Eco prints with dried flowers

I like fresh flowers. During the winter, I saved roses and carnations from bouquets until I had enough to make a print. When the chuppah needed a break from me, I made another eco print from the dried blooms. I chose a fragment of dry, pre-mordanted (alum acetate) silk velvet, my first time printing this fabric. I soaked the cloth in water again and scattered dried red and yellow roses and dried deep pink carnations over the surface adding a wee branch of eucalyptus (it had been soaking in water) for the perfume plus a stick of liquorice ( a story for another day)

I rolled the bundle loosely and left it in a plastic bag in a sunny window for half an hour. Almost immediately the flowers began to give up their colours:

Pretty soon the outside of the bundle looked like this:

The inside of the bundle:

After only a short time, the colours had begun to mark the silk. It looked so promising.

Hmmm..should I leave the bundle to soak in the sun or should I apply steam heat as usual?

I tried the steam heat. After half an hour steaming, I saw that the rich pinks and reds and violets had begun to turn dark…I recalled that last summer, dried pink rose buds from a flower tea mix had dyed brown…better take it out of the heat. I let it dry then rinsed it: and most of the of the colour washed away, except for some dark red-pink and violet from red rose petals:

What next? A pot of five blue hyacinths getting dry, about ready to fade. Hyacinth flowers and leaves went in the wet bundle with more dried roses and carnations:



The hyacinth blues began to release right away, the greens from the leaves too, even before an hour’s steaming:


The back of the bundle, when opened after steaming: reds, pinks and purples from the roses, blues and turquoise from the hyacinth blooms:


Dried, rinsed and dried again:



Several dye authors recommend no heat at all for obtaining contact prints from fresh flowers, and instead, advise soaking, composting, pounding, pre-freezing or solar dyeing as processes for extracting eco printed colour. That advice might also work for some dried flowers used for eco prints. More What Ifs to come!

Next post: Depends…



Chuppah Poetry: Final Verses!

All the elements in the chuppah work together, integrating meaning and feeling, like words in a poem..the top, the sides, the corners, the appliques, the colours, the fabrics, the textures….


Those yards of edge -sewing thirty two ribbons… all done! The ribbons will hang over the poles at the four corners of the chuppah. They signify fringes, as on a prayer shawl. I am going to knot some of the extra long ribbons, to recall the knotted fringe. The ribbon fabric came from fragments of silks left over from the main work and also from months of eco printing experimentation. If the fragments were too short, I joined them to other fragments, mixing colours too.



In a funny way, the ribbons make me think of the Maypole we danced around as children…Thirty two 72″ + lengths of silk organza, two and three inches or sometimes one inch wide; silk chiffon and silk habotai edged with a narrow zig zag stitch in cotton thread, with yellows in the bobbin and blues on top… making greens here and there by a bit of “optical mixing” and creating a satisfying raised texture…


The zig zag is short and narrow, making a pretty finish to the silk, I think. I used a lot of variegated thread- a range of blues and turquoises and another of greens with brown.



Below, the ribbons are paired with a stack of sixteen eco printed fragments that are to form part of the side panels. I have read that natural dye colours tend to harmonise, no matter the shade. I do agree.

The small rectangles are edge stitched also. They make new colours when they are layered one upon the other. This characteristic of colour shifting and mixing due to the textiles’ transparency is one of the reasons I chose organza and chiffon for the chuppah. The Bride loves this feature.


Below are two pics of the small rectangular fragments before and after they were edged with stitching. The transparency adds so much surface interest, shifting forms as well as colours.


And this is what the rectangles became:


A bundle of four eco printed fragments, each appliqued with a small Mogen David (Shield of David, also known as Star of David), was stitched together with the rectangle set on point.

Here is the collection of the four sets of four small rectangular panels, making sixteen panels in all, to be added to the sixteen side panels, making a total of thirty two silk panels for the sides of the chuppah.


The little black buttons are vintage crocheted snap fasteners with loops so that the bundle of four fragments can be sewn to the side panels of the chuppah.

