Gainesville’s Amy Hindman handcrafts her Saint Virginia artisan textiles using organic cotton and natural dyes.
In the midst of treatment for breast cancer, Amy Hindman simply wanted to find a scarf or head cover that felt healing and organic to the body while beautiful and stylish to the eye. A young mom, she wanted to still feel feminine and not look “sick.” Since she was undergoing radiation, and her skin was sensitive, she was seeking something soft and gentle to wear. The only problem was… she was coming up empty.
“I just knew there had to be better options,” she said, and this thought stayed in the back of her mind.
Hindman was still reeling from her medical journey and beginning to analyze choices for her family. Her view had changed, and forced her to take a fresh look at the dangerous toxins in readily available products like makeup, cleaners, and clothing. But she also saw God’s abundance all around her and knew that to heal she needed to, “make something beautiful out of this mess.”
Two years into remission, Hindman was employed with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). She researched the toxins that threaten us and how chemicals and medicine come impact our everyday life. Although her belief that doctors are angels still remained, the epiphany was that real healing comes from our own unique and beautiful bodies and the choices we make in how we care for ourselves.
When Hindman learned about ASCO”s ‘Passion Grant,’ she applied and was approved. This program provides finances to the employee to pursue personal interests and life-enriching activities. She had begun to form her plan to create organic scarves for younger cancer warriors, and now she moved into sourcing fabric and experimenting with natural dyes.
“This was the beginning,” she says.
A weeklong intensive course at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina taught her to use synthetic dyes and inks to create silk scarves for cancer patients at Duke Cancer Center. While she was there, she discovered Penland’s natural dye studio, truly igniting her passion for using natural elements over synthetic color in her own burgeoning dye studio. When she returned home, the practicing began. She pored through books and experimented for two years until she felt she had honed her craft.
In 2017, Hindman created Saint Virginia Textiles to give others the opportunity to purchase her handcrafted, natural dyed, organic cotton products with the focus on the feel she was looking for during her hard times… healing.
“At Saint Virginia, we make healing textiles to give you a better choice, an easier choice, and a more beautiful choice,” Hindman says. The small batch, artisan textiles are created with intention, with Hindman choosing carefully where she sources her fabric and how she applies her life philosophies to each design. Her production uses healthier practices, resulting in sustainable, beautiful, and incredibly healing textiles.
Natural dyes can come from many sources… flowers, insects, plants, onion skins, roots. “It’s a time-intensive labor of love,” says Hindman of using this centuries-old technique.
Along with the plants and flowers Hindman grows in her garden for the purpose of creating her natural textiles, her parents frequently bring her flowers they’ve grown, and she even has a partnership with a local flower company to take their floral waste and use it for her textiles. All of it contributes to a craft that is sustainable with no waste. Even onion skins that are used for dye get composted and the cycle continues.
“It’s a great way to close the loop on manufacturing,” she says, emphasizing that she is always seeking more partners to join her efforts.
The process for creating naturally dyed textiles is not for the weak. When the specially sourced fabric is delivered, Hindman first scours it to be sure it’s pure and clean, and can take the dye. Then it is soaked in a nontoxic salt solution which prepares it for color, and then the dye is added. Marigolds are Hindman’s favorite choice, as they also make her home studio smell delightful. Of course her choices are also season dependent; dry root powders and leaves are used in the fall while more colorful varieties grow during warmer months.
Saint Virginia has continued to grow, mostly from online sales and word of mouth. Many of Hindman’s customers purchase a scarf for recently diagnosed friends or for themselves. Men buy the gorgeous creations for loved ones, and interior designers purchase them when seeking a unique textile to incorporate into their designs.
A glance at her Saint Virginia’s online shop will reveal hues of emerald green and bold blues next to muted neutrals with gold and pewter tones and then blush pinks and maroons. One organic cotton oversized scarf is called Winter Berries; it was dyed with foraged Virginia black walnut, logwood, and then bundle dyed with cochineal (an insect) and onion skins.
Hindman can most often be found in her home studio where her daughters, 10-year-old Neville Jane, and 6-year-old Beatrice, pop in to experiment with their own creations. Her diagnosis truly shifted her life and family, and she expresses gratitude for being healed and alive while encouraging others to find healthier choices for their body.
“Saint Virginia is a reflection of who I am and my own journey toward healing,” she says, and she hopes to inspire others to heal.
You can find Saint Virginia Textiles on saintvirginia.com and at local markets.