• Manon Raath

Behind the scenes at Lief the label - natural dyes using avocados.

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

Have you ever wondered how stuff is made? One of the things I love watching is behind the scenes videos of how things are made. There is so much to learn from different industries and it’s usually an eye-opener.

Today I would like to take you through the process of making a Lief cushion cover.

What makes our cushions special?

First of all, let’s talk about fabric choices and how we implement our core values - sustainability, Slow Living and quality – in the process.

We try to work with and buy directly from traditional artisans as much as possible. This way we can help support their livelihood and they can continue to work with the skills that have been passed down to them through generations. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to travel at the moment due to Covid 19 restrictions, so we had to start getting more creative with how we source fabric.

Luckily I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to fabric and had some white linen that I bought at a market in Vietnam. We try to use every square inch of fabric to minimise textile waste and work on a made to order basis, which means we only start cutting a cushion cover once an order for it has been placed.

We never produce more than 10 of a kind, making sure that our customers receive limited edition, exclusive items.

How it’s made

Natural dyes derived from Avocados were used to dye this specific batch. We first need to scour our fabric to make sure it is properly cleaned. After scouring we soak our fabric in a mordant to make sure the dye will take to it. Cellulose fabrics (made from plant fibres) such as cotton and linen usually don’t take up the dye as well as protein fibres such as wool and silk, therefore it needs to be soaked or boiled in a mordant.

In the meantime we slowly simmer the avocado pips and skins in a pot with water and leave the mixture overnight to ensure a darker colour.

Once our fabric is ready we dip it into the dye and leave it there for between 2 – 12 hours, depending on the colour we are after. The beautiful but sometimes tricky thing about natural dyes is that you can never control the outcome 100%. Different things influence the result, such as the pH of the water used, how fresh the avocado skins are, how the particular fabric reacts to the dye… the possibilities are endless.

When we are happy with the colour, we leave the fabric in the sun to dry.

Next step is the cutting phase. We use a special stencil for cutting our cushion covers. It has tapered corners so we don’t end up with a cushion cover with pointy “ears” . The stencil also allows us to be very precise with the placement of the cushion panel in relation to where prints are on the fabric.

After cutting out a cushion front, we rework into the fabric with point needling. This creates a beautiful texture and adds a tactile dimension to the cushion. Here is where our artistic side comes out. Every cushion will look a little different depending on the dye lines and where the needle takes us, thus creating a truly unique item. This step can take a bit of time to finish.

Once we are happy with the point needling we assemble the cushion with an invisible zip at the bottom, overlock the edges, check and double check to make sure everything is in tip-top shape, and voila… your one-of-a-kind, handmade cushion.

We are firm believers that you need to enjoy what you do and that this will shine through in your work. Each cushion cover is a little piece of art. We can literally spend hours creating it and we do it with the utmost care and passion. We love what we do and I hope this post gives you a little bit of insight into our world.

Stay tuned for our natural dyes collection.

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