Our introduction to fabric dyes is a little informal and a little underwhelming. Experiences can include memories of tie-dyeing at summer camp, or more recent trips to the store to pick up a bottle of Rit-All Purpose Dye to salvage a forgotten t-shirt. As we roll through our fashion choices we strive to reinvent fabrics all while being eco-friendly. For some that dream has already becoming a reality.
Meet Liz Mortensen: artist and natural dye aficionado that owns and operates Laila Textiles. When she's not collecting plants and materials for her latest dye project, she's sharing her wealth of knowledge on the sustainable practice through a natural dye workshop. Here's all you need to know about the creative on her road to sustainability and how she hopes to encourage slow fashion.
For Mortensen, it all started with a trip to Israel in January of 2018. While spending time abroad the creative was introduced to natural dyes, took to studying the age old practice, and found inspiration. When Summer rolled around Laila Textiles was born; the brand creates one of a kind pieces using natural dyes that are sourced responsibly and extracted from Mortensen herself. Today the brand is gaining traction on Tiktok and has reached over eighteen thousand followers on Instagram.
It's all about sustainability for Mortensen. For her, days of fast fashion and synthetic dyes are a thing of the past. Natural dyes and ethically sourced fabrics means less waste, less waste is a win for our planet. This environmentally friendly endeavor is a movement towards unique and special products; Mortensen is breathing a new life into the fashion world. And these pieces are eye catching. Laila Textiles is often releasing bold and bright silk scarves, robes, tank tops, scrunchies, and slip dresses with beautiful lace details.
The Natural Dye Workshop
It's evident that Mortensen is passionate about her craft. Her love extends to her community as she offers natural dye workshops throughout the Chicago area. I had the privilege of taking a class myself and couldn't say better things about the experience.
First and foremost Mortensen creates a comfortable, relaxed environment for those in attendance. She's charismatic, easy-going, and above all excited to show you the world of natural dyes. While there may be a bit of nerves and uncertainties Mortensen is eager to lend a hand and walk you through the process.
No experience with natural dyes? No problem! As an introductory class you learn the basics of natural dyes and the entire bundling process. Throughout the lesson your eyes tend to wander to the array of materials on display: swatches, plants and natural sources, and supplies needed for the very moment you dye your very own silk scarf. You're given an overview of natural dyes - understanding how various materials provide unique results depending on what you hope to achieve. It builds excitement and anticipation; you're given the freedom to create patterns, color combinations, and go all out for this amazing opportunity.
The choice is yours as you examine the mason jars in front of you. Make intricate arrangements with your materials or exercise chaos - any choices made result in a masterpiece. There's dried chamomile flowers, hibiscus, turmeric, indigo, and more. Bundle and secure your silk scarves and within a few hours the dyes have worked their magic. Opening your scarf is like unveiling a present, there's an eagerness to see what you've created.
This workshop introduced me to the world of natural dyes and the ways in which they pertain to slow fashion. It's incredible how a simple, yet deliberate process turns ordinary items into staples and rare pieces that will last a lifetime in your closet. Using fresh rose petals, black beans, chamomile flowers, madder root, brazil wood and cochineal I created my own silk scarf that I couldn't be more proud of and ready to style. With pops of magenta, violet patterns and sprinkles of bright yellow this scarf is sure to brighten up any outfit.
If you have the opportunity to attend a natural dye workshop I couldn't recommend it more. If you're not in the area have no fear, you can find Laila Textiles releasing apparel and dyed goods in an array of colors and sizes on any given occasion. Keep up with Mortensen and the brand (@Lailatextiles) and get ready to style pieces that are uniquely you.
Illustration by Inci Sahin