Making Beautiful Colors with Fabrics

Natural stuff and environment friendly materials are the “in-thing”, and which have caught the interest of consumers. However, availability of cheaper synthetic dyes lessen the demands for natural dyes even if the Philippines is rich with natural dye- yielding plants.

A group of scientists from the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) , headed by Ms. Zenaida de Guzman, conducted studies to improve the use of natural dyes in fabrics and other products.

“There is a worldwide renewed interest for indigenous materials and environment-friendly products. This has definitely increased the demand in the world market for handwoven ikat fabrics and products colored with natural dyes, ” Ms. de Guzman said in her paper.

This study conducted several years back listed some 42 dye-yielding plants in the Philippines. The list contained the plants botanical, local and common names, the parts used in dyeing and the color it imparts. The researchers even cited a paper which said the use of vegetable dyes in coloring mats, textiles and other products during the “Philippine Iron Age, circa 200 BC”.

“Evidence showed that in the Southern and Northern parts of the Philippines during the Spanish period, the most widespread vegetable dye was from indigo plant with three species yielding dark blue color,” Ms. de Guzman explained.

She added that when PTRI conducted a survey together with the Katutubong Filipino Foundation (KFF), it was found that the Itnegs from Abra and the Ifugaos have been using natural dyes from plants to color their textile materials. However, the traditional and laborious methods of extracting natural dyes limited its optimal use and its application to produce quality color in textile and other products.

Thus the study “Upgading of the Natural Dye Extraction and Textile Application Technologies of Ifugao and Abra” aimed to standardize and improve the existing extraction/dyeing methods in Ifugao and Abra, with the subsequent transfer of the technology developed to the weavers and other users.

Specifically, the study used the following plants as source of natural dyes: hawili barks (F. septica), dried bulubulu leaves (Artifimia viridis), yellow ginger roots (Curcuma longa Linn.), sapang wood/branches (Caesalpenia sappan Linn.), samak barks, kapangsalay barks (Ceiba pentandra), dekap barks, atsuete seeds (Bixa orellana), dried karimbubua leaves, duhat barks (Syzygium cumimi), kariskis barks, dried luam leaves (Tectona grandis Linn.), damukis barks, and kutakot twigs.

Results of the study found that using smaller sizes of dye sources such as in ground or pounded form increased the efficiency of dye extraction. It also established the optimum extraction and dyeing conditions for the different dye sources. For example optimum dye extract can be obtained from hawili and bulubulu thru four day fermentation with a liquor ratio of 1:20 (2.5 kilos of ground hawili barks or bulubulu leaves soaked in 10 liters of water) followed by one hour of boiling. On the other hand, the liquid dye extract resulted in best yarn application after four hours of boiling.

In addition, the researchers produced dye powder and established optimum conditions for its production and application. They said the production and use of dye powders are more advantageous for trading purposes.

The researchers also found that pretreatment of cotton and silk materials using the PTRI standard methods of scouring and degumming improved dye penetration and increased breaking strength of dyed materials. They also found that the use of mordant (by boiling the materials for 30 minutes in 5% mordant solution) enhanced color shade and improved colorfastness property of dyed materials. A mordant is defined as “a metallic substance that creates a chemical affinity between the fiber and the dyestuffs and fix the coloring matter on the material permanently”.

The developed technology of natural dye extraction and dyeing application would systematize the traditional dyeing methods of the Itnegs and the Ifugaos to help them produce quality products being sold in local and foreign markets. Researchers said that there had already been efforts to transfer the technology to Itneg weavers and dyers. However, they said it is necessary to have a feasibility study to evaluate the viability of the commercial production particularly of natural dyes.

“The commercialization of natural dyes is the vital cog for the revival of the art of traditional dyeing which would offer alternative livelihood for the Filipinos, including reforestation activities to plant more of the dye-yielding plants in the provinces,” Ms. De Guzman concluded.

For more information, Ms. De Guzman can be reached at telephone numbers 837-1325; 837-1338. (PSciJourn/Vicky B. Bartilet)

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