Isa Rodrigues runs the natural dye program Sewing Seeds at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. For the last two summers, she has grown natural dye plants at a community garden across the street from the center. It was partially an experiment to see which plants could survive Brooklyn’s climate and partially a “living library,” a way to show people what natural dye plants look like and how to use them. Next summer, Sewing Seeds will turn an abandoned lot into a larger garden that will provide dye plants for local textile artists using the community supported agriculture model — a dye CSA.
Rodrigues first worked with natural dyes in the lab, breaking them down into their chemical components. She studied textile conservation at the University of Lisbon, and for her thesis she analyzed the dye composition of textiles from the Paracas civilization of Peru. Now she focuses on how natural dyes fit into the bigger picture, connecting plants to the colors they make, then to the clothes we wear. In this video, she demonstrates how to dye silk yellow using marigolds, Coreopsis and black-eyed Susans.