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Hone Your Craft

How to Turn Flowers and Leaves into Exceedingly Gorgeous Fabric Dyes

Hone Your Craft BY genevieve ang 05/09/2017

When Sara Dudzinsky isn’t busy making magic for her earthy chic jewelry line Better Late Than Never, she’s in the kitchen dyeing up a storm. We’re not talking Manic Panic, either—her M.O. is bundle-dyeing, aka eco-printing, which involves wrapping plant fodder like flowers, maple leaves, and even onion skins in fabrics and gently soaking them to produce to-dye-for prints. Check out her super-easy guide below (and start rounding up those peony petals while you’re at it).

 

GATHER YOUR MATERIALS

  • Natural, light-colored fabric or clothing
    “Protein-based fabrics like silk and wool take color the easiest. Plant-based fibers like cotton will work too, but the colors may turn out lighter. Just don’t use synthetics like polyester.”
  • Plant stuff!
    “I like to hunt down fresh flower petals outside on a windy day, but you can also buy some at the store. If you’re not into flowers, just pick natural materials rich in color. Fall is an especially great time to forage—freshly fallen leaves that have just turned color work great.”
  • Cream of tartar or powdered alum
    “You’ll use these for mordanting (more on that in a minute), which will help to prep the fibers to receive and retain more dye so you get richer colors that last longer. You can easily find both in the baking aisle of your local grocery store.”
  • A large steel pot or a bamboo steamer
    “It’s best to dedicate whatever you’re using to dyeing, especially if you are planning on using materials and plants that might be poisonous to humans.”
  • A kitchen scale to weigh your fabric
  • A spool of thick thread or kitchen twine

 

PICK A TECHNIQUE

“First, you need to  choose between steaming or simmering your bundle. Steaming will leave a clearer imprint, and simmering will provide more of a tie-dyed look. If you’re steaming, you’ll also need the bamboo steamer. I usually simmer my bundles because I love to see how the colors bleed and blend. If you’re simmering, you can skip right to the next step. If you’re steaming, you need to mordant your fabric first. You can find detailed steps on how to do that here. The basic idea is that you’ll need to weigh your dry fabric and then add 10% of that weight in alum and 5% of the weight in cream of tartar to your water bath.”

 

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WRAP IT UP

Lay your fabric out on a flat surface, and place the flowers or leaves on top in a pattern you like, then tightly roll the whole thing up like a burrito. The tighter you roll, the clearer the imprint will be. Bind the whole thing with string and secure the ends.”

 

GET INTO HOT WATER

“If you’re steaming, place your bundle in the bamboo steamer atop a pot with a few inches of water in it, just like steaming some vegetables. If you’re simmering, fill your pot with water, add the fabric, and keep it on a gentle simmer. Low and steady heat is boiling the water can harm protein fibers, especially silk. Keep this going for one to two hours—any longer and the colors will become duller.”

 

JUST CHILL

“Let the bundle cool and then roll it out, brushing off the petals or leaves. You will have a totally unique and awesome pattern! Unbundling a finished piece and seeing it for the first time always feels a little like Christmas morning to me.”

 

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