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Tutorial: Floral Dyed Kerchief

by Irene Rasetti |

To celebrate the month of March, and the anticipation of Spring,  I wanted to share a fun beginner tutorial on floral bundle dyeing you can do in the comforts of your home! In my previous post, I gave some insight as to how to gather and collect flowers and foliage and store them for future dye projects. Let’s use some of those goods as we create a floral dyed kerchief. 

For this tutorial, you will need:

  • A piece of cotton cloth
  • Soy milk
  • Twine
  • Vinegar
  • Flower petals (I’m using marigolds, hollyhock and delphinium) but you can use whatever you like!
  • A pot (do not use a pot you use for cooking!)
  • A colander

Creating colour on cloth naturally requires a lot of attention in the beginning stages.  Preparing your fabric correctly is super important so that the dye will adhere to your fibre. Washing your fibre, known as scouring in the natural dye world, means to cleanse it deeply. You need to strip away any wax and oils fabric contains from all the processing it has been through. After the cleansing, you need to mordant your fabric to make it colourfast. Mordanting is an essential part of natural dyeing as it is what creates the bond between fibre and dye. Protein fibres and cellulose fibres work differently and require different methods.

For our tutorial, we will work with a cotton kerchief that I have mordanted with soybean. This is a centuries-old method and works very well in assisting your cotton fabric in retaining and absorbing more dye than untreated cotton. A useful way of exploring this is by testing out a piece that has been treated, and one that hasn’t! You will surely see the difference in your results.

Making your own soy mordant from the actual beans is fun and simple to do, but you can also buy soy milk (unsweetened and unflavoured), and it will work as well. 

In a bowl, mix one part soy milk and three parts water. Before immersing your piece of fabric in the bowl, soak it for twenty minutes in lukewarm water. Then, ring out the excess water and submerge it into your soy/water mixture. Stir it around, taking care that all parts of your fabric are absorbing the mixture. After twenty minutes or so, ring out the excess and hang it to dry. Repeat this method three more times. After you are done, you can work with your fabric right away, or let it cure for some time. The longer you allow your mordanted fibre cure, the better the results.

Always remember. The natural dye process requires time and patience. Now we are ready to play with our flowers and create runny, painterly colour on cloth.You can use dried flowers, frozen, or fresh. I always prefer to enjoy my arrangements and garden blooms for as long as possible before using them for dyeing.

 1. Take your blooms and create a pattern on your cloth. Take your time; be creative, mix different things. There are no limits to what you can use and how to lay it out. 

2. You can also add things to your bundle such as little metal pieces, copper bits, lemon peel. These types of things alter and change your results and create unique patterns for your piece. Once you are happy with your design, carefully roll it up, fold it and bind it all together to create a lovely little bundle.

3. Once you have bundled up your piece, soak it in a bowl with a little bit of vinegar and water.

4. Now place it in a colander over a pot of boiling water and let your bundle soak up the steam. Let it sit there for around a half-hour to forty-five minutes. You will see the colour slowly start to release itself and bind to the fabric. 

5. After 45 minutes. Can you see the colour and how much our bundle has changed? 

The unveiling.

6. After it dries, iron it out to set the print. Can you see how much the colours shifted as it dried? Can you notice the moodier tones where the metal pieces had been placed? Such a pleasant little surprise, isn’t it?

 I hope you get a chance to try this out and have some fun with it! If you would like to learn more about this lovely, artful process, join me at one of my workshops!

*The workshops listed on my website are currently sold out, however if you would like me to add you to a wait-list for the next class, please send me an email and I will make sure to do that for you. Or, if you have a group of friends you would like to share the experience with, we can arrange a private class! Drop me a line and I would be happy to organize it.

Have a wonderful month of March!