Interview: Verity de Yong dyes linen napkins with food waste

Linen tablecloths and napkins by VED Cooks

During lockdown, Verity de Yong set up her homegrown business, VED Cooks – a range of linen napkins, table cloths and placemats made from vegetable dyed 100% Irish linen.

Eating every meal at home, she realised just how much food waste she was generating and began experimenting with the skins of leftover fruit and vegetables from her kitchen. She soon launched her brand VED Cooks on Etsy*, a collection of table linens in beautiful pastel shades, all hand dyed with onion skins and avocado skins, blueberries and black beans.

From Elle Decoration to Grazia, her products have been widely featured by the press. I spoke to Verity about her sustainable homeware brand.

This post contains affiliate links – thanks for supporting

Portrait of Verity de Yong

What is your creative background?

I graduated with a Fine Arts degree at Parsons School of Design, New York. After college, I worked in the fashion industry both in the USA and in London.

What led to you starting your own dyed linen business?

I have always had a love for cooking and making. During lockdown I noticed how much waste I was generating from every meal at home. I started to experiment with the leftover skins of various food items to see how they could be used as a pigment to create natural dyes for fabric. My kitchen became a laboratory and I began creating sustainable and eco-friendly products for the home, beginning with a range of table linens.

Tell us a bit about the dying processes you use.

In order to get the best out of the natural dyes, the whole process, takes a couple of weeks from start to finish. I start by pre-soaking the linen in a homemade organic mordant, then leaving this for around a week to allow the fabric to be coated evenly. Then I make the dye using leftover food waste materials. Once this is ready, I add the fabric to a large cooking pot, heat and leave. The fabric is removed and left to hang for a week before washing. Finally the fabric is cut to size, sewn and hand frayed. 

Table setting with linen napkins

What fuels your creativity and where do you find inspiration? 

I get lots of inspiration from walking around food markets and seeing what new fruits and vegetables are in harvest. I then do some research and swatch tests to see if the pigment from the skins will last.

How would you describe your preferred interior design style?

French farmhouse with an industrial twist. 

What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?

Wake up, head to the kitchen, pour out the remaining dye and wring out the linen to dry. Whilst this is drying, I soak the next batch of linen in the mordant and start the next dye pot on the stove. I wash linen that has been waiting and start by cutting the fabric to be made into napkins/placemats.

What are you working on next?

I am working on launching my new website and adding new colours as the seasons change.

●●● / Etsy* / @vedcooks

You may also be interested to read – 20 stylish eco friendly kitchen products for the conscious home

Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).