Pirtti Spotlights Natural Dye Techniques in Dobbs Ferry

One local maker channels her naturally dyed creations into Pirtti, a Dobbs Ferry-based business that utilizes eco-chic materials.

What started over 10 years ago as a social knitting group for Anne-Marie Kavulla has evolved into a proper business called Pirtti in Dobbs Ferry. Pirtti, which is a Finnish word that means “cabin, cottage, hearth, or central space in a small home,” encompasses all the maker passions Kavulla has gathered since that first knitting club.

“What I enjoy is bringing together community and handwork,” says Kavulla. Pirtti started as a textile practice because Kavulla enjoys weaving, knitting, mending, and, of course, natural dyeing.

Twelve years ago, when she lived in California, Kavulla’s children attended a Waldorf School, and natural fibers and handwork are very much a part of the education. A group of moms from school hired Rebecca Burgess, author and head of Fibershed (fibershed.org) to lead a workshop on natural dyes.

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“I knew you could use onion skins and other materials, but I had the privilege of working with Rebecca Burgess,” says Kavulla. “My first official natural-dye workshop was with the head of the movement.”

Photo by Kate Sears

When she and her family moved to New York, she had a tumor in her hand and had to scale back her methods of making like knitting and weaving. She ended up doing a deep dive into natural dyes. “Finally, all of the things I loved came together,” says Kavulla. “I have always loved color; it is a painterly style of weaving. Now, I was getting to make the color and experience the color and let it tell me what it wanted to be. That moment of alchemy draws you in.”

She has been surprised by what turn the materials take her on and has had fun experimenting with all different kinds of natural materials (branches, fruits, vegetables, and plants), but different waters and soil can also impact the color you get from the unique materials.

Dobbs Ferry

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