One part of the crocheted snap is sewn to the bundle of fragments, the other to the chuppah, as below:

The two parts then snap together as usual. The parts are made by starting a row of crochet in the holes of the snap….with very tiny stitches!…. then crocheting around a small wood ball, then closing the crocheted cover with a crocheted loop to attach to one side of the textile. Ingenious, exquisite little vintage furbelows.

Thirty two, BTW, is a significant number in Jewish sacred numerolgy. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet may be assigned a numerical value, The Hebrew letters “lamed” and “vav” have a value of thirty two when taken together. These two letters signify ” heart” hence their place on a wedding canopy.

That is what this canopy has thirty two panels, thirty two small Star of David motifs and thirty two ribbons.

Tomorrow the Bride will come to town to see the chuppah in person and to have a fitting with the milliner for her wedding headdress. Only a few weeks left!

Next post: the Avoidance Activities when work on the chuppah was not going well…I had intended to post on that today but was able to make chuppah progress instead!

Assembling the Chuppah: Almost Done

“Chuppah” means “that which covers or floats above ” ( cf. The New Jewish Wedding, Anita Diamant)

Silk organza and silk chiffon float nicely but they are not so easy to sew. Boy, do they slip and slide and stretch… and float away from your fingers. I cast my mind back to Needlework class at High School in England and to Sister Mary Joseph, our Needlework teacher, and all my wonky lapped, French and Run – and – Fell seams. Sigh. Indeed lovely. But time consuming. Could there be a less ” Slow Cloth” solution?

I tried a “short cut” to a faster cloth. What if I laid the textiles out on the wood floor, stuck it down with low tack tape and used the straight joints between the wood boards to true the fabric and to align the seams?


Not every “What If” works. All I got from this one was more wonky seams, just as in Needlework class. Several hours, some Avoidance Activity ( will report later on this) and much really picky seam unpicking later..

I was ready to heed Sister Mary Joseph’s advice: “Tack them in place first! “

It took me quite some time to baste four 72″ lapped seams but this is Slow Cloth and it was worth it. I even enjoyed it. The eucalyptus print panels were lapped to the Red Cabbage print overhead canopy after seam edges were zigzagged to reduce fraying/ and straight stitched for easy folding; then the seams were machine stitched flat. (I think the US for Sister Mary Joseph’s term is to “flat fell” a seam)

Next was the applique of motifs on the canopy. I had some misfortunes with the lettering on the canopy roof. For the English verse “His /Her Banner Over Me Is Love” I used very old fusible and so the letters peeled off after a few days…another lesson learned. For the replacement letters, figleaf motifs, Hebrew letters, Mogen David and Olive Branch appliques, I switched to new Steam A Seam Light. It took a couple of extra days to re-do the lettering but the results were satisfying.

Lettering lower left.


An Olive Branch entwines the letters on the canopy:


Fig leaf motifs in five layers of silk organza for the four corners of the chuppah, strong enough to support the poles and the canopy:

With a soldering iron, I burned holes in the fig leaf motifs for the screws on the finials to pass through, then fused the fig leaf “patches” to the corners of the chuppah.

The finial in place. We found the poles and finial on sale in the drapery department at a local fabric store


This house plant provided the template for the figleaf. Can you see a fig?


Remember the recent Red Cabbage experiments? These lovely blues and turquoises are now part of the chuppah.


All of these printed textile fragments are to be incorporated into the final phase of the chuppah construction as long ribbons or fringes attached to the poles at the corners. The ribbons go in groups of eight on each of the four poles to signify fringes, as on a prayer shawl.

Here are some of the ribbons in progress. The Red Cabbage blues are combined with fragments of other eco printed textiles in co-ordinating colours. The yellow silk is Golden Rod, the dark one is tea and rust printed, the light is a eucalyptus print, the blues are Red Cabbge.


The edges of the chiffon and organza ribbons need restraint and a narrow zigzag does a pretty job of edging. For readers cringing at the very thought of how long it might take to zigzag around 32 ribbons, 72″ long:

SURSUM CORDA! Lift up your hearts!

