While flax linen bedding will always have a place in our hearts (it’s a Broadsheet favourite), these silk pillowcases by a one-woman business have caught our attention.
Studio Tinta specialises in silk that’s dyed using natural plant materials found in owner Katie Wilkins’s daily life. She lives in the New South Wales city of Newcastle, and hand-dyes each piece to-order – she even sews some of them herself – so every pillowcase, eye mask, scrunchie or scarf is completely unique.
“Each one is made to be treasured and kept for a long time. They are one of a kind, so you’re getting something truly unique that’s been made by hand from start to finish. And I think that can’t be said for a lot of things,” she tells Broadsheet.
The process of natural dyeing is a true labour of love, but before any of it can happen, Wilkins spends time considering her local environment for inspiration for ingredients she can use to make her delicately hued pieces.
Things usually considered waste and destined for landfill breathe new life into the silk – avocado stones produce a blush pink tone; brown onion skins turn olive green when mixed with an iron mordant (which binds the pigment to the fabric); and wilting flowers from old bouquets can be used to imprint patterns into the fabric.
“It really all started with the idea that you can make colour from all these materials that are just in your everyday environment, and they could be used to make something so beautiful – that’s what really appealed to me,” Wilkins says.
To make the dyes, Wilkins boils large pots of water along with her found-object waste items over outdoor burners. Once the water has been saturated with colour, the fabrics are added to absorb the pigment.
For her botanical prints, the plant materials are tightly rolled into the fabric prior to soaking in a process called bundle-dyeing, which results in high-contrast patterns of colour imprinted onto the fabric.
From start to finish, the process can take up to 14 days. When it’s done, Wilkins tries to reuse the water for another batch where possible. Once she has no more use for it, she pours it over her garden – the use of natural dyes and mordants means there are no harmful chemicals in it.
“We don’t often think about where the colours in our fabrics come from, or where the waste water goes at the end of the process,” Wilkins says. “Some of the chemicals used in synthetic dyes are so harmful to our environment. So when I learned about that, I became passionate about opening up a conversation on how our colours are made and how they impact the environment.”
Each piece is then pre-washed, line-dried and ironed in Onwards Studio, the shared creative space where Wilkins works her craft (for everything except the dyeing itself).
While Studio Tinta is a passion project that she turned into a fully-fledged business, Wilkins’s bigger goal relates more to sustainability, saving scraps from landfill, and being more aware of how everyday items impact the environment.
“So much of what is around us is considered not valuable. But when you look closely, there are a lot of uses for certain things,” she says. “I never wanted to start a business just for the sake of making stuff. I need to know that it’s opening a bigger conversation that has a purpose outside of the product itself.”