Eco prints with Sweet Gum on silk broadcloth

The Sweet Gum tree (liquidambur styraciflua) is new to me. I found one in the National Capital Arboretum in Ottawa. The leaves are palmate and maple-like, and in a lovely range of fall colours,  displayed here on a stack of eco prints:

I bundled Sweet Gum leaves into silk with a few eucalyptus (round Baby Blue and oval Seeded Eucalyptus) They printed in a beautiful range of layered colours: yellow, oranges, browns, greens, greys – even dark blues. And a tad of chartreuse from the oval euc:

The leaves are most elegantly palmate, with long tapering points.This leaf eco print looks as if it has been stitched on with tiny dot-like stitches…and a companion print is eucalyptus seed:

An astonishing range of colours from Sweet Gum on alum-mordanted silk broadcloth:

The silk is new, not vintage. Next I will try eco printing Sweet Gum on vintage linens from my stash, some previously (this past summer) eco dyed one colour all over with carrot tops, marigold, hibiscus, apple bark and others; then perhaps with different mordants, pre-and post eco printing, to force  other colour changes.


Eco prints with eucalyptus and walnut on wool

The wool came from a recycled sweater, part wool jersey and part lamb’s wool. I mordanted the wool in alum for several days, cut the sweater into sections and bundled each section over a variety of supports: copper pipe, catalpa pods, dried corn cob, stripped cherry wood branch, eucalyptus stems, rough bark-covered branches. Acorns, rusty iron nails and staples were bundled in also.  The bundles were tightly wrapped in lots of cotton string (to give many kinds of marks), then steamed a while first over plain water, then simmered in a walnut dye bath. The outside of the bundles became rich dark brown, and areas  inside ,softer browns and greys from the walnut dye. The eucalyptus gave yellows and the iron bits, greys and blacks; the catalpa and the corn gave red-browns. Not sure about the copper – maybe it greened up the yellows to  bright acid yellow from the eucalyptus.  Some pics:

I snuck in a sprig of fern with the round Baby Blue leaves: they gave yellow and the fern gave greys:

2.  A range of browns and greys from walnut, yellow-greens from Seeded eucalyptus and blacks from rusty nails etc.:

3.  Dark brown walnut on the outside of the bundle, yellow euc’s and a circular print from an acorn cap:

4. Similar results but some blue-grey-black from the iron marks thrown in:

5. I like the contrast in this little wool canvas:

6.  The rusty iron bits leave great marks – and so does the acorn cap:

7.  Complex layering of marks and colours on  this small canvas:

8. This eco print made me think of the poem by William Blake:

Tyger, tyger, burning bright

In the forests of the night

What immortal hand or eye

Framed thy (awful?fearful?) symmetry?

9. Another view of the fern-eucalyptus print: a delicate and understated area, a contrast to the strong stripes in brown. It looks like a flowering bough.

 In  their next stage these small eco printed wool canvases will become one larger textile,  stitched and maybe felted. But that will be later in the winter when the garden plants are under snow and prints will be made from the materials in the stash – or at the florist.

Eco prints with eucalyptus

Three varieties of eucalyptus from the florist were used for my prints on silk: Seeded eucalptus with pointed oval leaves; a smaller oval leaved, unseeded variety (on the left) and the rounded leaf Baby Blue:

Seeded eucalyptus and “Baby Blue” eucalyptus plus another larger round leaf (unnamed) gave oranges, chartreuse greens and yellows:

The whole silk cloth:

The seed prints:

The whole stem prints:

 Red colours come from eucalyptus cinerea (with large round leaves) and are commonly named “Silver Dollar” eucalyptus. All varieties come to Ottawa from California but not all are available at all times… so I am waiting for some Silver Dollar next, to try the red print.

Next up: more eucalyptus prints on wool and with walnut dyes

Eco prints on paper with red Fall leaves

This is my first attempt at eco printing on watercolour paper. I collected fallen leaves for the prints in a range of red-orange- burgundy colours: none was green so the strong green-yellow print results were striking!   

