Upstate: A Plant-Based Kit to DIY For

Upstate’s founder, Kalen Kaminski, shares with us her top 5 dyeing secrets, and divulges a mantra involving cereal that’s anything but corny…

Zodiac sign: 


How did Upstate come to be?

Upstate started as a passion project in 2011 (and still is!). While working as a freelance prop stylist — something I still do — I felt the need to create pieces outside of my assigned job’s confines. I love fabric art, especially hand dyeing, and began to research the traditional Japanese technique of shibori. As a one-off, I made large raw silk wraps employing these dye techniques, and was so pleasantly surprised by the reception to them — they immediately sold out. A few stores followed suit and started to place orders. From there, I started designing small runs of hand dyed women’s apparel — day-to-night shapes I personally love to wear — mostly jumpsuits and slip dresses! The rest is history… Just kidding, there’s more… In the past few years my interest in natural dyes piqued alongside leading dye workshops. Using fun ingredients like hibiscus, turmeric, wood chips and avocado pits offers me continued excitement to experiment while teaching at-home dyeing tools. Then the inquiries about at-home dyeing started sliding into my DM from people across the country. The lightbulb switched on, and I created an easy, environmentally friendly, 6-step home dyeing kit

Photo by Elizabeth Cecil.

Your favorite thing to dye with and why?

Silk! Whether it’s a raw silk, silk twill or a crepe de chine, the depth of color and vibrancy of the dyes on silk are like no other. 

Can you tell us a bit about shibori – its history, characteristics? 

Shibori is a hand dyeing technique producing patterns on fabric through various types of folding, clamping (also called resisting) and compressing fabric. There are a variety of shibori techniques you can use to create different patterns.  It has been around since 8th century AD, originating in Japan. The main dye was indigo and, to a lesser extent, madder and purple root. 

Top 5 tips for a successful tie dye:

1. Mis en place! aka Everything in its place. Take time to prep and read through your dye kit instructions, laying everything out before jumping right in. 

2. Mordant your fabric aka Soak it in a fixer before you start your 30-minute dye, and hang dry before you dye. This fixes the dye to the fabric so it doesn’t wash out. 

3. Popular mordants are soda ash… a less toxic and more environmentally friendly fixer is alum. I even use vinegar and salt. NOTE: our dye kit hankies are already mordanted so all you need to do is mix the kit contents with water and add your silk hankie. 

4. Be patient! The longer you let something marinate, the stronger or more colorfast the color. With our dye kits, I recommend leaving your fabric items in their pot for 8 to 24 hours. You will not be disappointed with the colors.

5. Rinse with a pH balances soap (usually if it’s clear, it’s pH balanced). Soap with a different pH balance will react to your color and change it when washing out. 

Most efficient way to clean up after a dye session?

All of our dye kits come with a set of latex gloves to avoid messy stained hands. Also, rinse out your pots and buckets right away to avoid perma stains. 

If Upstate was a soundtrack, what 5 songs would have to be included?

Easy! Rolling Stones’ “Emotional Rescue,” George Michael’s “Father Figure,” The Motels’ “Total Control,” Nena’s “99 Luftballoons,” The Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way.”

Fave outdoor location?

Anywhere in Sicily.

Your mantra:

Be a Fruit Loop in this world full of Cheerios!

Grab your Upstate dye kits here!


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My best friend used to run a mini tie dye business, so reading this post really brought back memories! Tie dye is so fascinating and such a beautiful pattern! ❤️✨

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

5 years ago

Love this post!

5 years ago

Love this! Super!

James Johnson
5 years ago

This is cool. I would love some fashion guidance as I am running an online store USA Leather Jackets and am also offering discounted prices. Please give me some advice. Thanks

5 years ago

This is cool. I would love some fashion guidance as I am running an online store USA Leather Jackets and am also offering discounted prices. Please give me some advice. Thanks