Vegetable Dying

At Kullu Karishma we started with chemical dying of the yarn. Fortunately within a year we realized somehow the chemical colour did not gel with kind of products we were producing. Beside the fact that procurement of chemicals was a problem and after the dying of yarn etc. The workshop started giving a very messy and unhealthy look. We started a search for traditional vegetable dying in Kullu and other parts of the Himalayas. The vegetable dying was practiced by very few people. Basically it led to individuals who used to practice vegetable dying 40 to 50 years back which was very rudimentary in nature and the art of vegetable dying had died in late 40’s with the advent of machine spun chemical dyed yarns. This predicament forced us to hunt for vegetable dying in other parts of the country.

We discovered that strong vegetable dying centres existed in Rajasthan , Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka etc. However all of them were involved in the dying of cotton yarn fabric etc. and wool was hardly dyed any were else in the country. Another interesting fact was that cotton dying was not only difficult but also cumbersome and time consuming besides the fact remained that the product did not have the desired colour fastness. With our trails almost half the treatments done with cotton could not be practiced with wool or angora since they were when compared to cotton much more delicate. However even by eliminating most of procedure involved with cotton dying we managed to get much stronger and faster colour on woollen yarn then were possible on cotton yarn however angora yarn always had softer and lighter colours than what was possible on pure woolen yarns.

Since 1993 we have been using only vegetable colours for all our products. The other major philosophy developed over the years was as far as possible try and use only local dye stuffs. And within that also try and use items which would be under normal circumstances considered to be vegetable wastes. For example rinds of pomegranate, almonds, onions , walnuts etc. or rose petals , waste tea leaves or eucalyptus leaves , plum leaves , catechu waste etc.. Dye stuff procured from outside is mostly indigo, henna and manjesta (Rubia cardifloria-sikkimese).

Basic dying techniques involve extraction of the color from the dye stuff in boiling water once the color is extracted the mordant (alum, ferrous, copper, tin, chrome -salts) is added in such quantities that the colour of the dye is fixed and modified without leaving any traces of the mordant in the waste water. The fiber or the yarn is cooked in this bath for about 40 minutes with regular stirring so that the color is fixed on the yarn. The yarn is than washed in a neutral soap solution, rinsed and dried.