Natural Dye Bundle Dye Kit Instructions Guide
Nature is truly extraordinary, with modern convenience we have at large become significantly disconnected from traditional practices. Skills used for generations due to culture, tradition or necessity. Fortunately we are finally experiencing a textile revolution and we are now embracing nature’s colours!
Some benefits from dyeing with our kits :
Learning to understand nature’s chemistry
Creating a connection to our earth
An environmental perspective
A purpose for time management
Developing an eye and appreciation for attention to detail
You will need :
- An old saucepan (with a lid ) with a steamer is ideal or a rack of some sort the bundled can sit on away from the water while it steams, you can also use this saucepan if large enough for fabric to move freely for tannin and alum acetate process. Saucepan should be either stainless steel, enamel - unchipped or aluminium.
- Small bowl/container for mixing
- Stirring spoon or stick
- Rubber gloves optional
- Face mask to use when mixing powders
- Area large enough to lay our fabric out flat to place dye powder and flowers out of wind.
- Additional fresh flowers you may want to use from your garden. Saucepan and container should not be still infuse for food. Op shop or garage sale or old ones no longer used for cooking are best.
Step 1 - PREPARING YOUR FABRIC
- Fill a bucket with hot water to soak your fabric in overnight prior to starting to work on it the next day
Step 2 - TANNINING
For this next stage you can use your saucepan if large enough or a bucket is good too. Handy if using a bucket to have something you can cover top of bucket with to retain the heat as long as possible.
- Fill your saucepan with the hottest tap water. Put mask on for this process In your small bowl/container add hot tap water, then add your tannin and stir to dissolve. Once dissolved add to saucepan with hot water and stir. Remove mask
- Wring out as much water as possible from your fabric that has soaked overnight in a bucket and add to your saucepan with dissolved tannin and gently stir to allow tannin to move around and through your fabric. Keep stirring for approx 5 mins and then approx every 10 mins for next hour. Keep lid on in between stirs to keep water warm. Allow to sit in this mixture for at least 2 hours and overnight is even better.
- When ready to remove wring our and give quick light rinse in cold water.
- Empty your saucepan and give a quick rinse out then refill with hottest tap water.
Step 3 - MORDANTING
Put your mask on for this process.
- In your small bowl/container add hot water then add Alum acetate and stir to dissolve. Once dissolved add to saucepan with hot water and stir. Remove mask
- Wring out as much water from rinsed fabric and add to saucepan with dissolved Alum acetate and repeat process exactly the same as what you did with the tannin.
- You may want to use rubber gloves here - When ready to remove from the Alum acetate rinse gently in cold water and now you are ready for the fun part!
Step 4 - DYEING
Something to think about at the beginning is if you want to dye the whole piece of fabric as one or if you would like to cut it up to create different colour combinations. We have included 3 different dye powders - Pomegranate gives soft yellows, Sappanwood gives reds and pinks and mixed with pomegranate gorgeous oranges and cutch gives soft delicate browns. You can use a tiny bit of the dye or the whole lot, the more you use the stronger the colour. You can sprinkle a little bit of each or stick to a colour combo of your choice, a tiny bit of powder goes a long way. Then add your dried flowers and fresh if you intend on using them.
- If you want to cut up your fabric now is the time to do that, even though fabric is wet.
- Lay out your wet fabric and add all the colours and flowers you desire, remember to be free of spirit as there is only a certain amount of control nature will allow and she will often take you on a journey of discovery with her.
- Once happy with what you have done roll up your fabric as tightly as you can ( like a sausage ), by doing this the colours will transfer from the front to back to give you an all over colour once completed. Once rolled up really tightly use the string to tie around and around your bundle to keep the sausage nice and tight. Remember to keep enough string at the end to tie off tightly when finished.
- Ready for steaming!
- Add around 5-10cm of water in your saucepan, add steamer or rack, then place your wound up fabric on steamer/rack, put lid on saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce heat to strong simmer and leave for 45 mins. You can turn fabric half way through this time, carefully as steam is hot, use tongs or stick! Keep an eye on the water level too, you may need to top it up if its gets too low.
- Once time is up remove lid and allow your bundle to cool in pot for a while until cool enough to handle safely.
- You can now untie your bundle and see what beauty you have created. Spent flowers can go into the compost. Give fabric a good shake to remove any bits and pieces and allow to dry overnight. Next day you can give it an iron with the steam setting on iron then a wash in cold water with a bit of mild detergent and rinse until water is clear then allow dry. You never have to re mordant with tannin or alum acetate if in time you want to re dye your fabric, tannin and mordanting is a once in a textile lifetime process, done well the first time is good for life.
Visit our Natural Dye Glossary for more information on Cutch, Pomegranate & Sappanwood.
Step 5 - CARE following Dye Process
Once you remove you fibre/fabric from a dye bath there are several options of what comes next. As with the entire process of natural dyeing this choice derives from experience.
It is best to remove excess dye stuff from your fibre/fabric so a light rinse to achieve this is recommended, a light rinse in cold water with no detergent.
You can then hang fibre to dry out of direct sunlight. Some dyers like to allow a “curing” stage, that is they like to let the dyed item sit for a few days to rest. After this time you can then wash your dyed item in a neutral ph detergent, some like warm water some like cold water.
Some dyers don’t bother with this “curing” stage and proceed to rinsing with a neutral ph detergent in cold or warm water straight away.
One thing to be aware of is some dyes, such as cutch, can continue oxidising once removed from vat. So if you hang cutch to dry on a line and it hasn’t been spun in a washing machine cycle or wrung out really really well you may find the dye gather at points on your cloth, oxidise and give a variation in your dye result.
The most important thing to remember is when using a soap/detergent/powder that its ph is neutral, as in 7, or as close to as possible. Know your water sources ph as sometimes old pipes contain copper, boar water is hard, there are many variables.
Please visit our Care guide for advice on ongoing care of your natural dye cloth.
Health and Safety
It is advised to wear a mask when weighing out and mixing dyes, fine to remove once dye is in liquid form.
Yes these are natural dyes but for lung health any dust/powder is best kept on the outside of the body!
Rubber gloves are recommended when hands go into water with minerals such as Alum, Alum acetate, Iron, Calcium carbonate, Soda Ash.
In regard to the disposal of what you will be using it will be safe to empty onto your garden as there will be an exhausted quantity of alum left in the water. All mordant and tannin baths can be reused with a minimal top up so no need to dispose of after each use, exhaust your baths as much as possible. If uncertain when disposing test the PH level, you are aiming for the neutral zone close to 7.