Winterlude leaf colours

To wrap up this “Winterlude” project for January, here are a few more images of the recent eco printed papers together with some of the plants, pre- print, to compare the colours.

(BTW, these prints are on Saint Armand “Canal” brand, 140 lb., made in Montreal. Will post an image of the pad when I buy the next one. It is machine made from linen, cotton and denim rags. Their other papers are called hand made)

First, the Serviceberry.

A little accordion book was interleaved with Serviceberry (amelanchier canadensis) winter leaves of these sorts of colours:

Leaves laid near the eco print versions:

The eco printed book entitled “New World Scroll 2:Serviceberry”

The back of “New World Scroll 2: Serviceberry”

The back was printed with larger leaves.

Second, the dried tagetes blossoms. The calices print green or yellowy green and the petals print shades of grey. Not their summer orange!

Third, the fall-red Japanese Maple (acer palmatum). Greens, teals and blues of various shades are the eco printed colours. These eco prints were made in the fall.

Last note:

The walnut ink. Below is the third pot of water in which those four walnuts were cooked! Each one litre (four cups/32 oz) water was bolied down to about one cup. I think all the walnuttiness colour been squeezed out of those four fruits! I am collecting the boiled-down liquid in a jar, and when the last litre is reduced, I will tip the “walnut reduction” back into the crockpot and boil that down once more to one cup. Then I can tinker with the rest of the recipe!

I cooked the walnuts down until they were mushy. After each “reduction” the liquid was strained, the walnut mush was returned to the pot and covered with water two more times to make a litre. Some folks chop the walnuts up first but I did not bother.

Looking forward to the outcome!



Winterlude Eco Dye Prints on Silk

To continue the previous dye report:

My “Winterlude” project combines dyeing with printing so as to extract plant pigments by immersing tied or clamped bundles/stacks of leaves with papers (cotton/cellulose fibres) and leaves with textiles (silk/protein fibres) in simmering/180 degree plant dyes.

Two summers ago, when I first began using natural dyes to print textiles and paper, I experimented with Purple Cabbage. See this image of silk crepe de chine below: No colour change, still lovely mottled blues. I had several pieces in my stash. What if I overdyed some with my winter leaves in a walnut dye bath? I love blues and browns and yellows together!

So to start with, I bundled the previously eco printed/dyed silk with the winter leaves over bamboo skewers so that I could snap them and bend them to fit the crockpot. I tied the bundle tightly with waxed linen thread, entered it into the dye pot and processed at a gentle 180 degrees for about an hour. I wanted the linen thread to make a lot of delicate lines of resist prints. You can tie linen thread really tight, too. (I got my linen thread at a leather work supply store. It is not easy to find and not cheap, either)

Here we are after the procesing and after the thread has been removed (I unbundled right away. No patience.) The thin, light lines on the bundle are the lines of resist prints. Of course, the waxed linen thread was dyed at the same time, its wax all melted off in the dye bath. The bendy bundle came about as a result of bending the bamboo skewers, as noted.

Now the reveal: The blues come from two sources: first, the acer palmatum prints:

Some blue patches, as in this detail below, are from the Purple Cabbage print that survived the walnut dye bath; the resist lines, now characteristic of this printing method, show beautiful marks from the walnut dye and linen thread:

Other views:

Resist lines: I LOVE the white tracery effect. This passage looks like something hand drawn, such a great contrast to the more diffuse prints and the colours.

Printed silk in front, printed linen at rhe back (more next post on linen) – the effects of the blue in the silk make a grey blue background on the silk, while the white linen, undyed previously, retains the lighter background colour. Both are lovely.

Walnut on Purple Cabbage blue mottles on silk, contrasted against the same leaf pigments on linen.


Part of the Winterlude collection, printed with winter leaves processed in dye baths.

Left to right:

1. Paper in coreopsis-tagetes 2. Linen in coreopsis-tagetes 3. Paper in coreopsis-tagetes 4. Linen in coeropsis- tagetes 5. Silk in walnut 6. Linen in coreopsis- tagetes 7. Paper in walnut

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

More next time – on vintage linen.


Winterlude Eco Dye Prints on Paper

Outside, the snow is falling for the first weekend of Ottawa's Winterlude Festival. After some tropical days in the last weeks at plus nine, the Rideau Canal (World Heritage site) has finally opened for skating. From my window, I saw the first skater head over there…I was running for my camera to capture the textile interest not the skates: that conic Hudson Bay blanket coat! I still have a coat like that, FYI. Plus I have requested in my will to be buried in a Hudson Bay blanket…textile freak to the end, paying tribute to my adopted country besides saying a snide farewell to my favourite store, now that Target has bought it…

Meantime, winter finds me dyeing, ha ha.

