Eco Prints for a Midwinter’s Day

Hems that got ripped off in irritation when my stitching went awry (see previous post) are nevertheless not to be wasted. They present a fine  new challenge: components of a  new textile. E.g.  They might be inviting as silken woven nest materials for elegant and princely local  birds and squirrels…

Last eco prints of 2011.

The last new eco prints of 2011 are for my “Silk Roads” collection of long shawls (100″ x 25″). Silk Roads 3 and Silk Roads 4 were printed with rust, safflower petals (dried, AKA “False Saffron”, cheap, from the local mid-east grocery), Darjeeling loose tea (Twinings, not that cheap), and enough red cabbage (not cheap either – from California) to mingle with the safflower to give a hint of chartreusey green-yellow as well as  some light blue-greys. Not quite a 100-mile dye  series in the Ottawa winter. So to allude to the travelling, the series is entitled “Silk Roads”

I wanted “midwinter” Ottawa colours: Soft ice blues (so not so much red cabbage), dead-leaf browns (less-is-more with the dried tea leaves), cloud greys (blues and browns poetically mingling), ochre-yellow sandstone  yellows (yellow safflower petals consorting with black tea ); weather-beaten iron-rust claiming dye and print rights over all…  

Silk Roads 3

Silk Roads 4

Another view of Silk Roads 4

Detail 1:

Detail 2:
Winter dye sources

 The dye stuffs for the “Silk Roads” series of ecoprinted shawls come from my kitchen:  cabbage, tea, false saffron and a rusty iron corn stick pan. Such will be the most reliable sources of dye colours for several months yet, for I have decided not to “import” dye stuffs grown elsewhere (as far as possible – we do have a lot of snow here…) but to at least stick with what I can buy at the grocery store, or have saved from my garden and environs.

The last greeneries amd blooms from my garden (outdoors but some from indoors, too) produced these prints on long silk (100″ x 25″) shawls:

Fall Bouquet:

The bright red-oranges are from faded dahlia blooms,  blues from (winter) Ice Pansies, yellows from dead tagetes, dark green-greys from rose leaves, bright greens from perennial geranium leaves, purple-greys from prunus cistena (Purple Sandcherry). Sigh.

Fig and Oak

Sounds like a good name for a corner pub as well as for a silk shawl.  Oak leaves blown in from a nearby tree, fig leaves (ficus carica) from my indoor plant; some cotinus coggygria, too, to avoid predictability. The blue cotinus print overlapped with the fig yellows.

Maybe “Oak and Fif” instead of “Fig and Oak”? Not sure about the linguistic protocols for the naming of pubs – perhaps some linguist out there would know… Anyway, here is the large oak leaf (variety not known) print in detail:

While the dried fall oak leaf printed with precise brown dots in outlines, the fresh indoor fig leaf splurged its juicy green everywhere.

Next posts:

New Year Surprises…

1. I do have to update several of my  other pages about dye plants, stitching vintage textiles etc…

2. The City of Ottawa has also purchased some of my art this year for its permanent collection…I am beginning a new series “Forest Floor” for a show at The Trinity, a public (city) gallery here in Ottawa next July. It will be my first opportunity to show all my eco and rust printed and stitched work  in one place, vintage and otherwise.  I am planning to document the collection here. I am interested in working on the concept of “disruptive patterning”, (AKA camouflage) with which eco printed textiles have much in common in my opinion. 

“Camouflage” references: 

This first book accompanied a  most interesting textile and camouflage media exhibit at the Canadian War Museum (Ottawa) a couple of years ago:

And this second book  is a classic on the topic of camouflage patterns on cloth and anywhere else:

A happy and blessed holiday season to all who happen by this blog and a happy and blessed new year, too.  Thank you for reading  and sharing.