I prepared the paper as for fibres such as silk , wool, linen, etc. by soaking  the paper in alum (10%) and water for a some hours. Just guessing with the alum percentage for the paper prints, though.

Then I layered the various leaves between sheets of the watercolour paper, about twelve sheets, stacked the pile  in my steamer (a vintage aluminum turkey roaster), covered the paper with my $2 bamboo cutting board (Mistake…the board fell apart later…) and a ceramic dish on top of that for extra weight and flatness, then steamed the papers for an hour. 

When the papers were dry (see pic below), and in order to induce colour shifts or outright changes, I used a Q-tip to selectively paint areas of the prints with modifiers/postmordants : iron liquor (5% vinegar and rusty nails), copper sulphate liquor (copper pipe bits in 5% vinegar). I dampened the paper a tad first with a spray of water. Basically I have used the same process to print paper as I have done this summer to print fabrics.

Here are the results of the paper eco print experiments, first round:

1. First,  a group of the prints drying:

2. Now a collection of Silver and Red maple and Korean pear leaf eco prints on watercolour paper. The brown wash is the result of staining by the iron modifier; the greenish wash comes from the copper liquor.

3. Two leaves, same kind, different colours: perhaps there was a lot of tannin in the leaf that printed dotty- black?

4. Prints washed with iron and copper liquor produces secondary brownish and greenish effects on top of yellow and black eco prints:  

5. Unmistakably maple, printed as if a water colour wash, no modifiers:

6. Prints washed with iron and copper liquor:

7. One key point about eco printing: I  notice that the back of the leaf with the prominent veins prints with the strongest colours and most distinct forms. So the watercolour paper touching the back  of the leaf (here) produced a different print from the paper touching the front of the leaf (and this is  consistent with how leaves print on fabrics).

Print from the back of the leaves:

 ..and prints from the front surface of the leaf: I tinkered with the print colours- iron and copper liquor washes blur the edges more and add shades and layers.

Next posts: Sweet Gum and more eucalyptusco prints on silk and wool.

P.S. We have a big frost forecast for tonight – I have read that tagetes give wonderful colours when frost-bitten (so says Dyer Divine, Karen Leigh Casselman) ..they are out there waiting…

Eco prints with Black Walnut, Eucalyptus and Catalpa Pods on silk, wool and vintage linen

So the Black Walnuts were steeping in a plastic bucket outside on the deck, with another bucket of dye (marigold) on top to keep the squirrels and the raccoons out.


 Only a mess and 25 walnuts left… that hairy, healthy squirrel culprit:

So I tied the walnuts up in a vintage damask  linen tablecloth and simmered them in a dye pot of their soaking liquid:

I left the linen soaking for several more days because walnut dye does not colour deeply on linen but a longer steep can add depth.

Next tried was the walnut dye on wool,  a vintage (sallyann) sweater, part lamb’s wool and part wool jersey, with the seams cut out.  To make the eco bundle, I layered on Seeded and Baby Blue Eucalyptus (from the florist: I can’t grow eucalyptus in my USDA Zone 4 garden so  I cheated) as well as some  rusty nails and bits, then rolled the sweater parts over fat twigs, copper pipe, even catalpa pods and eucalyptus stalks; then  tied each bundle  up with lots and lots of cotton string wound round and round to make lots of string marks; steamed a while; then dunked them all into the walnut bath, leaving them to simmer at 160 – 180 degrees for an hour or so:

The outside of the wool bundles took on the dark brown of the walnut dye with string resist marks. The inside of the bundles took on dye leaks in paler browns and the eucalyptus dyed yellow;  the rusty bits dyed black..and one other bit was an acorn cap – it made the circle print. More:

Yellow eucalyptus prints, brown walnut with string resist, and – ta da! -a Red Ornamental corn print on the left.  I wrapped one of the wool fragments around this ear of dry red corn to make the eco bundle:

Even after steaming/soaking , the corn kernels remained dry enough for use in other bundles.

