HAND DYED LINEN NAPKINS - SHOP SHELFIE, WEEK 1

FEATURED OBJECT – THE NAPKIN

The napkin. Our first featured object from the shop shelfie. Did you know the first napkin was edible?! Ancient greeks had a lump of dough to clean their fingers, they would knead throughout the meal to clean off any excess and gobbled it up afterwards.

A quick google search told me that the Romans were the first to introduce the cloth napkin – a sudarium was a “sweat cloth” for the face and the mappa, a large cloth for eating while reclining. The Romans knew how to feast. Eating until horizontal while sweating.

The invention of the fork really did away with the cloth napkin in everyday dining, that’s why for me, cloth napkins at the table are less about practicalities of wiping hands and faces, but more about the ceremony of gathering. An object that elevates the experience of dining with friends and family, that evokes the senses and helps to create a moment of togetherness.

In the shop edit, we have handmade, plant dyed linen napkins in blush or grey. Plant dyes give a subtle colour pallet, and the washed linen is SO soft to touch. The pinks are created by dye from avocado stones and the grey from nettles.

THE MAKER:

Tanya is the owner of Felt Collage a creative business she runs from home in Oxfordshire around her family. Her love of exploration, nature and sustainability, together with a quiet artist yearning, led her on a path to working with dyes and natural materials.

Tanya has an etsy shop where she sells a variety of hand dyed linens, felt, wool and silks. She also shares her skills in workshops, both in person and online, as well as a botanical dye guide that’s available to download for £15 to help beginners get started. I had a chat with Tanya last week over zoom and full interview will be up on the journal soon.

THE PROCESS:

The fabric is mordanted in soya milk in advance. This helps to bind the dye to the fabric. The dye pigment is extracted from the material using heat and is then placed in a dye bath for a number of days to allow the fabric to absorb the dye. Tanya’s process is very intuitive, and dye baths can be used multiple times to create different shades. The fabric is removed, washed and prepared ready for it’s new home 

WHY WE LOVE HAND DYED LINEN NAPKINS:

Linen is such a durable and versatile material. It’s made using flax which is a more sustainable option than cotton – less water is used during the process and flax grows well in any soil therefore needing less maintenance or pesticides / herbicides.

I love the look linen gives to a table. It helps to create an easy going and relaxed atmosphere for dining, inside and out. This collection is inspired by mini adventures and sustainability. Plant dyed napkins are reusable, made from natural materials, no chemicals, would form part of the memories you have when gathering with friends and family. They felt like such a wonderful fit with the vision for the shop.

Like Tanya, I am drawn to the material, and to the look and feel of linen. It’s very tactile. I am also drawn to the muted pallet that plants and botanicals give. The subtle tones, the variation of shades. The differences and imperfections.

In Tanya’s process she uses kitchen waste, as well as what is growing in her garden and what she finds in parks and hedgerows. There is something so special about the process of collecting and creating. I love the idea of bringing nature indoors.

If you are keen to see more on the process, I recently documented a photo story on our journal of my first experiment with natural dye using Buddelja.

HAND DYED LINEN NAPKINS ARE PART OF THE UNDER THE CANVAS COLLECTION, AND AVAILABLE TO BUY HERE. PRICES START FROM £9

If you have a gathering or event in mind and you would like help bringing this to life, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear more.