Stitching Eco Printed Textiles: Studio Notes 1

I have been preparing some of my silk and silk- blend textiles as shawls and scarves for my shows this December. But  my carpal tunnel and arthritis is acting up, thus sewing by hand will be torture for a while until it flares down again… Some of my solutions meantime:

1. Dharma Trading pre-rolled hem on silk-wool blend…but I wondered (too late, I admit )about the age of the stitchers and the thought made me uneasy…

2.  Hmm. So I rolled my own on another silk-wool blend, cut yardage this time:

3. When the handwork gave much stress on my wrist, I elected to use (for the first time) the blind hemmer attachment that came with my sewing machine …But said an incantation, lit a candle and did a dance around the studio first:

4. The above ritual worked about 70% of the time but not well at the corners – though often  better if I slipped some watersoluble paper under the foot when I started stitching…The hardest textile to sew was the 8mm or 10,, silk habotai.

5. So next I tried  running stitch by hand, CTS be damned (using variegated rayon thread):

6. Then I gave the wrist a rest again, skipped the blind hemmer for a turned hem and tried simple straight stitching along raw edges instead for an “edgy” look:

7. I did two rows of stitching in variegated rayon thread to suggest embroidery; then for another type of finish, some zig-zagging along raw edges:

8. Finally, some creative repair when I snipped the eco bundle strings with scissors instead of unwinding them by hand (no patience that day…) and cut into the silk:



9. Solvy and free motion embroidery to the rescue:

I will repeat the machine stitching over the surface  -might have to forego the hand embroidery for a while!

Next post: Last eco prints of 2011!

Christmas blessings to all.



Eco Prints with Red Cabbage: Kinder Chemistry

A little fun with the Red Cabbage dye I cooked up for one of my recent silk-wool panels.

The dye bath: One half of a red cabbage, chopped and simmered for an hour in my aluminum (Pot As Mordant) turkey roaster gave this deep purple dye. In that I simmered a silk-wool bundle which gave a soft lavender-grey. 


o each jar was added 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of alum acetate powder (mordant) and a few bits of boiled cabbage:

Lovely blues! Now to modify the colours with additions of acid and alkali:

On the left: Just Red Cabbage dye. Centre: 1 teaspoon cider vinergar (5% acid) Right: 1 teaspoon household ammonia.  The acid pushes the blue cabbage dye towards reds while the alkali pushes it towards greens.

Set the jars on a sunny windowledge. Dropped into each jar a skein of white cotton embroidery thread (vintage Beldings), not previously mordanted or wetted (but alum was added to the jar) . Left to sit in the sun inside the house for a few hours (no cooking). 

The skeins are somewhat different in shade of blue. The pure Red Cabbage dye on the left gave a deeper lavender shade, while the acid changed the colour slightly to more bluish. The suprise here is the ammonia modifier: it drove the green  into the Red Cabbage (which was purple at the start) to make it dark green; and left the white cotton skein white in the end.

(That is sort of how things work with safflower dyes -see previous post on the process of obtaining red on silk from a yellow safflower dye solution by messing with acid-alkali levels).

Here the white cotton skein “surrogate” collected the green colour from the alkali solution and discharged back into the cabbage, dyeing it green.  Wow. Not getting a PhD in Chemistry any time soon.

Next post: Sewing up those eco prints for the show!  Hemming torture.  Any relief out there?





Eco Prints on Silk-Wool Panels: Dyeing from the Stash

Once having printed successfully on paper with frozen plant material, I tried  it on textiles, a set of six silk-wool panels.

Panel 1: Forest Floor

Immersion dyed first in Red Cabbage (lavender-grey; fresh);  then eco printed with Blackberry leaves (dry), Rose leaves and Rose hips (from the garden, still fresh (three bundlings); iron dip for greys and greens; ammonia dip for greens. On the dark side, with not much variety in the range of colour values: so a fine candidate for “Jane-ing It Up”, as in Jane Dunnewold’s signature Art Cloth. BTW, a lot of shrinkage in the length and width with all those steamings – but not much felting, just a bit of rather nice “crepeing”.  A detail pic:

Panel 2: “November Eucalyptus”

Seeded Eucalyptus (previously used for another print, then soaked again) This gave the “seedy” orange dot-look; Cotinus Coggygria (frozen); bundled over cherrywood with bark attached. The blue is really quite greyish from  the  bundling stick. (Does it look like pepperoni pizza?…) Detail:

Panel 3: November Smokebush

Eco printed first with Japanese Maple; “Baby Blue” eucalyptus; steamed over Red Cabbage dye leftovers; then eco printed again with Cotinus for strong design elements; over iron rebar, for the lavender-greys and stripes.  Details:

Panel 4: Tiger Pink

“Baby Blue” Eucalyptus (dried) bundled over catalpa pods (dried) and copper pipe; long pre-soak for the eucalytus (four weeks in a sealed jar); long steaming (four hours) gave coral oranges as compared to the previous yellows from a two or three hour steam-bath. Another view of “Tiger Pink”:

And a detail:

Panel 5: November Rose 1

Like Panel 1 “Forest Floor”, this panel was pre-dyed in Red Cabbage, but the first bath so the colour was  deeper, pinkish as compared to blues (acid – alkali things going on…) A gentle background colour to receive the last of the green rose leaf prints. Standing in worthily for rose blossoms are red onion skins, and for floating  petals, teas: black tea and nettle tea (no greens though). An ammonia dip to call out the greens and three bundlings to build up the layers of colour. Goodbye, Rose. See you in June. Detail:

Panel 6: November Rose 2

Blackberry leaf and Rosa Canina (Dog Rose)

R. Canina was rootstock to another rose that died – and now she is all over the garden, with her apple scented leaves and sweet, flat, fragrant single whorl of pale pink petals and thick golden stamens. I cut the last of her leaves for “November Rose”. Bundled over copper and steamed an hour or so.

Of course, I do not know if the next time I pull plants out of the freezer that they will print nicely, but at least I have a stash to try during the long Ottawa winter; some dried and some fresh (from the florist or even under the snow) will find their way into the work, too.

Next post:  Kinder Chemistry with Red Cabbage. I have not seen the inside of a chem lab since O Levels…Not promising much, alors. Just a little magic with vinegar,  ammonia, Red Cabbage and some skeins of cotton embroidery thread.

Last pics of the collection:

..and again:


Eco Prints on Paper: Leaves out of the Freezer!

Can one print successfully with dried or frozen leaves?  Dye tradition says that certain dried plant materials will colour fabric, and India Flint documents successful colour extraction from frozen flowers.   

For winter natural dyeing here in Canadian Zone 4 (Ottawa) , I have been drying plant materials and putting others in the freezer, particularly those  that have worked nicely for my recent eco prints. This time I tried printing some of the frozen leaves on paper.

I used two kinds of paper, watercolour 140 lb (Canson) and my own handmade embossed papers.

Handmade paper (20 mins in alum water before steaming)


Eco print on handmade, embossed paper: Sweet Gum
Eco print on handmade, hot-glue- and lace-embossed paper: Sweet Gum and Chokecherry
Collection of leaves, eco-printed on handmade, embossed papers. Yes, strange smudges of purple emerged..
Sweet Gum on hot-glue- and lace-embossed handmade papers, from the other side.
Eco prints on water colour paper ( with a quick pre-soak in alum water)
Two sheets of paper enclosed a collection of leaves; sets of these were stacked , weighted down with bricks and steamed in a turkey roaster:


Eco printed Japanese Maple, previously frozen.
Eco printed Cotinus Coggygria (Smokebush), previously frozen.
Eco printed Chokecherry, previously frozen.
Eco printed alder leaves, previously frozen.
Collection of eco printed leaves, previously frozen.
Eco printed Ginkgo leaves, previously frozen.
Details from the watercolour paper eco prints:
Japanese Maple and Sweet Gum eco prints
Japanese Maple  eco print- blue!
Blues: Cotinus and Japanese Maple eco prints
Japanese Maple
Honour Roll for this post
Cassandra Tondro: Check out her image tutorial on the process of extracting natural colours from leaves onto paper ( and some fabric). She asks on her blog :”What can I do with all these things I have printed?”
Note on alum: I understand that alum is used in the making of watercolour paper. Would explain why the colours seem to take so much better on watercolour paper than on my handmade stuff?  I did not soak the papers very long, maybe 20 mins while assembling the project.
Next post: Frozen leaves eco printed on silk -wool panels. What worked on cotton rag paper …. 
Sorry about the clunky editing…