Here are the catalpa pods – they  print dark red  brown. I used them to wrap the textiles around as well as for printing: 

Marigold -dyed silk bundled over several catalpa pods: 

And after steaming for an hour:

A detail look:

PS. Do not wrap the bundle in weird synthetic threads as I did for the catalpa pod print: the thread was melted by the steam and then bonded to the silk -I  had to scrape it off. 

 Next posts will be about eco prints with Sweet Gum, eucalyptus and maple – plus eco prints on water colour  paper.

Eco prints with Black Walnuts on linen

A bucketful of green Black Walnuts was left soaking in water to cover …but the squirrels got the top off the bucket and generously shared half the walnuts all around the neighbourhood…After that, I got smart and weighed the bucket lid down with a heavy bucket of Golden Rod dye. Into the pail of walnuts in water I dropped a tie-dye linen bundle: another length of that vintage damask tablecloth I have been using this month for maple leaf eco prints. I tied the walnuts into the linen with elastic bands and left them for five days. This is what they looked like after that long, cook soak in clear water:

2. ..Then I took off the elastic bands from each bundled walnut…

3. …to reveal the walnut starbursts:

4. …rinsed off the excess dye in cool water (the darkest areas came from walnuts that had started to decompose)…

5. ..washed the linen with a squirt of Ivory Liquid dish soap, then rinsed and ironed it:

 The damask linen had been pre-mordanted with alum though I understand walnuts need no mordant. The colours range through sand, beige, grey, tan and yellow and the marks are beautifully layered. All that from a long cool soak in the pail of water and walnut under the October trees:

Next eco dye session, I will try out my “new”  pot – a vintage aluminum steamer I found in the sallyann:

The flat steam tray will allow me to lay bundles flat for steaming, and to stack papers as well as fabric for eco printing.

Until next time,


More eco prints with golden rod, marigolds and maple leaves on vintage linen

The fields and ditches of Ontario were yellow with Golden Rod in late September. How not to pick some? A trip of some 700 kilometers and acres and acres of gold like this to look at:

 An armful of Golden Rod gathered from beside the road and a potful of (park) marigolds, deadheaded, gave  plant materials for immersion dye baths as separate colours and mixed. Most dye authors advise that it is OK to mix any yellow dyes and so I tried it with my vintage tablecloths described in these October posts. I wanted to try eco prints on both coloured textiles and white ones. So far, I have eco printed only naturally dyed textiles, the ones I have dyed myself using garden or foraged plants.

Golden Rod can be used a few times to extract dye. This batch of linen was dyed with a mix of marigold and golden rod colours. For one contact print with the Golden Rod plant, I first dyed the vintage linen in a long cool soak in a Golden Rod/marigold mix dye. I left the cloth for two weeks in the dye bucket while I was busy with an art show.  Then I used the cooked Golden Rod material for the contact print. For a second contact print on another vintage cloth, I laid out fresh Golden Rod on white linen :

 After dyeing and /or eco printing a couple of times with the Golden Rod, a began using maple and other leaves to obtain another layer of prints:  there are lots of images! They continue to show the linen panels in my “Forest Floor” series:

1. A broken, layered image of a maple leaf. I like the “incomplete” effect. And the white damask woven motifs reflect the light. Another layer of interest to exploit for meaningful content in the art work.

2. Delicate. Ephemeral. Fragile. Like the linen.

3. A transparent effect to the marks in this one.

4.  More broken marks – and a water colour effect

5. Marks of  a  memory of a leaf

6.  Somehow,  a bird flew in…

7. Golden yellow and dark brown marks from a red and green leaf…

8. Swirls of marks. The dark brown pointillist effects are from the Korean pear leaf, wearing red and brown for Fall.

Other marks and colour effects

To some vintage linen panels (dyed and printed as above and as shown in the previous day’s post) I added a tablespoon of iron liquor (rusty nails in 5% vinegar) to shift the colours to grey-green, and a dropperful (dropped here and there on the textile) of copper sulphate (copper pipe bits in 5% vinegar)  to shift the hue towards a brighter green, as in these four examples:

1.Interesting variations – I like the splashes of yellows (copper) and the greying (iron) of the pointillist marks

2. You can see a leaf print in the top left corner…the iron gave the damask a look of well-shone  pewter, a warm , low sheen. Delicious, silky, touchable.

