Natural Dye Workshop with Teñido a Mano


I've been in Oaxaca, Mexico for the past few weeks to deep dive into some of my favorite crafts and practice Spanish. I did research before my trip, but didn't sign up for anything until I got to Oaxaca. I'll be sharing recaps of the workshops I took and the skills that I learned.

If you are interested in doing something similar, feel free to email me!

One workshop I recently took was a natural dye class with Teñido a Mano. I found the class through friends who run XYZ Cooperative. They happened to be in town at the same time that I was and recommended I reach out to Elsa, of Teñido a Mano, for a workshop. I was super excited when Elsa was available! She does dye work for various artisans in the area and has her own home studio as well as a space in Teotitlán del Valle (where I'll be doing another workshop with her team next week). 

The workshop was two days and lasted about five hours each day. I didn't really know what to expect, but I showed up on day one with my own apron and some hands ready to get dirty.


I've done many different types of dyeing before, but lately I've been doing shibori techniques with pre-made box kits. I love shibori dyeing, and was very curious to learn some natural dyes that I could eventually work into our future workshops and experiment with at home for my design work. 

On the first day Elsa went over the ingredients, dyes we were going to make, and how each day would go. She also shared her background and history in natural dyeing and went over other artisan work in Oaxaca. Then, we got to work.

First, we prepared little bundles of wool for each dye color that we were going to create. Then, we created a mordant out of natural ingredients (aluminum and cream of tartar) to prepare the wool yarn that we were going to dye (not all colors needed mordant). Next, we made baths for the pomegranate shells and pericón, or Mexican marigold. 


Later, we watched a short film about how indigo is grown, gathered, and created into a paste. This made me appreciate how precious indigo is and also made me want to dye with more indigo! It is so beautiful and can create so many different tones, especially when you use it to over dye.

We got some coffee delivered (to drink,  not dye with) and finished up the dyes for that day. We created some gorgeous tones of yellows from the pericón and pomegranate shells. I made a mental note to ask my mom to start saving all those dried out shells she has from her pomegranate tree! 

That night I got a cocktail with a grasshopper on it. Yum. 


The second day we got to work with cochineal, indigo, and brazil wood to create reds, blues, and purples.

First, I had to ground up the cochineal insects (females only). They are found on cactus and hold the carmine dye which creates a the red color. I had to grind the cochineal using a molcajete to get it to be very fine and as I did the insects turned into a bright red powder, just like I was told it would. We created the cochineal dye bath and over dyed some of the yarns that we dyed the first day as well as some original wool bundles. 


Next, I pulverized the indigo paste, which took more hard molcajete work. My arms were a little sore from all the grinding. Then we made the indigo bath and brazil wood baths. We did over dyes and original dips for each to get a range of colors using the dyes we did the day before. 

As we were winding down with the dyeing process, Elsa gave me some paper and yarn to start creating my own recipe books. She gave me all the recipes for the colors we did over the two days and I recorded them in my own handwriting. This was a great way to wrap up the workshop, help make the information stick in my head, and gave me records to refer to in the future.


Because we did the workshop in Spanish, my recipes ended up being in Spanglish -- a combo of English and Spanish, which was just another little reminder of the unique experience. I'm super thankful to have had the time to take this workshop and learn some new skills. I cannot wait to try some of these recipes again and report back. In the meantime, I'll have these naturally-dyed yarns to dream about. 

Want to take your own natural dye class in Oaxaca? Contact Elsa at Teñido a Mano and stay tuned for my next workshop recap with Porfirio Gutiérrez.