This Winterlude, instead of skating, I got out my stash of fallen leaves saved from fall foraging walks in the local arboretum, all nicely frozen in the garage. My favourites are acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), acer saccharum (Sugar Maple, another Canadian icon), cotinus coggygria(Smokebush), alnus (Alder) and amelanchier canadensis ( my beloved Serviceberry). Only two are natives; in the arboretum, one finds leaves from trees that originate in many parts of the world. Besides these, I shlepped out from the big deep freezer, AKA garage, a nice pile of walnuts from a Black Walnut stand nearby: To dye, to print, perchance to steam – to paraphrase Shakespeare…

For a change, I had in mind to print the leaves on alum mordanted paper by immersion dye bath method rather than steaming the bundles under bricks as I usually do. I always use heavy weights to get good contact between plant and substrate when steaming. I place the bundles above the water on a rack supported by wee glass jars. So the plant-substrate contact in the immersion dye bath was the challenge today.

I had two dye baths:

1. The walnut dye bath:

Four frozen walnuts fit in the wee crock pot I was using, a brand-new $10 crockpot, purchased Friday last at a big sale at an affiliate store of the above Hudson Bay company, going out of biz …(Are there cosmic connections here – Target and walnut dye? )

I filled the pot to cover the walnuts and left them cooking, to come to 180 degrees. Then in went two bundles, one bundle with leaves on 140lb water colour paper and one with leaves on crepe de chine.. ( “Crepe de Chine” means China Silk – are we back to Target again? ) The silk bundle will be the subject of another post. FYI, the white on the walnuts is frost, not mould – though mould would likely print, also.

(After dyeing the paper bundle and the silk bundle, I cooked the dye down to one quarter its original volume of one litre/four cups water minus the displaced liquid…maybe one cup…Am going to try to make walnut ink.)


2. This dye bath below was left from the previous steamed bundles of paper, printed with coreopsis and tagetes. Lots of colour from the steamed bundles had entered water. (See previous post) I removed the jars and the rack for this project. About three inches of watery dye bath remained and to that I added some bits of iron. I processed a linen and a paper bundle; the linen floated, as you can see, because it was wrapped over a wood branch, while the paper bundle sank with the binder clips!

Next, the leaves I used in the bundles: from noon, around the clock:

Sweet Gum, Alder, Cotinus, Japanese Maple, Sugar Maple, Serviceberry, one Gingko and one Red Maple.


Paper next:

Sheets of “Montreal” watercolour paper, 140 lbs., soaked in water and alum acetate for several days (one day is really enough but no harm if longer) in a plastic plant tray, one quarter teaspoon alum powder to one cup (250 mls/8 oz) water. It is a rather soft paper and tears easily. But it takes impressions of a leaf beautifully so you not only get a coloured print but an impression, too. I suspect the paper might not have a lot of clay and binders in it, either. But that is research for another day.

After soaking the paper, I carefully tore it lengthwise and folded the strips into accordions of four and eight pages. I tucked the leaves in between the folds and inserted some iron bits in some folds to provoke darker prints from the leaf tannins. Then I encased the stacks of folded paper in various makeshift covers using plastic cut from ice cream containers, heavy cardboard cut to size or BBQ foil, clamping these over the paper sheets with small binder clips to get good contact between plant and paper and to avoid impressions in the papers from the binder clips.

Pics of the encasements: I tried foil, plastic and cardboard. I found the plastic and the cardboard were better than the foil at creating good contact and hence, clearer prints.

Aluminum foil, BBQ weight with binder clips on a four- fold accordion. This one went in the Coreopsis-Tagetes bath. Another four- fold went in the walnut bath. About two hours at a simmer, i.e, 180 degrees.

This is it, fresh from the dye bath with a bit of iron:
With the leaves after processing in the dye bath, before drying:
After drying:
This one below is an eight fold accordion, encased in cut bits of plastic, clamped with binder clips and it went in the walnut bath ( It fit in the little pot along with a silk bundle.)

This is how the papers above looked before being clamped:

After processing:

This four page accordion below was processed in the Coreopsis-Tagetes dye bath:

And here are three four-page accordions.

Top: Winter leaves in coreopsis-tagetes dye

Centre: Fresh leaves (florist ferns from a supermarket bouquet, no pic)

Bottom: Winter leaves in walnut with iron.

More Winterlude prints next time!


Winter Prints for Artist Book Pages

I am enjoying creating more artist books.

