Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bundle Dyeing with Ferns

While driving through the woods, I saw some beautiful egg-plant colored ferns growing along the edge of the road. These bracken ferns are green during the summer but turn a lovely purplish-brown in late autumn.  Their color intrigued me!  I thought I would bring some home and try India Flint's method of bundle dyeing on a silk scarf, hoping for some purple fern prints on the silk.

Along with the ferns, some dried blue hydrangea blossoms and some fresh Japanese Indigo leaves from my garden were laid out on the silk scarf.  Then I rolled the fabric with the plants along a piece of copper tubing, wrapping it as tightly as I could, and then tying the bundle with string, laying it in a dye pan and covering the bundle with water.  I had plenty of ferns left over after the bundling, so I crammed as many of those as I could into the water around the bundle.

After simmering for a couple of hours, I could see that the color of the dye water was still only a very light, dirty beige color, and I feared that this experiment would be a total flop.  So, I added some onion skins to the dye bath and simmered again for another couple of hours.  Then I turned the heat off  and let it set for a day.  I simmered again the next morning, then cooled and opened the bundle. 
The silk on the outside of the bundle had the most color.  Although the ferns did not leave colored prints on the fabric, they did act as a resist, thus offering some lovely fern design. There were a few bursts of green color here and there, but I couldn't tell if they came from the Japanese Indigo leaves or the hydrangea blossoms.  The end of the scarf which was on the inside of the bundle had some very pale color with very pale fern leaf resist patterns which was disappointing.

Not to be completely defeated, I added to the dye water about a cup of blackberry juice I had just strained from some wild blackberries taken from the freezer to make pie.  I still had visions of the lovely egg-plant color of those ferns dancing in my head.  I re-bundled the pale end of the scarf, with ferns and leaves and tied it tightly with string, leaving the other end of the scarf free.  The bundled end I put back in the dye pot, the loose end hanging out.  Another couple of hours of simmering followed, resulting in a lovely chocolate brown with some patterning.

The finished scarf: 


There still being quite a bit of color in the dye pot, I put two small skeins of alum-mordanted white wool yarn that had some acrylic black and blue flecks into the pot and simmered for about an hour, resulting in a gold color with a hint of olive.


  1. The scarf is lovely!

    1. thanks, trembling. It was not what I had originally hoped for, but I do love the fern designs. The color is growing on me.

  2. I love the subtle colors of the scarf, and the pattern you got out of your dye method. Beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Nicole. It was the "trial and error" method! :)