The quest to find quality and sustainable fabrics for OFC flags has been a fascinating journey. I wanted to find a fabric with substance, texture, durability, and character. Should be easy, right? Turns out finding a fabric that met all of my criteria while still being sustainable was tougher than expected. Ultimately, the winner was hemp (well, technically a hemp/organic cotton blend).
The only downfall to hemp fabrics is that they aren’t offered in a big range of colors like more mainstream fabrics. Selling off-white flags didn’t seem like a reasonable idea, so it was time to get my hands dirty with the dyeing process.
Dyeing is a straightforward endeavor: take your fabric, put it into a bath of dye, wash out any extra dye, and voila, you’re done. When you get into it though, dyeing is both an art and a science. The process I ultimately chose - fiber reactive dyeing - involves six inputs (not counting the water or fabric). Each input has to be calculated, weighed, and introduced at the right time.
And even if you do the calculations right and follow all the directions, there’s still an art to the process, like how you’re moving the fabric, or how you’re juggling stirring and preparing subsequent steps. It’s a steep learning curve and with plenty of stressful moments.
What have I learned? Don’t wear any clothes you care about. 25lbs of salt costs about the same as a quart of salt (I still don’t get it). Plastic tubs get considerably weaker when filled with hot water.
Someday, I might be ordering fabric in quantities large enough to justify dyeing as part of the manufacturing process. Until then, I’m enjoying the opportunity to slowly master the art and science of dyeing.
PS If you’re interested in seeing more about the dye process, check out this awesome photo album documenting one woman’s dyeing endeavors. https://www.flickr.com/photos/johanna-fritz/sets/72157631599044844/