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BUNDLE DYEING TUTORIAL - SILK SCARF DYED WITH FLOWERS

All my workshops in the past 6 weeks had been canceled because we should all be staying home if we can. But I missed sharing the love for plant colors with you, so I created small bundle dyeing sets, available in my online shop. These are the instructions for using the set, but you don’t have to purchase anything to have fun with me. Feel free to work with what you have at hand! And if you’d rather get all ingredients as a kit delivered to you, they are available here. The kit includes four types of dry flowers, a small pre-mordanted silk scarf, a piece of string, and two color modifiers.
Bundle dyeing is one of the easiest dyeing techniques. It produces a unique pattern every time, as it all depends on the arrangement of the dyestuff. This tutorial doesn’t cover mordanting - fixing the color. This step is usually done before dyeing begins, with the use of metal mordants. The silk piece in the kit was first scoured (washed) and then pre-mordanted with aluminium salts in my dye studio. If you are working with materials you have at home, you can skip this step, though colors will be less vibrant and less durable. Don’t let it stop you from experimenting, though!

 


 
What you need

For this project you will use a piece of cloth, washed and preferably pre-mordanted (incl. in the kit). Silk works best, but you can use any kind of natural fabric.

Dried flowers of your choice. For example: hollyhock, hibiscus, chamomile, marigolds (incl. in the kit).

Two pH modifiers: citric acid for low pH and baking soda for high pH (incl. in the kit). You can use lemon juice or white vinegar as a citric acid alternative, and washing soda instead of baking soda.

A piece of un-dyed string (incl. in the kit).

You will also need the following items, not included in the kit: a pot, cheesecloth, a bucket for rinsing.


Collect the flowers

For my kits I chose four kind of dye flowers: black hollyhock, red hibiscus, chamomile, and dyers marigold. You can test other flowers growing in your area. Remember, that not all of them will produce much color.

For this tutorial I crash the flowers between my fingers and mix them together. You can decide to make bigger and more spaced prints with full flower heads, too. The results will look slightly different.


Arrange the dyestuff

Scatter the flowers on one half of the fabric. Try to cover all the areas, including edges, for the most even coloring.

If you would like to achieve more controlled patterns, try other arrangements (circles, stripes, etc.). Random arrangements work best in my opinion, though.


Fold and roll up

Fold the clear part of the scarf over the flowery arrangement, to keep the flowers from moving. It will make bundling easier. Roll up quite tightly, avoiding creases.


Wrap tightly

You can either secure the roll at this point, or roll it again in another direction, making a “snail shell”. Warp a piece of string around the bundle. Do it tightly, so that the dyestuff can’t move insight the bundle and the fabric is touching dyestuff everywhere. Secure with a knot.


Steam for at least an hour

Put a piece of cheesecloth or a loosely woven cloth over the pot and secure with a rubber band, clothes pegs etc. If you have a steamer or a colander, you can use it instead.

Place a fully wetted bundle on top of the cheesecloth, cover the pot with a lid and let steam for 1 - 1,5h. Pour some water over the bundle if you notice it’s drying. Some pots tend to not keep the steam inside - so make sure you keep the bundle wet. After around half an hour rotate the bundle - the dye tends to drip down so it’s best to turn it for the even coloring. It will help you achieve the most even results.


Cool down and unbundle

Let your bundle cool down, preferably overnight. The longer you wait, the more time the dye has to penetrate the fibres.

If you are impatient like me, go ahead and open it sooner. There will be enough color transferred anyway.


Rinse thoroughly

Remove all the flowers and rinse the scarf. You might notice it’s changed the color. This is because some dyestuffs you used are pH sensitive. Aluminium mordant is slightly acidic, while water in Berlin is alkali. Rinsing with it shifts the color.

Make sure there is no dyestuff left on the scarf before you proceed to modifying.


Make it pink or green

Fill a small bucket or a pot with warm water. Dissolve citric acid OR baking soda. Soak the scarf in the solution and see the color change in front of your eyes.

If are working with one of my kits and want to dye your scarf pink, choose citric acid.

If you would like to achieve blue-greens, use baking soda.

Don’t rinse your scarf after that! The natural pH of your tap water might change the color back again.


Dry and enjoy

Let the scarf air dry. If you notice any tiny plant matter caught in between the fibers, remove carefully with your fingers. If you want to wash your scarf, hand wash in lukewarm or cold water using a neutral detergent. Make sure it’s the same pH as what you used for modifying, either by adding some citric acid/lemon juice/white vinegar OR baking soda/washing soda.


Green vs. pink

These are the two color options, both made with the same set of flowers. Left is green - modified with baking soda. Right is pink - modified with citric acid.


If you have any questions, I am happy to help. I hope you will enjoy this colorful practice and find joy in little things this spring.

 

If you want to get a clear overview of the world of plant dyes,
I recently published a small ebook about all the dyeing basics.
You can find it here:


And if you are ready to start diving deep with your dyeing practice,
check out my “Mordants for natural dyes” ebook
with useful tips, recipes, and alternatives, available on Etsy.


Thank you for following along! If you are interested in behind-the-scenes of my handmade business, you can find me on Instagram. If you’d like to receive my monthly thoughts on self-employment and creativity, add your email to my Substack subscribers list.