Turn food scraps, flowers, and plants into wearable art with bundle dyeing, an easy, non-toxic, and sustainable technique that extracts beautiful colors from everyday natural materials. The process, good for any natural fabric (silk, wool, cotton, or linen), uses dyestuffs (whole dye plants and extracts) that are playfully spread onto fabric, bound into a bundle, and steamed to release organic color. Upcycle an old garment or bundle dye a piece of silk to make this go-to spring accessory.
What You’ll Need
35" x 35" light-colored silk fabric square
Stainless steel pot with lid
Alum mordant (available on Amazon or at any art supply store)
Dye materials (details below)
Yellow onion skin (yellow)
Red onion skin (green)
Red rose petals (purple)
Black tea (tan)
Turmeric powder (bright yellow)
Dried marigolds (light orange)
Madder root extract (red; available at botanicalcolors.com)
Cochineal extract (pink; available at botanicalcolors.com)
Wash Fabric: Add fabric, warm water, and a bit of mild detergent to a pot (A). Bring water to a simmer and keep simmering for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let fabric sit overnight in the soapy water for best results.
Mordant Fabric: Rinse washed fabric in cool water. Refill pot with warm water and dissolve ¼ cup of alum mordant for every quart of water (B). Bring to a simmer and let fabric soak for minimum of 2 hours. Let cool. For best results, let fabric sit overnight in alum mordant water. This will ensure the colors won’t wash out after it’s dyed. Rinse fabric and let dry.
Create Bundle: Spread fabric out and sprinkle dye materials evenly onto the fabric (C). Less is more when using natural dyes. Feel free to mix materials. Fold the four corners of the fabric into the center, add a sprinkle more of dyestuff, and fold in the corners again (D). Repeat this folding in process two more times (E). Finally, bind fabric tightly with string (F). You should have a small bundle that fits in the palm of your hand.
Steam: Place vegetable steamer in a pot with about two inches of water (G); place the bundle on the steamer and secure the lid. Steam the fabric bundle for 45 minutes on low to medium heat. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool. Remove bundle with tongs.
Reveal: With scissors, carefully cut string to release bundle. Shake off steamed dyestuffs, and view your beautiful dyed silk scarf (H)!
By Molly George
Photographed by Ashley Batz
Hair and makeup: Karla Hirkaler, using Glossier and Amika
Model: Chloe Mills at Red
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