I joined the Canadian Bookbinders’ and Book Artists’ Guild last August 2013 and am building up the technical side of bookmaking there, plus, as is my obsession, I am building a library about bookbinding. Blog posts coming on that topic of book collections!

Making artist books will be a strong focus of my work from now on. Many reasons for that, but a pragmatic one is high on the list: we are selling our house and downsizing. My basement studio has to be reduced in size two thirds, oy…So lots of books and fabrics have to GO…

Paper takes up way less space than huge stacks of cloth, of course. My fibre art textile stash with all its variety of texture and colour from my paint, print and stitch wants to marry into the book family…

For the art content of my books, always related to nature, I am working on both textiles and paper, experimenting with various textures and weights of fibre, and with different kinds of binding and stitching. Artist books have to give fullness and feeling to hand, eye, mind and spirit.

I especially like to combine textile with paper, as you see in this wee Pleasure Book (4″ x 4″) designed to show off the beauty of rust and tannin prints as well as plant dyes extracted from leaves on linen and paper substrates. Its title is “New World Scroll” because it has the form of an ancient scroll, concertina- style, is printed with plants from the New World (my special interest) and is a botanical record at the same time.


The maple-printed and embroidered linen covers for the book are a “first” in their own right. The leaf prints serendipitously appeared on some rusty-metal bundled linen being composted outside on my deck some years ago when I was first learning to rust print. The maple tree overhead dropped some leaves onto the vinegared bundle. The tannins in the leaves did their printing work in that chemical environment on a hot summer day. Lo and behold, my first “eco prints” (a la India Flint, later so named) appeared! Not that well defined or colour-intense because no pressure or even heat had been applied to force contact between the cloth and the leaf – but a print nevertheless.

Here now is a look at the inside pages of the book, treated with 5% acid white vinegar to coax colour from leaves and rusty metal during steaming. Cassandra Tondro (see blogroll) shares her free tutorial on a method for leaf pigment extraction which has been my basic guide and which can be adapted in various ways according to printing goals.


For this latest collection of pages for artist books and scrolls ( following on from my 2012 work on scrolls)I used some of my dried plants gathered in the late fall from my garden: coreopsis verticillata, tagetes marigold and catalpa pods (from my neighbour). The colours of the fresh plants may have faded but their fragrance while steaming brings a summer garden into a January kitchen.

The set up for dyeing the paper (“Montreal” paper, made there by Saint Amand, I believe, though that ref. is still TBD ) : A nice lasagna of a paper stack with bits of rusty iron and dried plants as follows:


Coreopsis verticillata, seed heads and stems:


Tagetes marigold, petals and calices:


I made six bundles with coreopsis, tagetes and rusty iron, with catalpa pods for tannins. The paper was soaked in alum acetate for several days. I just time to make the bundles after a 24 hour soak, so this longer period was not a necessary condition. Here are the prints on the papers after mordanting and steaming, followed by cooling for some hours:


The greens and green-yellows are from the calices of the tagetes which have found a reliable source of green fresh or dried, at any season. The dark greys and browns are are from the tagetes petals, a significant loss of orange colour compared to fresh blooms , but still interesting.


The above papers show prints of the tannin brown of the catalpa pods along with coreopsis (finely etched brown marks) and the tagetes colours.


Dried coreopsis stalks broken into fine shreds to print stitch-like marks; patches of bloom colour.


Detail of the tagetes bloom print – bright greens from the calix, sophisticated charcoal greys and even bottle greens from the petals.

No summer shades of orange here!

These papers are ready for assembling into artist books and scrolls, to be embroidered, sewn, and bound.

These and others are destined to be displayed as samples at my demo etc for the International Printmakers Festival in the UK in March.

That was a lot of pleasure on a January day!

Thank you for sharing your interests with me in a spirit of respect and collegiality. I value your messages as sign of a community.


Printing With Oshiwa Handcarved Blocks

Rachel Biel over at promotes and sells wood printing blocks handcarved by artisans from Namibia. My friend Paula Benjaminson used to hold “block parties” here in Ottawa (before she went off to Gabon in the U.S. diplomatic service) and that is how I came to know and use them. Paula will be back to Canada (London, Ontario) to give a class for the Canadian Embroiders’ Guild this year when their conference theme is “Out of Africa”

Today I am sharing with you some more of the work I have done with these blocks.Previous posts have shown paste papers I made for my artist books, In my “Garden Cloth” series (see http://www.wendyfeldberg,com) of printed and stitched works, I used the blocks to introduce contrasting elements on a surface layered with leaf prints: geometric forms as complements to organic forms.

