Tutorials

Tutorial 3 ECO PRINTING BASICS

Note that these are my current practices. In your own research and experiments, you may well discover other processes that work well for you. Take what you can responsibly use and leave the rest. 

Eco printing or eco dyeing is a contemporary application of the traditions of natural dyeing. In eco printing or dyeing, plants are enclosed in textiles or paper,  bundled by winding over rods or stacked in layers and then steamed or immersed in hot water to extract the pigments and produce a print made with plant dyes.  Direct and close contact between the plant and the substrate is essential. Leaves, stems, flowers, buds, seeds and roots may be used; also bark and wood.  At different seasons of the year, different pigments may concentrate in various plant parts so great colour variability is possible – and desirable!  Eco dyeing and printing does not focus on strict replication of results. Many plants that are not considered traditional dye plants will yield colourful prints, and sometimes, traditional dye plants produce different colours when processed as eco prints. Garden plants, kitchen plants and, where allowed, locally foraged plants may be used, fresh and/or dried. Prints with colours and forms both clearly defined and attractively diffused are produced by this process.

Health and Safety First

The “natural” in natural dyeing does NOT automatically mean “safe” or even legal. Many people are sensitive or allergic in various degrees to different plants; and some plants are dangerous for everyone. You are advised to research plants that may cause you adverse reactions either by touch or smell and to avoid contact with them. I , for example, never use the lovely but poisonous lily of the valley for eco dyeing, even though  it is well known among traditional natural dyers as a source of green dye. Many plants contain poisonous substances in lesser amounts that may possibly be flushed away by the dye processes – apple seeds and the pits of the prunus spp. are examples. So I try to increase my knowledge but to avoid potential sources of trouble.

I wear gloves and a mask when handling powders, use dedicated equipment for dyeing (never using them for any other purpose, e.g.  for food preparation),  avoid the use of the toxic chemicals formerly much used in natural dyeing (eg chrome and tin) and try to inform myself about the poisonous plants in my area. Dye chemicals alum and iron can be safely used if precautions are taken in preparation and handling (e.g. wear a mask). Copper as a mordant or colour changer is a bit more iffy according to some but not all natural dye sources; I am comfortable using it as a colour changer to intensify greens. (Soak copper pipe bits in vinegar to make copper sulphate/copper acetate)

How to eco print (contact print with plants) on textiles or paper

Instructions are for steaming or immersing plants with textiles to obtain an eco print using kitchen equipment solely dedicated to dyeing. They work for wool pre-mordanted in alum, for cellulose fibres pre-mordanted with alum and for paper (cotton rag or plant fibres) pre-mordanted with alum. Microwaving mordanted textiles and papers also yields interesting results, while slower steeping processes (over days or even weeks) such as solar dyeing, composting and rusting work well for contact printing.

I will cover only the basics of steaming and immersing in this tutorial. Solar dyeing and rusting will be the subjects of other tutorials

1. Preparing to print:

Equipment

For steaming: Aluminum, stainless steel lidded steaming vessel with a rack. OR a bamboo steamer over a pot. I like this one for steaming:

RackPotLid

For an immersion dye bath: A lidded aluminum or stainless steel vessel; or a copper or iron pot-as-mordant. (An aluminum, iron or copper pot can affect the dye colour) Here is a selection:

SetEquipment

 

For bundling: Branches with or without bark (for tannin marks); plastic pipe; copper pipe (as mordant); steel rebar, tin cans/ lids, iron/metal bits (for rust prints or as mordant); wooden dowels; cotton string; rocks or bricks as weights. Wooden rods below, copper and bark-covered rods in the image above:

BundlingRods

 

Other equipment: Heat source (e.g.. portable electric hotplate) ; tongs; gloves; facemask; thermometer; vinegar for rusting; iron or rustable metal bits (nails, tin can pieces, etc) kitchen scales; notebook and pen.

2. Preparation of textiles and paper

WOF means Weight of Fibre.

1.Scour textiles in water, hand-hot or boiling as appropriate with Orvus Paste (sodium lauryl sulfate AKA sheep shampoo), Synthrapol or a pH neutral soap such as blue Dawn (‘bird rescue’ shampoo).

2.Use hand-hot water to scour wool.

3. If the cellulose fibre (cotton, linen, bamboo or hemp) is new, boil the fabric for one hour with a squirt of recommended soap to release all the additives, then rinse.

