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Natural Bundle Dyeing with Slowstitch Studio

Posted by Serge Tishkin on

Natural Bundle Dyeing with Slowstitch Studio

Our Natural Bundle Dye Kits have arrived!

We're super excited to be launching these, especially with all the social distancing and isolation going on right now. As the whole world slows down there's a natural pull towards introspection and reflection everywhere and it's a perfect time to be nurturing one's inner crafter.




The idea for a dye kit popped up back in March when we were about to be giving some of our first textile workshops in Bangkok. The schedule and supplies were all sorted out and everything was ready. Then suddenly, on the day before the class the city came to a halt and lockdown ensued. All events were cancelled, our workshops included.

While it was the right thing to do there was always some sadness at having to leave our students hanging on. So we started working on a solution to bring some of our natural dyeing magic straight to their hands. Hopefully with these resources more people can enjoy the empowerment of creativity, help ground themselves through craft and end up with a rad original silk bandana - all in one go!

Please note - you can totally use these instructions with your own fabric and dyes! However, if you'd like to get the same results as us you can follow along at home with our dye kit.



Firstly, the fabric. For best results it should be pre-treated with a mordant, preferably alum. Otherwise the colors will not stay. Silk with a natural sheen is best however other fabrics such as cotton will work too - but your colors might not be as vibrant. In our kit we use 100% silk satin (the same lusciously smooth top grade of silk which we use for our own finished scarves) which has already been mordanted for your convenience.

Before you apply the dyes it's a good idea to wet the fabric so the powders don't fly around too much. It doesn't have to be dripping wet, just damp.

Then it's time to sprinkle! You can use dried natural dye powders, dehydrated extracts, eucalyptus leaves, flower petals - experimentation is key here. We love to use marigold flowers as they give a deep golden color while also imparting a distinctive petal mark onto the fabric.




There are no rules here at all. Dyes can touch each other and blend to create color combinations. Personally we love to go overboard and put loads of powder everywhere for bright saturated hues, but you can go minimal with just a few dashes. It's a good idea to not forget the edges of the fabric here and make sure you sprinkle them too. 

With this method the dyes will bleed through multiple folds of the fabric, creating abstract mirrored effects. However if you would like to maintain a more defined composition just place a layer of plastic wrap over the piece once you've finished sprinkling it. This will stop the dyes from bleeding through and your design will not be too crazy. Important note - if you go this route and if your fabric has a right/wrong side then please make sure you've applied the dyes on the right side. How do you tell which side is the right one? Usually it's the side that's more shiny. But if you're not using a layer of plastic wrap to block your design off from bleeding through to the back then there's no need to worry about that.

Once you've applied the dyes it's time to compress the fabric into a tight bundle. As long as the bundle can be made tight any way is OK. Rolling from corner to corner, across the fabric, folding it origami-style, etc, are all viable ways.




When you've made a cute little bundle bun it's time to wrap it with some string. Go around a few times and just wrap it tightly enough to keep it all together. The idea here is to maximize contact between the dyes and the fabric.




Once that's done you can pop it into a steamer for 1-2 hours. We like to line the steamer with a parchment paper so that there's no risk of burning the silk or leaving any unwanted marks. You can certainly steam it for longer or leave the bundle to cool overnight, but we find that the colors get a little bit too dark for our liking. 1-2 hours seems to be the sweet spot for getting bright lively shades.

If you don't have a steamer at home - fear not! You can improvise with a colander suspended inside a pot with 2 inches of water. Pop on a lid and it will work just like a steamer. Alternatively you can wrap the entire bundle in plastic wrap and leave it to simmer in a pot of water (no higher than 80°C/176°F).




After the fabric has cooled a little bit take it out, cut the string, give it a few washes until the water runs clear and dry it in the shade.

And that's it!

Here are two examples of the results we've achieved with this bundle dyeing technique - our Meadow and Leopard silk scarves.






Hopefully we've inspired you to go out and create your own wearable masterpieces! Since this technique is so organic and unpredictable each one really does feel like its own separate artwork.

Want to make your own? You can find our kit right here.

If you'd like to see all of this in action we've created a short video of the entire dyeing process:

Happy Dyeing!

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