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Building a Local Supply Chain with Natural Dyes Sourced in Our Backyard


At Solid State Clothing, we’re continually pushing the boundaries on what’s possible in printing and what it means to source from local supply chains. One of the ways we’re currently pushing new boundaries is our effort to develop sustainable local sources for natural dyes in partnership with TS Designs.

The dye extracts we've been using are sourced overseas, and we want to move that supply chain closer to home by building it in our own backyard. Literally!

“One really nice thing about TS Designs' headquarters is that it’s located on several acres of land,” says Courtney Lockemer, our Solid State Brand Manager. “We have a spot that had previously been used to grow vegetables, but it’s been unused for a few years. With a little tilling, it was basically ready to go — the soil’s good, there’s a drip irrigation system in place, and there’s a tool shed right there.”

We’re making good use of the space and planting flowers to experiment with our very own locally grown natural dyes. “We’ll be experimenting with things we already know can grow in this area — Dyer’s Coreopsis and Marigolds — and see if we can grow them for dyes,” says Lockemer.

“We’ll be exploring how many plants we need to grow, how well they grow, and how well they work as dyes,” she adds. “The longer term goal is to be able to scale that up so that local farmers are growing the plants we’ll use for our natural dyes. We're doing just a few rows here now, but this is our chance to pilot this. We’ll take what we learn and talk to other small farmers and ask them to grow a little next time.”

A Local Supply Chain Strengthens Community Ties

There’s so much to be excited about with this project, but one of the most gratifying is the opportunity to build stronger ties within the community while we create a local supply chain.

“I'm really excited about the idea of working with North Carolina farmers to grow dye plants so we can make that part of our regional fiber and textile supply chain,” says Lockemer. “And it's really exciting that TS Designs is able to do a pilot for this — we have the resources and we have the interest in trying this out — because it means that we can see how it goes, and small farmers don’t have to take the initial risk. They already have a pretty tough job, so we wanted to take the risk off of them.”

A Local Supply Chain Decreases Our Environmental Impact

We’re also happy to be continually improving our manufacturing processes and decreasing our environmental impact. “Growing our own plants allows us to add to our variety of natural dyes that we're getting really locally and permits us to farm them in sustainable or regenerative ways,” adds Lockemer. “That means that the clothing we're making is even more beneficial to the environment.”

“Of course, we don't intend to be the main producer of these dyes long term,” she explains. “But starting out by producing them is a great chance for us to work with groups like Piedmont Fibershed. We can also get volunteers to come help in the garden and learn more about natural dyes. So, it’s a great way to get the community involved.”

And in the words of TS Designs’ President Eric Henry… “It takes a community.”

We’re excited about continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible in our industry with an innovative approach to making the best sustainable t-shirts in the world. To shop an assortment of t-shirts made with natural dyes from our local supply chain, visit the Natural Dye T-Shirt page on our Solid State Clothing site.

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