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Photograph provided by Upstate

Natural Dyeing with Upstate

I have always been mesmerized by tie dyeing, often using it to rescue old white shirts that I had inevitably stained in some way or another. When I came across Kalen’s clothing I was initially seduced by a pair of luxurious blue & brown velvet overalls that she had meticulously hand-dyed. Kalen has turned her obsession with hand-dyeing into her own brand of clothing and soft goods, Upstate.
Photograph by Alpha Smoot

As it happens for many people, Kalen’s obsession started with the Japanese dyeing technique, Shibori.

The intricate and seemingly endless dyeing patterns transfixed her as she began to explore the range of natural and fibre reactive dyes. When she started Upstate, Kalen was living in New York working as a set designer so hand-dyeing was mostly a hobby.

“It all started with these gigantic silk wraps.” She started making them and just couldn’t stop. It grew into an entire womenswear collection, what is now Upstate.

Kalen essentially has two full times careers, balancing Upstate with her freelance set design projects. She is always eager for ways to intermix the two, hand-dye curtains, wallpaper or other textiles for the sets.

Kalen uses everything from hibiscus flower dye, turmeric, indigo and cochineal, an insect that lives on cacti. Below is her beautiful beet red dye; try it out on one of your old white pieces of clothing that needs to be upcycled.
Photograph by  Alpha Smoot

Beet Dye Recipe:

You'll need 5 yards of natural fabric (i.e. - silk, cotton, linen, wool, rayon)

1. Treat your fabric before hand in a bucket of water with alum or soda ash (1 tablespoon).
Soak for 30 minutes and hang dry
2. Cut up 8-10 beets
3. Put in an enamel pot and cover with water
4. Bring to a boil for 10 min then turn down to a simmer
5. Add your fabric.
**You can fold it up and tie with with rubber bands, string, or clamps to give interesting resists throughout the fabric. 6. Simmer for 1-2 hours on low
7. Turn off heat and soak over night
8. Rinse in cold water with a light soap and hang dry!


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