Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bundle Dyeing

I am really enjoying tinkering with dyes, it is truly an addictive past time, and SO easy! The garden, fields and woods at River Cottage provide plenty of suitable specimens with which to dye, so I seem to be constantly stuffing things into jars and marvelling at the results.

The most awesome thing about it all, is the joyous surprises. Of pulling a piece of fabric from it's dye bath and watching it's colour change radically on contact with air or water or even washing soda. It is truly exhilirating and the children are also intrigued and keen to take part.

My lack of utensils has meant I have been limited to solar dying in jars, so imagine my delight when I stumbled upon these...



These vintage aluminium jam pots were an absolute steal from my local carboot sale. They are the perfect size for larger pieces of fabrics and bundles. The nifty carry handles and shaped pourer work a treat.


Needless to say, I set to work immediately with my fabulous new dye pots.
I collected oak leaves and a little reddish fern type plant (I am a bit slack with plant names, as you can tell!) to eco print on to the fabric.


These were then placed on to mordanted linen and cotton, carefully rolled and tied into bundles, and then tossed into a pre-heated dye bath of red robin leaves (photinia).


Now, I have used red robin before... I have not found any mention of this plant being used for dying, so was intrigued to see what the results might be. Some weeks ago I stuffed some alum mordanted fabric into a jar with the reddish green leaves of red robin, and left it to cure. I was hoping for a red or orange hue, and was dissapointed to find that the water and leaves went a rather dull grey. When I removed the fabric, it was the same colour as my white bra's after Simon has helpfully washed them with his black socks, a hopeless dirty white.

Because I was unsure if red robin is poisonous or an irritant, I decided to wash it in washing powder (Fairy non Bio to be more precise), and to my absolute delight, when I plunged the bra grey fabric into the water, both the fabric and water turned such a vibrant shade of acid green that it looked almost radioactive!
It is THIS that excites me about natural dying, what a surprising treat. The fabric dried to a lovely pale lime green.

So, I was keen to use red robin again, into the dye pot it went, with the oak leaf bundles.


7 days later, the water and loose bits of fabric are a glorious deep orange. I am unsure if this is due to the addition of oak leaves or something else, it is certainly a very different (but pleasing) result, when compared with my red robin jar experiment.


The piece of fabric on top is an old bit of muslin which I tossed in with the bundles.
I am going to leave the whole thing to sit as long as I can bare. I must confess I have already unwrapped one bundle, and there were no leaf impressions, so I wrapped and tied it back up and popped it back in, this time I will wait more patiently.


  1. love this colour, (bottom image) I am keeping my fingers crossed for this one.

  2. so intriguing! i admire your patience.

  3. Someday I will live somewhere that are trees! Actually I am moving there next week! I want to try this too. I would like to find cool jam pot too....

  4. the waiting is so difficult!! the current colour looks very promising indeed!! i feel almost as anxious about seeing yours as my own!!

  5. i have no patience either. only if i stick it in the jar and hide it from myself & hopefully forget about it. both that green & orange are fantastic!

  6. that colour looks gorgeous Tallulah...great mix. I must try that one. I currently have a pot with oak leaves/branches in, but I dont seem to get a great colour, will have to add some photinia to the brew.

    Also have a pot (just about at its end though) with a brew made from purple carrots. Very vivid colour and takes very quickly.

    Once you get the dyeing bug you're in trouble. Nothing is sacred!

    Would love to see a pic of your piece that turned vivid green after its wash.

    Loving your dyeing escapades!

    Jacky xox

  7. Gosh, I haven't been by your blog in a while and look, you have a whole new hobby. Natural dyeing sounds like so much fun. My mom has a set of craft books from the 70s and I tried a few of them for easter eggs back in the day -- onion skins make great colors, if you haven't tried that yet.

    Now to trawl through all the new-to-me posts... :-)

  8. Your excitement for this new hobby has overflown onto me. I must try this! Can not wait to go hunting about in the yard.

    p.s. Steve also ruins my whites. I know that dull grey color all to well!