I have always had an interest in creating natural dye from plants ever since my neighbour showed me the gorgeous colours she had produced from various items foraged from the farm.
Extracting the dye from the product is the easy bit, its all the preparation involved before hand that takes time and patience.
Ingredients and method for bundle dyeing below:
Items Required for Preparing the Material for Natural Dyeing
Square of silk or100% cotton material
Unsweetened Soya Milk
Items Required for Natural Dyeing
Distilled Vinegar (in a spray bottle)
Collection of petals, bark, sticks, leaves - all suitable for dyeing with
*Pan of shallow water
*Never use your general kitchen pots, pans and utensils. Buy yourself a set just for natural dyeing.
I used the following foraged items to create my colours…
Nettle leaves, Muscari, Peach Blossom, Eucalyptus, Pear Bark, Prunus leaves, Avocado Skin, Onion Skin, dried Hibiscus flowers, Heuchera leaves.
Preparing Material for Dyeing (The Fixer)
Wash your fabric in the washing machine on a delicate wash (with no detergent). Whilst washing your material, you can prepare the fixer. The fixer is a solution created to fix the natural colour into the fabric, so when it is washed or gets wet, the colours will stay in the fabric. Without the fixer, the colours will fade or may disappear when washed.
I used a natural fixer created from unsweetened Soya Milk. In a clean bucket use 1 part Soya milk to 5 parts clean cold water. Make sure your fabric is wet on entry into the bucket of water. Once the fabric is fully submerged in the fixer, leave it in there for a minimum of 12 hours. I keep my bucket in the garage which is cool, dark and up out of the way of Dug (I have caught him drinking from it before!)
After 12 hours, squeeze out all the excess fixer and hang on the line to dry. (Sometimes I put the wet fabric on a spin cycle in the washing machine, but it can make your machine smell a bit sour!) Once the fabric is fully dry, your material is ready for natural dying.
Lay your prepared material out on a clean surface and moisten the whole area with distilled vinegar from a spray bottle. Once your material is damp enough, start placing all the foraged items out on the material as per the photo below.
Once you are happy with the placement of items, spray more distilled vinegar over the material again and start rolling up your fabric like a swiss roll. You can see how I rolled mine up tightly and secured it with natural string.
When you have your little bundle ready, preheat a little bit of water in a pan and hang your bundle over the edge of the pan to steam. Be careful not to let the bundle touch the water. I put the lid on the pan and steamed it for 45 minutes or so, turning it round every 10/15 minutes. Wear a glove or use a long utensil to turn the bundle so as not to burn yourself.
After 45 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the bundle from the pan once it had cooled. It is advised to leave your bundle tied up for another 24 hours to create more intense colour (but I am way to impatient for this!!)
Cut open the string and carefully unroll it on a clean surface. Remove all the bits of foraged items and give it a shake out - this is the magical bit when you’ll see all the wonderful colour and patterns created from the natural items!
Give your material a wash under a tap or even put it on a delicate cycle in the washing machine with mild detergent. After washing, hang your material on the line to dry, once dried, iron it on a low heat.
If you wish to learn more about natural dyeing, I would recommend exploring these Natural Dyers
Rebecca Desnos @rebeccadesnos
Jenny Dean @jennydean298