How To Natural Bundle Dye

October, 4th 2022

There are many ways to naturally dye clothes and it’s becoming one of my favorite hobbies. Most natural dyeing techniques involve collecting a bunch of flowers, making a dye bath, and submerging the clothing. However, there is a little bit different approach to natural dyeing called bundle dyeing. Bundle dyeing involves taking the flowers or plants you would make your dye bath out of, and wrapping them up in the clothes you want to dye with, forming a bundle. This bundle will take on the color and print of the flower or plant when you remove it from the dye bath. It’s essentially a natural tie dye!

I wanted to make a vibrant, naturally dyed jumper for a friend and her newborn. I chose to do a bundle dye method because it’d result in a little more pattern and vibrant color. The results were stunning!

Fresh herbs we picked for the bundle dye.
Fresh herbs and flowers used for designs and color.

Why Choose Natural Dyes?

Natural dye is made from plants and flowers. That’s it! That means the result is no harmful chemicals come in contact with your skin on a daily basis. You can still get vibrant colors and beautiful, natural tones for your clothing.

To get the plants used in natural dyeing, check your garden, or local nature reserve. Just make sure you choose organic! If the plants are not organic, they could contain harmful chemicals that would get into the dye bath. The goal is to eliminate these chemicals and still get beautiful natural materials.

If you don’t have access to a garden or nature reserve, you can find natural dye materials at craft stores, online retailers, and even grocery stores. For this tutorial, we used a combination of plants and flowers freshly harvested from the garden as well as dried flowers and plants.

Dried flowers used in the bundle dye
Preparing an outfit for natural dyeing

Plants and Flowers used in Natural Bundle Dye

You can use a variety of different plants and flowers when doing a bundle dye. Since you are looking for patterns on the clothes as well as color, you can include herbs such as garden sage and fresh rosemary. Below are a few of my favorite plants and flowers to use when bundle dyeing:

Equipment Needed

Besides flowers, the only other equipment you need to do a bundle dye would be:

  • A large stainless steel pot
  • Strainer basket for steaming
  • Scale to measure the weight of fabric and mordants
  • Cloth of your choice
Bundle dyed outfits in the steam bath
Unrolling a naturally dyed towel.
A few different natural bundle dyed socks.
Close up of naturally dyed socks.

Steps to Natural Bundle Dye

Doing a natural bundle dye is a pretty straightforward process, but leaves a lot of room for creativity. Let’s run through each step.

Step 1: Mordant and Scour Clothing and Fabric

Before doing any natural dyeing it’s important to mordant and scour each piece of clothing or fabric. This step will remove any waxes or chemicals from the factory and prime your clothing to uptake more of the color. For more on this step, check out my post How to Naturally Dye and Upcycle Clothing.

Step 2: Fill Stainless Steel Pot with Water and Heat

Now you don’t want to fill the pot all the way with water! You just want enough to heat on the stove and place the steamer basket over. Unlike the natural dyeing process where you submerge the clothing, you just want to create steam. Your clothing will go in a bundle on the strainer basket.

Step 3: Build your Natural Dye Bundles

This is where creativity comes in! First, flatten your fabric. Next, take your plants and flowers and organize them in any way that you like on the flattened fabric. You can create any design that comes to your mind! Finally, roll up the fabric with the plants and flowers, secure it with a rubber band, and place it into the strainer basket.

Step 4: Let It Steam

Let your fabric steam for 1-2 hours for the best results. This will allow the color from the plants and flowers to bind to the fabric creating beautiful colors and patterns. Be sure to rotate and turn your bundles ever so often. After 1-2 hours, turn off the heat and let the bundle cool for at least a few more hours, overnight if possible. Be sure to keep the water inside the stainless steel pot filled, this will keep the steam going.

Step 5: Unroll and Hang Dry

Now it’s time to take a look at your beautiful, bundle-dyed designs! Unroll the bundle, discarding (or composting) your plant material. Then hang the fabric to dry. Once dried, wash with PH-Neutral laundry soap for best results.

Once you get the process down you can batch work a variety of clothing all at the same time. The advantage to bundle dyeing fabrics instead of using a dye pot is you can do a whole bunch of colors and designs at the same time. You don’t have to create a new dye bath for each color since you are steaming the clothes instead of submerging them.

Where to Get Fabrics

Personally, I love thrifting linen or cotton fabric and clothing. By naturally dyeing these fabrics, I can breathe new life into them and save the clothes from the landfill.

However, it can take time to find these clothes. If you don’t have that time, I’d recommend Etsy. Just look for organic cotton clothing and fabric.

Hand washing the naturally dyed outfit gently.
Close up of the bundle dyed outfit.
Hang drying some bundle dyed outfits.

I can’t wait to see what you create! For more information on natural dyeing check out the additional reading below.

Additional Reading