Color-Grown Cotton Knit Fabric

The colors in the cotton knit fabric above are natural. By natural I don't mean that the yarns were dyed with natural dyes. In fact, they weren't dyed at all. What I mean is that the yarn in this fabric is its natural color, grown in brown or green, and in this case, spun with a natural creamy white yarn to give them their earthy pastel colors. The colors do not fade; they actually become deeper with each washing, reaching their full color richness at around the tenth washing. Although I recall hearing of such magical fibers a while ago, it was only recently that I did the research to learn more about color-grown cotton and then to eventually locate a spinner/supplier who was producing a line of yarns that I could knit.

The person credited with successfully analyzing and breeding color cotton plants in the late 1980s is Sally Fox, an etymologist, turned cotton breeder, and textile designer too. In "The Story of the Foxfibre® Cotton", she states:
This breeding program began with seeds saved by people in the Southeastern United States that were being kept alive in the USDA cotton seed bank in the late 1970′s. Dr. Angus Hyer, USDA Agronomist, encouraged breeders to consider using them as sources of natural pest and disease resistance due to their vigor.
Nine samples of Sally's grown-in-color cotton fabric, commercially woven in the US in the 1990s
Photo: Karen Brown, used with permission

Click to read Karen Brown's fascinating article on Sally Fox and her color-grown cotton odyssey.

The yarns I'm working with are grown in the Southwest US from non-GMO seed. As with the natural white yarn I'm using, the growers use biologically-based, integrated pest management practices. The fabric will be machine knitted locally (metropolitan NY area) -- a micro-line of sweater knits consisting of jerseys, a  rib stitch pattern, and a multi-color pattern. Matching rib fabrics for bands and bindings will also be available.

Will all the fabric I produce from now on originate with fibers that are grown using sustainable cotton growing practices? What about organic sheep raising practices when wool season roll around again? I can't promise either. But I'm certainly paying close attention to my yarn sources now.

And what about the colors? The greens and browns are really amazing, but sometimes, we really need bright purple. I know that the various types of dye have a range of environmental impact. Both Organic Lifestyle and Dharma Trading have articles on the topic. I'd like to read more. Please do share any reading suggestions you may have in the comments.

My new cotton knits fabrics will be available this spring in the online shop and at the Of Hand, Spirit and Earth Studio if you're in the NYC/northern NJ area. If you'd like to be among the first to know when swatches are available, and if you'd like to receive discounts on future orders, please be sure to subscribe to the newsletter.