Seek Process: How to Use Your Seek DIY Box
With the launch of our updated Seek DIY Box for natural dyeing and hand block printing, we wanted to take it further in helping you use everything you receive in the box. We made two videos, one for natural dyeing and one for hand block printing to assist you in getting started since we can't be with you in person to do so. The art of hand block printing and natural dyeing is a huge part of our work at Seek Collective and we love being able to share our passion of them with you.
Included in the box:
- The Seek Collective Mudra bandana, which was naturally dyed and then hand block printed
- 1 Jar of dried organic marigolds and dried roses
- 1 Packet of turmeric powder
- 1 Packet of madder root powder
- 1 Packet of alum (mordant for natural dyes)
- 4 Hand carved printing blocks from India
- 2 Colors of fabric ink (jacquard textile color)
- 1 Palette and roller for ink
- 2 Plain white cotton bandanas for you to dye and print
- 1 Apron
Other things you will need:
- Stainless steel pot(s) with lids
- Stainless steel strainer that fits into a pot with a lid
- Stainless steel tongs
- Stainless steel spoon
- Stainless steel strainer
- Rubber bands
- Empty glass jar
Natural dyes should be used on natural fibers such as cotton, silk, and wool. The turmeric will create a brilliant yellow shade and the madder root will create shades of red and pink, depending on the material being dyed. Make sure the material being dyed is pre-soaked in water before adding to a dye bath as this helps the color absorb evenly.
To create a dye bath with turmeric, bring water in a stainless steel pot to a light simmer and dissolve turmeric into the water with stirring. Add in the fabric you’re going to dye and stir to make sure the dye is evenly distributed. Keep warm (can be lightly simmering but not a roaring boil) for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Keep covered when not stirring. Once complete carefully remove the fabric with tongs and rinse with water. Let dry and sit for a day before washing. Use 20-25% turmeric powder to total weight of dry fabric. Also note turmeric will dye most anything! So work carefully to keep the dye on your fabric and not splashing elsewhere.
To create the dye bath with madder root, follow the above instructions for turmeric. The only difference for madder is that you will need to add alum into the dye bath as this will allow the color to adhere to the fabric (madder needs a mordant). You might also want to strain the dye before adding the fabric as there are tiny bits of madder floating around. All else remains the same. Use 20-50% madder powder to total weight of dry fabric (50-100% for richer, deeper color). Use 20-25% alum to total weight of dry fabric.
For these two dye baths you can also try your hand at tie-dye, using rubber bands to tie the fabric!
With the dried flowers you can create a textured effect. Soak the fabric in water that already contains alum for at least 30 minutes. Use 20-25% alum to total weight of dry fabric. While the fabric is still wet, lay it out flat. Arrange the flowers on the fabric in any way you’d like. You can add fresh flower petals too and experiment with other types of flowers and leaves. Roll the fabric in on itself, containing the flowers, then around a glass jar and secure with rubber bands. Add this fabric/flower bundle to a covered stainless steel pot for steaming. After at least 40 minutes, remove safely with tongs and once it's cool enough, untie the bundle. Rinse thoroughly with water and hang to dry. Make sure you use alum in the soaking water before doing this technique, or else after you wash with soap and water, the colors will be lost. Please note colors made with marigolds and roses can shift over time and in direct sunlight.
You can also use the marigolds to create a dye bath. This will yield a pale yellow. Make sure to use only the marigolds, for if you mix the roses in the color will be muddled. To create this dye bath, you must extract the dye from the flowers. Add the marigold flowers and water to a stainless steel pot with a cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the flowers out of the water. Add the colored water back into the stainless steel pot and add alum. Soak your fabric in water separately, then add it to the dye bath. Stir, bring to a simmer, and keep covered until desired color is achieved. Keep in mind it will dry slightly lighter. Rinse thoroughly with water and hang to dry. Use 20-25% alum to total weight of dry fabric.
Hand Block Printing
We included four wooden printing blocks that were hand carved by artisans in India. The fabric ink we have included can be used as is straight from the jar. Put some of the ink on the palette included in the box and spread evenly using the roller. You can either roll the ink on the block or dip the block onto the palette to pick up a coat of the ink. Then place the block where you want it to be on the fabric. Pound the top of the block handle with the side of your fist to make sure all the ink gets on the fabric. Use some force when doing so! You can overprint or touch up with a paintbrush or your fingers if you want to fill in any spots. Once done let it dry completely. To set this particular ink, iron on the fabric where printed with a piece of newspaper between the iron and fabric for 30 seconds.
There are endless ways to create colors and patterns using these two techniques. What we have included both as far as supplies and in terms of instructions are very basic. Here are some other resources we love, should you want to explore these techniques further:
- House of Print: A Modern Block Printers Journey Through Color, Texture, and Pattern by Molly Mahon
- The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar
- The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr
- Eco Colour by India Flint
Remember to have fun and enjoy the process. We hope that in trying these techniques out, you can appreciate all the work and time that goes into each Seek Collective garment too! Be sure to share your results with us as we love to see your creativity!