Natural Dyeing | Katherine Feldhouse

I had been wanting to learn how to dye napkins turmeric for an upcoming dinner party, so it was only kismet to connect with Katherine. She’s such a refreshing soul in Los Angeles that stems from the world of beauty and fashion to finally embracing her true passion on earth, Urban Pitchfork. Over an incredible chia bowl, we talked about her time at PETA to her grandmother making fermented veggies every week. Meet this conscious being while she walks you through the very easy steps of literally turning rags into gold.

K | My name is Katherine Feldhouse and I'm a Holistic Health & Wellness Consultant based in Los Angeles by way of New York and very DIY childhood in Michigan. I've always veered towards a natural way of living, despite my years in major cities, inspired by the back-to-basics lifestyle my Grandma Sophie embraced in Detroit. I'm continually impressed by how folks creatively curate gardens and miniature urban farms in limited spaces, and make sustainability work for them. That conscious methodology has trickled over into amazing shops, restaurants, and local artisans, all of which I frequent wherever I may be in the world. I knew I had the resources to help connect like-minded folks and offer what education I could share, so that was the beginning of my community project called Urban Pitchfork

NATURAL DYEING | There are some really toxic fabric dyes out there applied to the linens we use in the kitchen, bath, bedroom, and on our bodies. It's hard to know what goes into these dyes since labels only list the fabric materials, and that's it. Nature offers so many beautiful organic colors within so many unique sources—offering individual one-of-a-kind results while producing a safe non-toxic piece that's organic and original. From red berries to turmeric to teas, the range of colors and vibrancy is endless. Play with different dyes before committing to a project. I like to make swatches so I know how long to expose fabric to the color wash to get the effect I'm after. 

PROCESS | Always start with 100% natural fibers such as cotton, wool, silk or muslin that have been washed and dried to remove any starches or sizing. 

+ Folding your fabric and securing with either natural yarn or a rubber band, will create patterns and a tie-dye effect. Dip-dying or fully submerging the fabric are other options depending on the final result you're after. 

+ In a heavily salted large pot of water, boil the fabric to be dyed for an hour. In separate pots, prepare your dyes. For the mustard color seen throughout this story, a 1/4 cup of turmeric was added to a full pot of boiling water and left to simmer. Dried hibiscus flowers and a cup of vinegar were left to boil in a full pot of water for an hour, creating that lovely soft pink hued dye that was used as well. The salt and vinegar help the dyes to hold. Different dyes may, or may not, need assistance to take, so do your research first. 

+ Turning the heat off of all the pots, submerge your fabrics in dye and depending on how dark of a hue you're after, leave them in for 15 minutes or as long as overnight. The turmeric-stained fabrics featured were in for about 20 minutes and the color was rich and golden. The exact effect we were after. 

+ Remove fabric from dye when desired color is reached (remember they will dry a shade lighter). Rinse well. Use just a touch of plant-based dish soap to wash the excess dye away before hanging to line dry. 

I've dyed table runners to tote bags to wine stained tea towels I thought were headed for the rag bin. Get creative and breath new life into old fabrics. The results are unpredictable at times, and experiments with food scrapes, upcycling, aging produce and forgotten linens into a beautiful project.