton does not need to be
mordanted or fixed; the dye simply
bonds to the fiber as is. The only
additional processing needed is
washing the skein to remove the
saltwater. The briny smell of the
dye itself, however, can never be
removed. With time it becomes
subtler, yet one can always test a
shell-dyed cloth for authenticity by
rubbing the threads to warm them
up and release the odor. If it smells
like a fishy ocean, it is the real thing.
Purpura Persists
As the tide begins to rise and the
shellfish are covered by the sea
again, the dyers head back to their
camp on the beach and call it a day.
They ultimately take their threads
back to Pinotepa de Don Luis, where
most of the village women weave on
backstrap looms. The purple thread
is sold to certain weavers who still
make pozahuancos, the sarong-
like skirts traditionally worn by
Mixtec women of this region. These
amazing skirts are composed
While the skein is only partially dyed, the
purple section has reached its final color.
The dyer will return during low tide to
continue dyeing this skein.
Life and Times in Color:
Nell Znamierowski
by Linda Ligon
hat do students at the Fashion Institute
of Technology, two yarn companies,
and Monsanto have in common? All of them
have relied on the free-spirited and instinctive
color sense of Nell Znamierowski to inspire
and expand their color choices.
Breaking Out of the Drab Decades
When Nell Znamierowski began
her studies at the Rhode Island
School of Design in the early 1950s,
the world of color was in a state of
change. Fashion colors in the 1940s
had tended toward gray, navy, black,
brown, and burgundy, brightened
with white, ivory, blush, cream, and
so forth. Perhaps a daring red from
time to time. Color harmonies were
careful and limited.
But in the 1950s, color started to
break loose. The exuberant palettes
of Scandinavian and Finnish
designers were getting attention in
New York, Josef Albers was teaching
a new and vibrant approach to
color theory at Yale, and Dorothy
Liebes was weaving peacock hues
(with peacock feathers!) on the
West Coast. Nell spent a year in
Finland on a Fulbright Scholarship,
where she was captivated by the
depth of color and freedom from
conventional rules in rya rugs and
Finnish design in general. It spoke
to her natural tendencies.
Palette Evolution
At the time, chemical companies
were clamoring for color
consultants. Nell went to work for
Monsanto, where she developed
palettes for synthetic carpet yarn.
Her project included producing
shows of one-of-a-kind rugs, with
license to create contemporary, eye-
catching, vibrant works of art that
showcased the spectacular yarn
colors. The shows traveled to several
major cities, spreading her joyous
approach to color.
Nell continued to broaden her
color sensibilities with foreign
travel. She spent extended periods
in Greece, where she developed
the first color line for then Greece-
based Tahki Yarns (now Tahki-
Stacy Charles Inc). In this role, her
knowledge bridged the worlds of
color and handweaving, which was
just beginning to reemerge as a
popular craft.
In the 1960s and 1970s, as a
professor at the Fashion Institute
of Technology in New York, Nell
found that her students were willing
to embrace a no-holds-barred
approach to color in their work. In
the era of Woodstock, eclectic hippie
wardrobes, and exotic travel, there
were no boundaries.
Nell’s mantra as a teacher and
an artist has always been
Color from
Earth to
by John Marshall
umans have been using
pigments since the earliest
of times. We’ve used them to color
our bodies and our monuments, to
color our canvases and our concrete
patios. But have you ever considered
painting on silk with these colors of
the earth?
Photos by John Marshall unless otherwise
Making Pigments Stick
Pigments are inert substances—
basically dirt and the like—that have
no ability to stain fiber in and of
themselves. By definition, they are
not even water-soluble. Anyone in
the southern United States who has
slid home during a heated game
of baseball probably remembers
leaving with a bright souvenir: a red
Georgia clay stain. The red stain is
a very common pigment from iron
oxide in the soil. It will eventually
wash out since it is simply trapped
within the fibers and not actually
adhered to them.
How do you get the pigments to
stick to cloth? It’s actually rather
easy. In Okinawa, Japan, we find a
long and colorful tradition in textiles
called bingata (紅型). The term itself
means colorful figures, alluding
to the brilliant tropical colors and
surrealistic patterning found in
these unique fabrications.
The Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa
are scattered between Kyushu and
Taiwan. With a need to produce
desirable tribute textiles for both
Japan and China, craftsmen
Kimono dyed in
Okinawa in the
1960s. Onishibo-
chirimen silk
with a lining of
red silk Jacquard
woven in a pat-
tern of cranes in
flight. The dyes
used are orpi-
ment, cinnabar,
indigo, mala-
chite, cochineal,
and sumi.
Dyeing with
by Jessica Gates
ushrooms rarely bring to mind
the colors red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, and purple. Who would
have guessed that brown fungi hold
dyeing powers that span the color
spectrum within their spongy
These yarns were dyed with
Cortinarius semisanguineus,
combined with a variety of
mordants. Photo by Joe Coca.
Photo by Joe Coca.
In travels around the world and
in her own backyard dye studio,
Carol continues her never-ending
search for the most brilliant colors
mushrooms can provide.
About Dye Mushrooms
Mushrooms grow on all seven
continents; with nearly 38,000
identified species, no one knows
exactly how many mushrooms exist.
Part of the fascination of dyeing
with mushrooms is the number
of elements that influence what
colors and shades can be extracted
from mushrooms of the same
family or sample. The greatest
influencing factor is their physical
location; mushrooms adopt the
characteristics of their surroundings,
and climate and soil differences
affect color outcomes. The stage
of growth and condition of the
mushroom is another variable.
Some mushrooms produce brighter,
stronger colors when they are
mature and near rotting, while
others are best used for dyeing when
they are newly sprouted.
Mushrooms collected for dyeing
can be used fresh, frozen, or dried.
The condition in which you store
and use mushrooms in the dyepot
will affect color production. While
mushroom identification and dyeing
handbooks may provide some
information on what to expect in this
process, for the most part mushroom
dyeing is equal parts experiment
and serendipity to discover what
colors you can achieve.
Finding Fungi
Searching for mushrooms for your
dyepot is the most time-consuming
part of the mushroom-dyeing
process. Having traveled extensively
around the world in her search for
mushrooms, Carol comments that
spending time outside searching for
and gathering mushrooms is what
makes them her favorite natural dye
Carol Lee shares
her years of
gathering and
dyeing with
mushrooms in
her book.
Carol has
learned from
experience to
label her mush-
rooms carefully
for storage and
later use. Photo
by Jessica Gates.

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