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Dye Your Way to Eco-Chic

While eco-friendly fabrics are showing up in more and more designer collections and stores, we often don’t hear enough about the dyeing and finishing processes that accompany them. Conventional dyeing methods often involve toxic chemicals, harmful to the wearer and the environment.

I recently hosted an event at Pivot where Chicago designer Annie Novotny of Frei Designs demonstrated how she naturally dyes some of her garments and accessories with pomegranate juice. First, select a 100% pure juice (no sugars or additives). Pour the juice in a large bowl and add some vinegar and water. The vinegar helps to set the color and also adds brown into the hue.

Let your garment (Annie was dyeing scarves at our event) sit as long as you like, depending on the desired color. Next put the item in a hot salt water bath to set the dye. Then rinse in cold water until the water runs clear. Dry the item, and then finally press it with a hot iron.

Pretty simple, right? Annie acknowledges, that yes, after some time and washings the color might fade. But, if you are unhappy with how your item is aging – simply get some more pomegranate juice. I myself think that this process is a simple reminder of the impermanence of our environment and resources.

Clearly, you don’t need to be a designer to try this out on your own. Have some white pants you love, but just can’t bear to wear them with that tiny stain you can’t get out? Give them new life with a fresh color!

A Dyer’s Garden is a handy resource for more ideas on other materials to use.

Written by Jessa Brinkmeyer

Jessa Brinkmeyer owns Pivot - Chicago's first boutique devoted to eco-fashion. Prior to opening Pivot in September 2007, Jessa worked as an associate editor at a Chicago-based magazine, covering fashion and general interest topics. She loves introducing people to new fabrics and designers at Pivot, while exchanging tips with her clients on ways to live an eco-conscious life.


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