kitchen towel directly after bundle dyeing, colorful

Bundle Dyeing With Natural Materials

Bundle dyeing with natural materials is a wonderful way to get started with natural dyeing. It is also a great possibility to reuse dyestuff or experiment with plants from your garden or even kitchen waste. Furthermore, it is a fun and simple natural dyeing technique you can do with children.

two colorful kitchen towels naturally dyed

For this tutorial, I decided to dye some more kitchen towels made from linen. I have previously shared a tutorial on how to dye fabric with natural dyes using the same kind of kitchen towels and dyed them with avocado skins. You can find the blogpost here.

Bundle Dyeing with Natural Materials Tutorial

List of Materials

Piece of FabricI used two kitchen towels (size 45 x 65 cm or 17.75 x 25.75’’) with a weight of 100 g each, made from 100% linen. You can use any kind of fabric made from natural fibers (like linen, cotton or hemp).
Soy MilkTo enhance the fastness of the dyes, I pretreated the fabric with soy milk. The soy bean proteins form a physical bond between the fabric and the dye.
DyestuffYou can use a variety of plants, kitchen scraps and botanical dyes like onion skins, logwood, cochineal, reseda, dried rose petals and madder. These are just some examples of the dyestuff I had on hand.
four glass jars filled with natural dyestuff
PotYou can use an old pot or acquire one just for natural dyeing purposes.
Steamer Basket (optional)Using a steamer basket is optional. Since I was looking for a result with some more defined speckles instead of the different colorways flowing into each other, I decided to put the fabrics in a steamer basket and not directly into the water.
Bucket or Wahing PanTo scour and wash the fabric
Kitchen ScaleTo measure the soy milk
TieTo keep the fabric rolled up. I usually use some kind of packaging cord or jute twine.
Dish SoapWhatever you have on hand. This is used to scour and wash the fabric.
Mild Laundry DetergentThis is the one I use and can recommend. It is gentle and doesn’t have any smell.
GlovesTo protect your hands

Precautions: Don’t use the same pots and utensils for natural dyeing that you use for food preparation. Always wear gloves. Creating the dye solution and the dyeing process itself should be done in a well ventilated area.

Step-by-Step Bundle Dyeing Tutorial

Preparation

  1. Prepping the fabric

The very first step is to wash your piece of fabric. Use the same temperature and spin cycle you would normally use for this kind of fabric.

white linen kitchen towels in a stack
  1. Pretreating with Soy Milk

To increase the color fastness of the dye, I decided to pretreat the fabrics with soy milk before dyeing them. To do so, I followed the method from Rebecca Desnos. You can find the details either in her book or on her website. You can use both store-bought soy milk or make your own from soy beans.

white kitchen towels in a bucket filled with soy milk and water

The fabric gets dipped into a bucket filled with soy milk and water and dried afterwards for a total of three times. After the third dip and once the fabric is dry, Rebecca Desnos recommends to wait at least a week before dyeing the fabric.

Natural Dyeing Process

  1. Applying the Dyestuff

This is the fun and creative part. You simply take as much or as little dyestuff as you like and sprinkle it onto your fabric. You could either go for a symmetrical pattern or place the pieces randomly.

  1. Bundling

The next step is to first create a roll and afterwards a bundle. To do so, roll up the piece of fabric from the short sight as straight and tight as possible. Then you can roll up the fabric again (see pictures) to create a bundle. Wrap the bundle tightly with some twine so that it won’t unravel during the dyeing process.

  1. Steaming

As I mentioned above, using a steamer basket is optional. You can also place the bundles directly into the water. In my case, I only added a little water to the bottom of the pot so that the bundles were sitting in the basket above the water. Then it is time to heat up the water and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Let the water and bundles cool down completely before taking the bundles out of the pot. Afterwards, unravel the bundles, carefully remove or shake out the dyestuff and hang the fabrics to dry.

  1. Ironing

To enhance the color fastness, iron the fabrics.

  1. Washing & Drying

The next step is to wash your fabrics simply like you would normally do with the kind of fabric you used. Then hang the fabrics to dry. And you are done!

a kitchen towel with colorful speckles all over it

What I love about this dyeing technique is the fact that every piece you create is truly unique. You never really know how the end result will look like. And it is such a great and sustainable way to use kitchen scraps or dye material that you utilized before and that still has some color potential in it.

Pin It For Later: Bundle Dyeing With Natural Materials

bundle dyeing with natural materials pinterest graphic

Further Educational Recommendation:

Jamie from The Barefoot Dyer has an awesome YouTube channel where she shares information about dyeing fabric with natural dyes. Her Instagram account @thebarefootdyer also contains lots of valuable information.

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