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That Time I Fell in Love with Bundle Dyeing

Posted by Becca Hovey on

In February 2022, just around Mardi Gras time, tickseed flowers were beginning to bloom in scattered bursts around Galveston. 

aerial photo of feet standing in field of yellow tickseed flowers

I had been waiting for this. For months I had been itching to try tickseed, or coreopsis, as a dye material and had recently taken an interest in bundle dyeing. I had a friend in town from Wisconsin (she can confirm that the damp winter cold of coastal Texas is surprisingly cold!) and we agreed that after a weekend of full Mardi Gras immersion it was the perfect project to wind down her visit.

We gathered fresh blooms, leaving plenty for pollinators, and I brought to the table my collection of dye materials. On our mordanted bandanas we scattered dyestuff such as ground madder root, avocado skins, onion skins, and our flowers. Once satisfied, we rolled up our bandanas and tied the bundle with butcher twine. Using a designated steamer basket and dye pot (don't mix your cooking and dyeing tools) we let them steam for about two hours. We then practiced our patience by allowing the bandanas to cure overnight.

The next morning we found we were not disappointed by the results! I saw the possibilities bloom in front of me as I unwrapped my bandana and admired the resulting pigments. Reds, golds, pinks, and even a sprinkling of blue scattered across the fabric. I knew I was hooked.

I spent a lot of that Spring diving into this newfound passion, combining different dye materials, patterns, and mordanting techniques. I decided to combine bundle dyeing with my blockprinting practice and add another dimension to the dyed bandanas. I have loved the results and sharing them through my shop has been such a joy.

I want to end this post by choosing a favorite dye material for bundle dyes... but I can't do it. Is it the warm golden hues of onion skins? The dusty pink of avocado skins that deepens in color over time? Or is it the red color and petal impressions of the coreopsis flower?

I'll let you decide.


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