CRAFTS OF INDIA / ECO FRIENDLY DYES / HISTORY
- Dyeing was a hand process for thousands of years.
- Dyers used large containers or vats for coloring relatively short lengths of fabric or small quantities of fiber and yarn.
- Until the development of synthetic dyes, all dyes were natural compounds.
- Fastness varied widely among the natural dyes. The processes required to achieve certain colors were long and involved and carefully guarded by dyers.
- In the latter half of the nineteenth century, research into a better understanding of the chemistry of natural dyes led to the development of synthetic dyes.
- By approximately 1900, synthetic dyes had replaced natural dyes in almost all applications.
- Developments during the industrial revolution increased the amount of fiber, yarn, or fabric dyed in a vat.
- Dye boxes, vats, and jigs were the primary pieces of equipment used to dye industrial quantities of fabric in batch methods. However, in the twentieth century, researchers developed continuous methods so that un-dyed fabric would enter and dyed fabric would exit the machine.
- Other twentieth-century developments increased production rates, improved dye quality, and lowered costs.
Tracing the advent of Natural dyes in History
- The earliest surviving evidence of textile dyeing was found at the large Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük in southern Anatolia, where traces of red dyes, possible from ochre (iron oxide pigments from clay), were found.
- Polychrome or multicolored fabrics seem to have been developed in the 3rd or 2nd millennium BCE. Textiles with a "red-brown warp and an ochre-yellow weft" were discovered in Egyptian pyramids of the Sixth Dynasty (2345–2180 BCE).
- Archaeologists have found evidence of textile dyeing dating back to the Neolithic period. In China, dyeing with plants, barks and insects has been traced back more than 5,000 years.
- The chemical analysis that would definitively identify the dyes used in ancient textiles has rarely been conducted, and even when a dye such as indigo blue is detected it is impossible to determine which of several indigo-bearing plants was used.
- Nevertheless, based on the colors of surviving textile fragments and the evidence of actual dyestuffs found in archaeological sites, reds, blues, and yellows from plant sources were in common use by the late Bronze Age and Iron Age.
- Throughout history, people have dyed their textiles using common, locally available materials, but scarce dyestuffs that produced brilliant and permanent colors such as the natural invertebrate dyes, Tyrian purple and crimson kermes, became highly prized luxury items in the ancient and medieval world.
- Plant-based dyes such as woad (Isatis tinctoria), indigo, saffron, and madder were raised commercially and were important trade goods in the economies of Asia and Europe. Across Asia and Africa, patterned fabrics were produced using resist dyeing techniques to control the absorption of color in piece-dyed cloth.
- Dyes such as cochineal and logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) were brought to Europe by the Spanish treasure fleets, and the dyestuffs of Europe were carried by colonists to America.
- In the 18th century Jeremias Friedrich Gülich made substantial contributions to refining the dyeing process, making particular progress on setting standards on dyeing sheep wool and many other textiles. His contributions to refining the dying process and his theories on colour brought much praise by the well known poet and artist
- The essential process of dyeing changed little over time. Typically, the dye material is put in a pot of water and then the textiles to be dyed are added to the pot, which is heated and stirred until the color is transferred. Textile fibre may be dyed before spinning ("dyed in the wool"), but most textiles are "yarn-dyed" or "piece-dyed" after weaving. Many mordants, and some dyes themselves, produce strong odors, and large-scale dyeworks were often isolated in their own districts.
- The discovery of man-made synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century triggered a long decline in the large-scale market for natural dyes. Synthetic dyes, which could be produced in large quantities, quickly superseded natural dyes for the commercial textile production enabled by the industrial revolution, and unlike natural dyes, were suitable for the synthetic fibres that followed.
- Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement preferred the pure shades and subtle variability of natural dyes, which mellow with age but preserve their true colors, unlike early synthetic dyes, and helped ensure that the old European techniques for dyeing and printing with natural dyestuffs were preserved for use by home and craft dyers. Natural dyeing techniques are also preserved by artisans in traditional cultures around the world.
In the early 21st century, the market for natural dyes in the fashion industry is experiencing a resurgence. Western consumers have become more concerned about the health and environmental impact of synthetic dyes in manufacturing and there is a growing demand for products that use natural dyes. The European Union, for example, has encouraged Indonesian batik cloth producers to switch to natural dyes to improve their export market in Europe.
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