leaves and berries and tea, oh my!

ecoprint scarfNatural dyeing takes a whole new (ancient) path with direct application of dyestuff to substrate…in other works, ecoprinting!

There are wonderful resources in books and on the interwebz and in workshops for this beautiful and serendipitous process — this post captures my first attempt (of likely many more) at ecoprinting and hopefully inspires you to try.

A big thank you to Pat for leading us through this in a demo/mini-workshop at AC15w2!

set up

  1. gather necessary components: substrate (I used a silk scarf), string for tying bundle, stick or something to wrap bundle around (optional)
  2. prepare mordants appropriate for substrate fiber and printing dyestuff: during the workshop we  used iron and vinegar,at home I used alum because I had it handy
  3. steamer: a pot and steamer insert that is only used for dyeing–don’t use anything that is also used for food!

gather potential dyestuff

  • DO have fun gathering dyestuff, use common and uncommon sense and take all proper safety precautions, consult the wonderful variety of resources for dyestuff that will yield results you’d like to see, check the cupboard for tea or coffee or anything else that may leave beautiful stains, look around the yard or garden for great dyestuff (I’m trying carrot tops since they made such a great yellow dye on wool yarn)
  • DON’T gather on private property, make sure if you gather on public property that it is okay, don’t use rare or endangered species, be very careful of anything that may be harmful to humans or pets or anything else

tap into your inner artist

these steps are all based on the materials I used, your materials and results may vary. ta quick search should result in a lot of great resources with much more detail; these are just quick notes of my first attempts

picture of ecoprinting layering dyestuff
ecoprinting: adding another layer after first steaming
  1. dip the scarf into mordant (1/2 tsp. iron in 1 qt. water) and lay it out flat
  2. lightly mist with vinegar (no dilution)
  3. dip a leaf or flower petal into mordant and arrange on scarf; repeat
  4. sprinkle with additional dyestuff (I used black tea leaves and cochineal bugs, others used instant iced tea mix and blackberries)
  5. (optional) take a picture! (I forgot to do this the first time, but it would have been a nice reference)make it  a lasting commitment
  6. starting at one end, place the stick on the scarf and roll snugly to the other end
  7. tie tightly with string — or optionally roll in plastic that won’t melt in the steamer and tie with string (the plastic option is good if you are steaming multiple bundles and don’t want the dyes to contaminate their neighbors; if merging dye is pleasing to you then by all means skip the plastic)
  8. ecoprinting: non-fancy steamer of dye pot and 2 cans with lids removed from both ends
    ecoprinting: non-fancy steamer of dye pot and 2 cans with lids removed from both ends

    steam the bundle for a while — this is pretty open, my first bundle steamed 20-30 minutes and it printed well on the inside but not so well on the outside. stems and sticks will take longer than leaves — this is a try it and check results step!

  9. carefully remove from steam bath — tongs are a good idea–and allow to cool
  10. remove string and open the bundle — open the first few inches and if there is not enough print then retie the bundle and steam a bit longer
  11. remove the dyestuff and allow the scarf to dry in the sun, cure it for a few days (shade is ok) before washing

My first attempt in the workshop yielded some lovely results and some area where there wasn’t much happening, so after returning home I repeated the process using alum as the mordant and browsed the garden for carrot tops, tomato leaves, dandelion leaves, and camellia leaves for a second layer. Some folks in the workshop did an indigo dip around the edges — wish I had some photos of the stunning results.

So…try it! There are great resources with very detailed steps that should help guide your own creative process.

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