3. Another layer of marks and colour to add interest4. Another view of the previous iron-modified eco print:

Eco prints from other plants

Now an eco print made with Fall asters (Michaelmas Daisies) and red marigolds on Golden Rod-marigold dyed linen: first the dye, then the ecoprint, as before.  Note that the greens (below) are quite different from the green-yellows of the previously- shown prints. These greens come from the calix of the marigold. Rather more green comes from the calix here than orange from the flower petals. Is that because these flowers are day-length and temperature sensitive? In July, the orange is far more assertive than the green. In October, green rules! I understand from my studies that frost-touched marigolds give spectacular colours. I am looking forward to the frost – only for that. The bright yellows in this eco print are from the Fall asters: 

And here are some images of the flowers used for this eco print:

Red mari

…and asters, pink and purple:

“Aster” means “star”

Last pics in this series of eco prints on vintage linen are of oak leaves. Hmm. I will have to try these again and maybe other kinds of oak – these leaves were large and very green and waxy…but I did NOT get a good impression or colour transfer… so that is a fine challenge for future dye experiments. Meanwhile:

Oak leaves eco print

 I photoshopped this image to crank up the contrasts;  it is much less distinct in reality:

More oak eco print on vintage linen, as before, pre dyed with marigold and Golden Rod:

 I used nine oak leaves for the eco print but only two (above) made any impression. Next time, I will ensure that each leaf is in tight contact with the textile surfaces when I steam the bundle.

Walnut leaf eco print on mari-Golden Rod dyed vintage linen (another image photoshopped o improve the contrast):

Last note: Here is the whole “Forest Floor” collection of eight vintage linen panels. During the winter ( o those long cold snowy nights without dye plants to gather…) I hope to  be stitching some of them, taking them to the next stage of cloth as memory and pilgrimage.

Next dye sessions will be with more Fall plants and on silk as well as vintage linen;  some experiments with walnuts;  some eco prints on paper and some preliminary stitch work on the eco printed panels I have done this summer and fall.


Eco printing with maple leaves on vintage linen

Some serious stash busting today. Two lovely white vintage damask tablecloths  woven with leaf and chrysanthemum flower motifs entered the dye pots and emerged as new creations.  Maple leaves and walnuts were the main plants I collected today, the nuts for another day of dyeing, and the leaves for an eco print. Here is the grove where I collected the nuts: even though it is Fall, we see hardly any loss of green leaves yet!

Before gathering the walnuts, though, I first had to pay my respects to this venerable Tree Soul in the walnut grove:

Today was maple leaf print day – from the Silver Maple tree in my garden :

I scanned these leaves to show you which colours  I chose  for the eco prints today.  So many colour surprises on the textile later, even when all the vintage linen was treated the same way and the leaves were similar shades.

To prepare my linen for eco printing, I pre -mordanted it in alum as usual, tore my tablecloths it into eight long strips,  dropped the strips  into a prepared dye bath of tagetes marigold and golden rod mixed and left the cloth in the cool bath for a couple of days in the sun to take up the colour. No other heat was applied.

As usual, I strewed the plant material over the surface of the textile, rolled it up tightly over a stick, bound the bundles with string and elastic bands, placed them (two or three at a time)  in the steamer pot over boiling water and steamed the bundles for an hour or so – or until I saw a lot of colour.

In the marigold-golden rod immersion dye bath, I find that linen dyes paler yellow than silk but darker than cotton.  The damask motifs often show darker yellow than the background linen so their pattern become more prominent yet still contributes harmoniously to the overall surface design along with the eco printed leaves. 