I used leaves from my garden and indoor plants to make contact prints (not dye prints!) with acrylic paint onto a cotton surface. The geometric designs I chose from among my blocks provided elements of contrast in scale, form and colour that aimed to ground a busy surface built up with layers of colour, form and stitch. Some examples follow. Can you identify the leaves? You can see the whole canvases on my website ( much in need of updating, BTW)







When you buy Oshiwa blocks, you are investing in first your own art, and secondly, a co – op group of African artisans offering a great product and worthy of your support as they develop their business.

Check them out at www. and buy them on etsy at

More of my Oshiwas coming!

If you have links to your own use of Oshiwas, send them to Rachel!



Teaching the basics of eco printing

After a whole eighteen months of experimenting with natural dyes on textiles and paper, I am daring to share some of what I know in classes as well as on this 'ere blog.

In the fall, I did a quiet little workshop at home here for fun with a couple of my talented colleagues from the local chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders' and Book Artists' Guild. They were kind enough to be my guinea pigs – I plan to I post some photos of their quite lovely prints

I have received quite a few requests to Reach eco printing as well as a number of requests related to my blog posts. Readers are wondering if they can find a quick summary somewhere without having to slog through the blog…I do understand need because I have trouble myself sometimes finding the info I wrote up on my own blog…one forgets…

Below is the link to that “Anti Blog Slog” article you may have been looking for. It first appeared in the wonderful Hand Eye online magazine (I subscribe to the print magazine, too). I am planning to make a blog page of basic instructions that will amplify the info in the Hand Eye article.

However, I would like to insist that no quick fix is available for learning about the eco print processes. You have to work at it, folks. BUT love it so much it does not seem like work. Check out the books I recommend and the list of artists I admire to find some you can learn from, as I have done – and then pay it forward. No one artist will be able to answer all your questions. Rely on the ones who appeal to your learning style and your passions.

This year, will be getting my feet wet in teaching what I have learned. I am doing presentations, demos and a Master Class in England in March and then something similar in Italy in October. As for local classes: well, I had been hoping to be able to offer a Master Class at the Moon Rain Centre near me in Quebec as part of an international festival of textile arts, but they are slow to get it organised so I may not be available by the time they are ready to tell me Yes or No. Meantime, a new co op gallery I belong to may allow me to teach there.

I am not a novice teacher. I taught all my professional life at the universiy level where my specialty was teaching academic communication skills to professors and grad students whose first language was not English.

And as a reward for having read all that texty bit above, here is the bit with the pictures:

Eco Prints To Start The Year

Happy New Year in art to us all!

This is what my dye garden in USD Zone 4 Ottawa looks like today:

I am thinking of the dye plants that lie under the snow and the colours they were just a few months ago: Clockwise from the top at noon: the colours of Michaelmas Daisy, Saskatoon Berry leaves, Coreopsis, Blue Borage, Tagetes Marigold, Purple Amaranth, Dahlia, Purple Sandcherry.

Some of the prints I made on paper in the fall are going to an international printmaking festival with venues in Stroud, Cheltenham and Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England. Here four more (two were in my last post):

Sweet Gum (liquidambar styraciflua) with Purple Sandcherry (prunus cistena). The sandcherry bush is in the photo above. This was an October 2012 print, when the Sweet Gum had turned colour from greens to redsand oranges. I could gather them from the ground after a frost. All four prints are on 140 lb Strathmore watercolour paper

Sweet Gum, Purple Sandcherry and Japanese Maple:

Sweet Gum and Japanese Maple:

Chokecherry (prunus virginiana), Sweet Gum, Japanese Maple:

About my art residency in at Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Mount Subasio, Assisi, Umbria, October 2013.

“Ginestrelle” refers to Spanish Broom that grows abundantly in Umbria, and is a traditional dye plant in many countries. It was the name that drew me to check out this particulare residency. I thought the word referred to genista tinctoria but learned that that plant is native to Northern Europe while Spanish Broom (spartium junceum) is native to west and south Europe. (It is a noxious weed in Washington State, BTW, because it agressively ousts native plants)

You can check out the residency for yourself at

Meantime, one image of Mount Subasio while I am waiting to sort the copyright permissions before posting images of Spanish Broom

Next post:

More details (I hope! ) about the print festival in Gloucestershire, England in mid March. The organisers are still finalizing their plans. I will also give a presentation at the festival symposium on eco prints, a demonstration of my processes and a Master Class. If any of my readers would like to suggest plants to try in March in the Cotswolds, I would be delighted to receive ideas.

Ta ta for now! Arrividerci!