June 16, 2015


Silk & Willow

Meet Shellie Pomeroy of Silk and Willow. Based out of the Hudson Valley, Shellie hand dyes silk ribbon and table linens using plant materials. Because she dyes in small batches, each piece is unique, varied and heirloom worthy. Shellie kindly shared her natural dying tips, her upstate haunts and what she's looking forward to this wedding season (a.k.a. ribbon season.)

I Make...Plant Dyed silk ribbon & table linens.

First maker memory...Some of my earliest memories are of watching my mother and aunt knit, crochet and sew. The ability to create something both useful and beautiful has always influenced me.  Growing up there was also a focus on traditional cooking and baking. Creating with my hands whether in the kitchen or studio continues to be a constant thread in my life.

Makers that inspire you...Makers of botanical apothecary. I am fascinated with the healing properties found in nature. Products created naturally, that can cure and comfort, inspire me. I am an aromatherapy junkie and have tinctures for every imaginable aliment. 

If you weren’t making silk ribbon in the kitchen, you’d be baking in the kitchen.

Favorite tool of the trade...Scissors. From the garden to my cutting table, I am always cutting and clipping so a collection of sharp scissors is essential. I keep them in my car, every room in my house, and there is always a pair or two in my back pocket.

Material(s) you want to work with...Linen. 

Top Places to Source...My dye materials are sourced from a variety of places. My two favorite domestic sources for dye materials are Mountain Rose Herbs and Botanical Colors

Something you wish you could make...Botanical extracts. I am lusting after a hand crafted copper still so I can make my own botanical extracts & essential oils. I'd love to take classes and learn from a master. 

Favorite place in New Paltz to snack....The Main Course Market Place. Not only do I visit often to get fresh made-to-order salads, but they also supply me with the avocado pits I use to dye my silk ribbons. 

Favorite place in New Paltz to get your drink on...Rock & Rye Tavern. It's cute, quiet & quaint. 
Favorite shop in New Paltz to blow your paycheck at...Water Street Market. I make regular visits to the Antique Shops and then usually end-up at The Cheese Plate.

Favorite song at the moment...Can't pin-point a song, but my two go-to albums are Muse & Foo-fighters.

First off, your silk ribbon is out of this world. The color you achieve all with sustainable and natural materials is breath taking. We'd love to here a little more about your process from the silk itself to dying. 
To create long-lasting natural color there are a variety of steps that need to take place. The material first needs to be scoured. Although your material might appear to be clean, silk has natural coating that needs to be removed for proper dye absorption. Then, you need to mordant your material.  Most dye materials require the use of a mordant to create a bond and allow natural colors to "fix" to the material. Now you can color. Cooking color into your material can take hours or weeks to achieve your desired shade. Finally is the washing.  Washing our silks, until the water runs clear, to avoid color bleeding is essential to our process.

This month we gave our subscribers the materials and guide to make their own plant dyed tote bag. What tips do you have for a first timer to the natural dying game?
Experiment! Changing the pH of the water can often create drastic color shifts. Try adding in some lemon juice or vinegar to make your water more acidic. To make more basic, add baking soda or soda ash. You will be amazed how drastically color can change with one of these simple additions.

During our research and prototyping, we found that plants can be a tad temperamental. Dye baths that looked vibrant would end up quite soft, and some would completely change when alum was added. What plants give the most vibrant pleasing color with no additives? 
Turmeric, annatto seeds and onion skins create strong vibrant colors without the addition of a mordant. Bonus, they are food & kitchen safe so you won't need separate pots and utensils for dyeing. 
We're suckers for all the colors at farmers markets. We found that local and organically grown plants and fruits produce a stronger color. What do you like working with seasonally? 
I love to gather & play with what is in abundance seasonally & locally. In spring- dandelion leaves, summer - golden rod, marigolds & black-eyed susans, fall- walnuts and winter- sumac. The variety of hues you can create with just these few dye materials are endless. Many of our "limited edition" ribbon colors are the result of experimentation with our local and seasonal harvest.
You're featured in pretty much every wedding blog ever. Now that wedding season is in full force do you have any custom projects you're looking forward to?
Oh, I have a long list!! Much of my work is repetitive manual labor which gives me time to brainstorm about all the pieces I want to create or products I want develop. Top on my list is a "ribbon guide", a go-to source for brides & florist to gauge how much ribbon they will need to create their desired look.

Thanks Shellie for sharing all of her plant wisdom! For jaw dropping photos, follow Shellie on Instagram and Pinterest @silkandwillow.

All photos by Rebecca Yale Photography.