It took me ten minutes to make one ribbon after cutting it out: so six minutes to sew one ribbon, two more minutes to iron it and another two minutes to trim off the “beards” with my trusty little Fiskars snips. Add five minutes as guesstimate for cutting, so fifteen minutes per ribbon times thirty- two.

Thus, four hours to make the ribbons ONCE the printing is done…and the amount of time for eco printing is another story…Slow Cloth indeed.


Finally, here is a pic of part of the chuppah in progress with lettering and leaf motifs in place. The blue of the sky today (it was a ridiculous 80 degrees F here in Ottawa!! ) and the blue of the silk roof of the canopy look almost the same. That was the idea- for the Bride and Groom to look above their heads, for the canopy to disappear almost against the sky and see only blessings on their wedding day.


Last pics of the chuppah before the wedding will be to show the ribbons all done and the 16 small “buntings” or “prayer flags” in place. After the wedding (first weekend of May) I will post pics of the finished textile.

Next post: Avoidance activity: eco printing with blue hyacinth

Yorkshire Leaves Make A Rainbow For The Chuppah

For the British family contribution to the chuppah, lovely Cousin Pam in Ilkley sent me these near-evergreen leaves from her March garden near the “tops” . I am not sure of all of their names but they include (I think) variegated holly, spotted laurel, saggitaria, bay, erica, rosemary and thyme. The red leaves are new growth.


The leaves were bundled in four panels of pre-mordanted silk chiffon and steamed as usual. I was hoping for spring yellows and greens, and was not disappointed! The looked-for surprises were the blues and purples from the red leaves and (I think) the heather (erica) stems. The heather bells gave some pinky browns and spots of dark green.


Here are some close-ups of the Ilkley panels (I have begun to sew the edges of all the printed panels to restrain the fraying a bit – not too much restraint, though. A narrow zig zag makes a pretty and informal finish.)


I have sewn two long panels together. See the pinks and greens on the bottom Ilkley panel


Purpley-browns and greens, on the left Ilkley panel.


Greens and blues, on the right.

Purples, blues and greens, bottom panel.


I layered the chiffon Ilkley panels beneath/over the previously printed eucalyptus on silk organza (reds, yellows, oranges). The colours from each layer interact and make a fascinating colour mix, a shifting rainbow palette. The euc orange mutes to warm peachy pink under the spring green layer.

These layers of eco printed chiffon and organza will form the four sides sides of the chuppah canopy, about 12″ hanging down from the “roof” all around.
I intend the sides of the chuppah to appear different, depending on whether they are viewed from outside the canopy or from inside. The chuppah will define a unique and sacred space for the Bride and Groom during the ceremony. After the ceremony, all are invited to enter and share the joyful spirit of the day.
Next time: Hmmm…can’t give away too much more before the wedding…

Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry 3

A bit of FYI

The dyes in Red Cabbage are sensitive to shifts in pH. By altering pH, I hoped to obtain colour variation. I used a meter to test pH. So to review last session, but this time throwing in the pH info:

Jar 1. Red Cabbage in 250 ml tap water with a basic pH of about 7 gave blue on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep blue.

Jar 2. Red Cabbage in 250 ml water and 25% acid/white vinegar to lower the pH to about 5 gave lavender-purple on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep violet

Jar 3. Red Cabbage in 250 ml water and 25% alkali/ammonia to raise the pH to about 9 produced no colour change on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep green at first (but turning to brown after three days).

Next steps:

1. to see if any dyes remain in the plant materials after solar soaking

2. to see if a mix of dye liquids from the three jars would dye silk organza

So, remove the Red Cabbage and bundle it for eco printing as usual.

Water jar (left), acid jar (centre), alkali jar (right). The bundles had a soak in the sun in plastic bags for a while first – was busy with my grandson!


After steaming the bundles:

Very little difference in the blues, except for some lavender streaking in the (centre) acid bundle. Zero change for the silk in the ammonia bundle. (More pics below).

