After taking a shibori class at Buaisou Brooklyn where I learned about indigo dye, I’ve been looking at color, especially in my own textiles at home, in a new way — and I’m obsessed with learning about natural dyes. Buaisou farms their own indigo in Japan, ships it to Brooklyn and creates a special indigo vat that is laboriously cared for. I quickly realized that having an indigo vat in my small Brooklyn apartment that has no outdoor space or a slop sink just wasn’t possible. What could I do at home? Enter bundle dyeing!
If you’ve ever been curious about natural dyeing, this project is a great introduction. Bundle dyeing is playful, full of chance and very easy. I used everyday items to dye with that you probably already have in your home or fridge, like fresh and dried flowers and food scraps. Usually, these dye stuffs are soaked in water to extract the color, but here I’ve taken dye materials, wrapped them in cloth and steamed them. That’s the gist of bundle dyeing, very simple with surprising and beautiful results.
I chose the materials based on what was easily accessible and for the colors they could yield. Avocado skins create pinks. Onion skins and marigolds can make yellow and orange colors. Red cabbage can give purples and blues, and berries more pinks and reds. I love the idea of creating dyes with my food waste, last week’s flowers that are on their way out, or picks from a morning walk. There are so many things that can be dyed — carrot tops, used coffee grounds and tea bags, barks, leaves, grasses, plants, nuts, berries, even rusty objects.
So here’s your chance to play with color and create your own Bundle Dye Table Runner. Search out natural dyes that are in your own home or backyard. This project is truly a chance for you to have a creative color experiment. —Jessica
While not all of my dye stuffs yielded the colors I thought they would, it was incredibly fun to make this table runner. After steaming my fabric I waited 24 hours to open my bundle and curiosity was eating at me — Would it work? How would it look? What colors would I get? In the end, the avocado skins and dried lavender didn’t seem to yield much color, but the lavender made the bundle smell so good as it steamed and even now the fabric is still lightly scented. Lavender also has antiseptic properties and is a natural insect repellant, so this is now infused into my fabric. For my second bundle I used marigolds and red cabbage, which did not smell good at all during the steaming. The combination of warm and cool tones on this runner make it perfect for the upcoming fall season.
-Fabric, washed and cut to 14 x 90” (I used cotton fabric. Natural fabrics work best for natural dyeing. Silk and wool are also good.)
-Large aluminum, copper, or iron pot
-Stick, or pipe
-Double steamer or steamer basket
-Tin foil (optional)
Step 1: Prepare your fabric for dyeing. Make sure your fabric is pre-washed. In order for the dyes to set into your fabric you’ll need to mordant your fabric. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is a method called pot as mordant. (You can read more about mordanting for natural dyes here.) Soak your fabric in a copper, aluminum, or iron pot for an hour, then simmer for an hour, and let the fabric sit overnight in the pot. If you don’t have this kind of pot you can also soak your fabric in vinegar (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water) for an hour.
Step 2: Ring out any excess liquid and lay flat. Lay out dye materials on half of the fabric. Fold over fabric.
Step 3: Place a stick or pipe on one end and begin to roll. Wrap and tie tightly with twine.
Step 4: Steam for 1-2 hours in a double steamer or large pot. If your pot is not large enough to cover your bundle you can use tin foil to seal the pot. Every half hour, flip the bundle. If the fabric is tightly woven, you might need additional time in the steamer. Since I used cotton, I steamed the bundle for two hours. Let the bundle sit overnight. If you’re impatient, you can unwrap after the steamer, but letting it sit overnight helps get the colors to seep into the fabric. The picture below is just after two hours of steaming, and below is after letting the bundle sit overnight in the covered pot. You can really see the difference.
Step 5: Snip the twine and unwrap the bundle. Compost the excess dye stuff. Rinse lightly and remove excess water. Air dry and press. I used spray starch and was surprised that it intensified the color.
Step 6: Sew a quarter inch border around the raw edge of the runner. This way it is reversible.