Some of the eco prints are very precise clear,  many are diffuse. That is the combination I like best for I an seeking a multi-layered look that communicates mystery, depth, ambiguity, subtlety… More  Monet than Morris. This series of cloths is entitled “Forest Floor”. When leaves fall to the ground in layers beneath the trees of the forest, some retain their forms for a long time while  others disintegrate beyond recognition very soon, in the eternal cycle of birth, death and regeneration. This is the world of insight and feeling I want to communicate in these pieces.

There are a lot of eco print images today – it was hard to choose only a few!

Fall leaves on vintage damask linen:

1. Some Korean pear fall leaves (also red) with the red maple leaves: 

 Green, brown, turquoise, even blue  eco prints!

2. Different areas of the same textile print different colours:

3. The damask motif shows beautifully with the eco printed maple leaf.

4. Layered effects in the eco prints and the damask motifs

5. I find the variety of colours and forms and marks obtained from the leaves is astonishing; thus every area of the textile surface tells a new story and nothing is ever repeated. I suppose the different concentrations of fall tannins in each leaf in contact with the dyed and mordanted cloth is responsible for the uniqueness of each print. 

6. This leaf printed at the edge of the cloth. I like the spotty-dotty effect of the broken surface eco print.

7. Beautiful layering, broken edges, diffuse forms…more Monet, less Morris in  printing technique.

8. The fragility of the vintage textile informs and confirms feeling in  “Forest Floor”

This print recalle a sepia tint photo. Amazing that such a variety of colours and forms appears in the prints despite using the same dye, mordant and textile for the printing surface. Although I do not know that history of the tablecloths…naturally they will have different laundry history that will affect dye take up. Think of the meals and the guests at the table over the years…

Enough for today. More images of maple leaf eco prints tomorrow if I have time.


Eco Printing with Lichen, Perennial Geranium, Purple Sandcherry and Saskatoon Berry

My first eco printed Art Cloth, a completed silk panel,  ready to hang, is “Forest Floor 1”.

  This panel was ec0 printed several times: first dyed bronze with lichen (forest floor refuse, lobaria pulmonaria most likely; photo below), then over printed with dried safflower petals (carthamus tinctorius, sold cheaply at mid East groceries as a saffron substitute). Most curiously , the safflower bleached out the bronze lichen dye to give pinkish-gold speckles wherever the dried safflower petals were in good, close contact with the textile. Following those two layers of colour and print were  Perennial Geranium (G. sanguineum) leaves,  Purple Sandscherry (Prunus Cistena) leaves and Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier Alnifolia) leaves,  applied in succession to give a range of greens and even turquoises.  Detail 1:

and another detail shot of “Forest Floor”:

The colours of the leaves (above) applied in late summer/early fall and on top of lichen and safflower were quite different from colours printed by the same plants earlier in the summer and on cotton and linen: see images below.

Geranium in June on linen:

Purple Sandcherry (prunus cistena) in July on silk:

..and below: the Saskatoon Berry bush (amelanchier alnifolia) in July. The berries are in my freezer for dyeing or maybe jam and the leaves are turning flame-red-orange now that it’s October.

 The Saskatoon Berry bush in fall, sans berries. A green oval leaf shape is clearly printed on the Forest Floor panel. Wonder what colour the fall leaves will give?

 And here is perennial geranium on crochet-lace-trimmed cotton that was tannin dyed-mordanted and twice mordanted with alum. The lighter yellow-green comes from sumac leaves, my source of tannin in the alum-tannin-alum mordanting sequence required  pre-dye-bath for cottons and linens. The darker yellow print is the geranium leaf. 

 Finally, the lichen that started it all in this silk Art Cloth panel:  I am not sure of the name so am guessing lobaria pulmonaria.

…and the safflower petals that removed the bronze lichen dye to create little pink-yellow spots:

In the Mid East grocery where I buy the dried safflower petals, the label reads “American Saffron”. Jenny Dean’s book “Wild Colour” describes interesting dyes that come from safflower – both yellow and red-pink. Jenny’s description there partly  explains the pink and yellow dots that arrived on the bronze lichen silk but not why the lichen was bleached out by the safflower. That kind of dye chemistry that is beyond me.