When I unbundled them, my grandson said: “OOOOO, Nana! That is so pretty and cool! “

So drain off the dye from each of the jars, dump half of all three dye liquids in one jar, stuff in some white silk organza and, voila, deep teal green. Leave on the sunny windowsill for a day.


Result of solar dyeing in the mixture from three jars for a day:


Then the rest of the green mix dye was simmered (180 degrees) on the stove in an aluminum pot with another piece of silk organza. A less bright dye result but still pretty and cool, as my grandson said…and so heat/temperature makes a difference to the colour result here.

BTW, very little crocking took place in the rinse stage.


Here are the four jar dye silk organza fragments, with the two steamed eco bundles on the right. The mottled blue on the left is from the water jar, right is from the vinegar jar…you can see rather more lavender streaks on the right indicating a greater concentration of acid.

Below are all the Red Cabbage blues-greens-purples of the last few dye sessions.

The palest blue, bottom left, was obtained by a second bundling of the Red Cabbage after the darker blue bundle, bottom right, had been printed. The greens and turquoises on the other fragments indicate the presence of the ammonia.


As for colour longevity: Trace Willans over at Soweon Earth kindly sent me a comforting note saying her Red Cabbage blues dyed with iron have not faded yet and it ihas been over a year. Thank you very much for that, Trace! My own silk twill pieces dyed blue last August are still vibrant. Some of my “Silk Roads” collection (previous posts) were also dyed with Red Cabbage and iron….wondering if tannins affect Red Cabbage…As India says, What If ….???

Next post: Yorkshire Leaves for the Chuppah

Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry Update

After two days of solar soaking in their jars on a sunny windowsill, the Red Cabbage and strips of alum-acetate mordanted silk organza looked like this:

Left, water only; centre, water and acid/vinegar; right, water and alkali/ammonia (water, 250 ml; acid and alkali, 25% each)

Today, three days later, the solutions have changed colour dramatically, especially the green ammonia jar. Time to remove the silk.

Dye results on white silk

Water only: blue

Vinegar and water: lavender-purple

Ammonia and water: almost no change, just a slight greenish tinge to the white silk, not detectable in my photo.

Conclusion here: Pre mordanting silk organza with alum acetate fixes Red Cabbage colour in solar dyeing conditions. But for how long??? Hmm. TBD. And note that NO dye run off (crocking) took place during rinsing.

Note that my previous Kinder Chem experiment with RC used white cotton yarn, with Bulk Barn alum mordant in the jar. Dye results were pale wimpy blues plus no change in the ammonia jar.

Next Kinder Chem steps:

1. Eco bundling the solar-soaked cabbage. Cabbage Rolls Ta Da.

2. Exposing the silk to sun light to test light fastness

Next post: More eco printing for the chuppah.

Plus I am going to add a blog page listing eco print and stitch artists out there. It would be a nice community resource to have!

Finally, for real dye chemists, consult work by Dr. Paula Burch (online) and Dr. Dominique Cardon (in print). See links in this blog.

Liebster Blog Stars

Connie Rose has honoured me with the Liebster Blog award. I, in turn, would like to recognize the following five artists whose blogs motivate and inspire me:

From England, Jenny Dean at Wild Colours, for the books, the blog and the generous sharing of her natural dyeing expertise at Her book “Wild Colour ” is always at my right hand.

From Finland, Leena at for the wonderfully comprehensive nature of the information she collects and shares on plants and dyeing.

From Colorado (perfect name), Ilze Aviks’ lucious embroideries – elegant, skilful, thoughtful, organic, imaginative- at

From California, Cassandra Tondro’s clever ideas for green art that includes eco prints on water colour paper at

From Australia, India Flint, who has started so many artists on the delightful path of eco printing. Her work is a living legacy!

The tradition is for me as recipient to thank the person who sent me the award, to link back to to her/his site and to send the Liebster Blog award notification to five other blog authors whose work inspires and motivates.

Thank you, Connie Rose.