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Dyed in Dublin: Kathryn Davey’s Naturally Tinted Textiles

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Dyed in Dublin: Kathryn Davey’s Naturally Tinted Textiles

April 23, 2019

Several years back, Kathryn Davey was newly divorced and raising her three daughters in San Francisco when she took up indigo dying. “I had always been into art and natural crafts,” she says, “and in the Bay Area I was exposed to a very creative community.” Completely self-taught, she learned from what she found on the internet, in books, and through trial and error—and got so adept that she was asked to lead workshops at the HandCraft Studio School in El Cerrito.

Davey and daughters have since moved back to her native Dublin, and she now runs her own design studio specializing in naturally dyed textiles. Davey works with linen produced in the last surviving linen factory in the south of Ireland, sewn in Dublin, and hand tinted. She keeps things small batch and sells her designs to stores in Ireland and beyond, and also on her own site, Kathryn Davey. Many sell out quickly, but watch her Instagram account—@kathryndavey—for tip-offs about the latest batches.

Photography by and courtesy of Kathryn Davey.

Davey continues to teach her craft to others, often in enchanted settings: shown here are sample colors from a  natural dye workshop at The Fumbally Stables in Dublin. Up next: a five-day Cooking and Natural Fabric Dying  Workshop in June on the Greek island of Andros led by Davey and three specialists.
Above: Davey continues to teach her craft to others, often in enchanted settings: shown here are sample colors from a  natural dye workshop at The Fumbally Stables in Dublin. Up next: a five-day Cooking and Natural Fabric Dying  Workshop in June on the Greek island of Andros led by Davey and three specialists.
Organic cotton scarves in Davey&#8
Above: Organic cotton scarves in Davey’s studio at Harold’s Cross, a Dublin college converted into studio spaces for creatives.
Sample dye colors.
Above: Sample dye colors.
A batch of plant-dyed socks made of Irish wool. The socks are €36 a pair and come in a range of colors.
Above: A batch of plant-dyed socks made of Irish wool. The socks are €36 a pair and come in a range of colors.
Organic cotton string bags are available with short handles (shown) and long.
Above: Organic cotton string bags are available with short handles (shown) and long.
A Mustard Short-Handled String Bag is €.
Above: A Mustard Short-Handled String Bag is €20.
Above L to R: Irish Linen Tea Towels in Light Indigo and Indigo; €24.
Davey at work in her studio. &#8
Above: Davey at work in her studio. “The process of hand dying is labor intensive,” she says. “Textiles have to be scoured to remove oil, wax, or residue, mordanted by soaking in a fixative to help increase the color and wash fastness of the dye and to help it adhere to the fiber, then carefully dipped in a dye bath over many hours to achieve the shades you see.”
Dye pots and strainers at the ready.
Above: Dye pots and strainers at the ready.
Davey experiments with natural ingredients, such as tea, avocado pits, and onion skins, to create dyes for limited-edition pieces. For large-scale production, she uses GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) 5.0-certified powdered dyes that ensure consistency.
Above: Davey experiments with natural ingredients, such as tea, avocado pits, and onion skins, to create dyes for limited-edition pieces. For large-scale production, she uses GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) 5.0-certified powdered dyes that ensure consistency.

Try your hand at making naturally dyed textiles:

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