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Threads Of Life

Farmer to Fabric

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Offering High Quality Natural Dye Production

We offer designers the opportunity to make natural dyes by natural processes, with time-tested, colourfast traditional Indonesian dye recipes using sustainably sourced dye plants and plant mordants, and without synthetic modifiers. All our work is by-hand, from the scouring, through the dyeing and finishing. We can work with any commercial fibre that will take the dyes we use, including handspun handwoven cotton sourced from communities we work with, and fabrics sent to us for dyeing. View our studio profile PDF here.

Farmer to Fabric Products

These are the pieces we make in our production dye studio to showcase our values, skills and colours. Many are of handspun, handwoven cotton sourced from communities we work with. There is also meterage of cotton, linen and silk, and everything is made to the same exacting standards and integrity with which we fulfil our commercial orders.

Indigo Vat Dyeing

To achieve tones of indigos we have dye vats of varying strengths. The dye paste we use in these vats is processed and supplied by farmers we have trained in Central Java, east Bali, and central Flores who grow Strobilanthes cusia, and in Timor who grow Indigofera tinctoria.

Instead of using sodium dithionite, our indigo vats are reduced with unrefined palm sugar that is sourced from farmers in east Bali.

FACT: 100 m2 of planted Strobilanthes cusia in Flores produces 200 kg of fresh leaves per year which becomes 50 kg of indigo paste which dyes 25 kg of yarn or cloth.

Ceriops tagal Dyeing

A Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) 100% sustainably certified forest concession in Papua supplies the Ceriops tagal bark extract that we use to achieve rich red-brown earth tones. Instead of using industrial alum, this Ceriops dye is fixed with a plant-mordant of fallen Symplocos cochinchinensis leaves collected by community harvester groups we have established in Flores.

Mud Dyeing

Mud dyeing is perhaps one of the oldest fiber coloring processes. It is practiced around the world, and in Indonesia is found in Timor and Sulawesi. In the studio, pre-dyeing with Ceriops tagal prepares the fiber with a rich tannin. Adding the water from washing rice before cooking to an iron-rich mud causes fermentation that creates iron sulphate. Dyeing the Ceriops-colored fibre in the mud creates tannin-iron complexes that are black.

Soap Making and Waste Water

Avoiding polluting detergents, we make our own pH-neutral soap for use in our scouring and finishing processes with candlenut oil (Aleuritis molucanna ) sourced from a weaving community in Timor. We have tested our waste water and its pH, organic matter (from the dyes) and soap contents make it acceptable to use on the land. We collect our washing water in a tank, allow it to settle, and then use it to irrigate our dye garden.


Traditional undyed Fabric lengths

In Central Java, we work with traditional weavers and farmers who cultivate white cotton (Gossypium hirstrum) and heirloom brown cotton and then make it into culturally prescribed lengths of hand loomed cloth. Traditionally, these lengths are decorated with batik and used for dress or in ceremony. The plain cloths, purchased by Threads of Life to maintain the farming and weaving practices, provide an exquisite base for the deep colors we achieve.

Symplocos Plant Mordant

Symplocos are aluminium hyper-accumulating trees the leaves of which contain 3% aluminium. Symplocos has been used by traditional dyers as a dye-fixing mordant across south and southeast Asia for at least 2000 years. The only remaining stands of Symplocos in eastern Indonesia are in endangered forests where providing sustainable incomes is vital to conserving ancient woodlands. The Bebali Foundation works with the Indonesian Department of Forestry and local forest communities to facilitate the sustainable collection and sale of fallen Symplocos leaves.