So, I wanted some new fabric, right? So I bought 28.5 meters of white silk dupioni at what must be a reasonable price in an escalating market. That means it wasn’t cheap!
Then I bought 6 or 7 packets of dye. I came home and dyed 24 meters using the dyes and guess what–all the fabrics came out PINK!!
So, I gave the matter some thought and decided to try dyeing (painting, actually) some of these disappointing cloths with mud. Earth pigments have always appealed to me. They are indeed my colors as I am an autumn color type, and there’s something so fundamentally earthy about using mud–I love the idea!
So, on my last trip home from Nairobi, I stopped several places along the road and collected some soil specimens. I had a great time doing this, making up a fictitious story about being a visiting geologist from some obscure oil or diamond company looking for the right soils to indicate that 2000 feet below lay riches beyond belief!
Instead, a couple of fellows took great interest in the notion that mud could be used to color fabrics. One happy guy even offered me the use of his panga (that’s not a dirty word; it’s a machete) to chip some stubborn clay out of a bank.
I could see their minds working, “I must run straight home and tell my wife that she should be dyeing fabric with mud!” I did impress upon these fellows that they would need cow’s milk or soy milk to bind the mud to the cloth. It should not surprise me, then, next time I go to Nairobi, to see lengths of mud-painted cotton cloths waving from clotheslines along the sides of the highway, right?!
Cleaning soil–the cup is for my coffee; all else is for washing dirt
Anyway, I brought my soil samples home and set to work cleaning them. A somewhat messy business that reminded me very much of my years working with ceramic clays, the job was one that took me away from the computer and let me work in the out-of-doors–I loved it!!
So, I washed the dirt and sieved it with a fine plastic sieve, let it settle in plastic ice cream tubs (that was good, too!), and then poured off the excess water.
Tubs of clean dirt drying in the sun
I LOVE THE COLORS!!!
Now, two days later, the soils are really drying out, having been left out in the hot sun (jua kali). The colors are lighter than they were when the soil was wet, but still they are indeed the colors of Africa!!
Dried dirt samples
The red on the right is from Nairobi, and the orange on the left is from Limuru, higher above Nairobi. It was drifting down through the red iron oxide (?) of the lower lands. See the set of four colors together just to the right of center? That was my comparison of browns–quite a range! The near white was the toughest to clean; I had to pound it with my hammer.
I just love getting down and dirty!! 😉
Next step: soaking the soy beans! Read more . . .