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.



8 thoughts on “Eco printing with maple leaves on vintage linen

  1. Dear Wendy,
    I just wanted to send you an email to tell you how very much you have inspired me with your eco prints!
    I have been working with a women’s weaving cooperative in South Africa for the last 10 years. (
    We desperately need a new product that isn’t handspun, hand dyed and hand woven for tourists to stick in their bags.
    I have India Flint’s book and great visions of creating eco printed cotton scarves with the indigenous plants, particularly the acacia.
    If you have any words of wisdom or encouragement we would greatly appreciate it.
    I leave on Aug. 15th and will be working with them for a month.
    thank you for your beautiful fibers work!!
    Judy miller

  2. The post is still helpful. I’ve started digging into my vintage linen stash to prepare eco dyed fabric for the long winter isolation ahead. Thank you.

  3. Very helpful. I just got 10 yards of linen to “ play with” and want to eco dye then sew garments. I have only eco printed once and on silk, but hopefully now with your tutorial can get started! Thanks!

    1. Hi Cindy! Scour the linen well first in very hot to boiling water mild soap (not detergent) and a tad of washing soda; then mordant with alum acetate – this gives me best results for prepping cellulose fibres for eco printing.

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