3. Recycled cellulose textiles should also be scoured by boiling to remove all the old laundry products.

4. NO need to scour paper.

3. Mordanting

Weigh the textiles and paper DRY. (I admit that I sometimes make a guesstimate with the papers…)

1. Pre mordant textiles or paper by soaking in water with alum acetate at 5% -10% WOF or potassium aluminum sulfate at 15% -25% WOF. (Note: For eco printing cellulose fibres, I do not use a traditional dyers’ tannin-alum-tannin mordanting process; I reserve this process for traditional natural dyeing. I find the simple alum soak is sufficient to allow plant dyes to attach to the textile or paper in eco printing. You may have other preferences) 

2. Soak at least overnight. No need to rinse.

Here is an image of some of the mordants: alum acetate and potassium aluminum sulphate; and colour-changers , e.g. iron oxides (ferrous acetate liquor, ferrous sulphate powder; iron bits) tannins ) and tannin powders; plus some pH papers for measuring water and dyes that change colours based on shifting pH. (I made  ferrous acetate with rusty nails or rustable metals soaked in vinegar – in the jar pictured)

Chemicals

4. Arranging and eco printing the plant-textile-paper bundles or stacks 

Textile and paper bundles may be STEAMED or IMMERSED in water or dye to obtain a print. COVER the pot!

1. Lay out the wet cloth or paper on a flat surface. Below is a wool panel with native plants laid out; the panel will be folded and rolled. Papers are simply layered one on top of the other, maybe six layers deep.

Layout2. Cover about 50 percent of the cloth or paper surface with plant material; include bits of  or rusty metals iron for rusting areas.

NOTE: The iron oxide reacts with tannins in the plants and gives deep charcoal colours; or if no tannins are present, the iron tends to fix the dye colours or darken them or give the forms greater definition. Ferrous sulphate powder at 2% WOF as a mordanting pre-soak will do similar.

IronBits2. Splash areas of the cloth or paper with vinegar to encourage rusted metal prints.(NB The iron oxides assist the plant dyes to fix)

3. For an immersion dye bath, roll the cloth or paper over copper pipe, tree branch, wood dowel, plastic pipe, etc., folding as needed. In the process pictured below,  paper is bundled over copper pipes and immersed directly in the water with dye plants such as sumac berries or walnuts. Textiles can also be processed this way. The outside of the paper or textile will take on the colours of the dye bath; the interior will be printed with the plants that are enclosed.

BundledPaper

 

OR

7. Steam the bundles to extract the dye. Tie the paper or textile stack closed ( as seen below) OR, for a resist print, enclose the textile or paper stack/bundle between can lids, plastic pieces or wooden boards; clamp the bundle closed with binder clips. (Image not shown for this resist process)

Place the paper or textile (OR paper PLUS textile!)  stacks on the steaming rack and weight them down:

PaperStack

 

 

 

WeightedBundle

 

For steaming larger, thick textile bundles, wrap the plant material tightly in the fabric, tie up the bundle by wrapping the string around and around, then place on the steaming rack and cover the pot. The string gives interesting marks.

BundledFelt5. Processing the bundles or stacks: Steaming

  1. Fill the steamer with water to just below the rack. (Put little glass jelly jars under the rack to hold and raise it)
  2. Place the bundle or stack on the rack.
  3. Raise the heat and steam the bundle at a simmer (maximum 180° F / 80° C) for an hour or until colour shows through distinctly, usually about two hours.
  4. Turn the bundle every 30 minutes using tongs.
  5. Turn off the heat and let rest overnight or longer. (Or not. Open the bundle if you are desperate to look. )
  6. Unwrap and evaluate.
  7. If desired, print again one or more times to develop the design and colour associations or to rescue a weak print.
  8. Sometimes the dye is so strong it prints on the rocks I use to weigh down the stack! Here is Prunus cistena:

Prunus_Stone

6. Processing the bundles or stacks: Immersing

  1. Fill vessel with water or dye to cover. NO rack needed for the immersion bath.
  2. Enter the rolled bundles into a cold water or dye bath. If stacking cloth, weigh the stack down with a brick or similar.
  3. Gradually raise the heat to a maximum of 185°F / 85°C degrees.
  4. Simmer the bundle or stack for an hour to two hours, turning every 30 minutes and checking for colour. Very thick handwovens might need an hour or even two longer.
  5. Turn off the heat and let all rest overnight or longer.
  6. Unwrap and evaluate. Print again as noted.
  7. If steeping or solar dyeing, simply leave the bundled plants in a glass vessel in the sun for a week or so

7. Developing colours pre- and post-printing

After evaluating, you may want to add other forms or colours to printed areas that seem less interesting. Try some of these and print the bundle or stack again, as before:

Soya milk as mordant: Instead of alum, soak the textile in soya milk or paint soya onto areas, pre-printing, to render fibres more receptive to dyes, especially for dried plants.

Copper sulfate (copper bits in vinegar), ammonia and vinegar can be used as modifiers to shift colours (often towards greens) either by dipping or by painting onto areas.

Iron liquor (AKA ferrous acetate: nails in vinegar) or ferrous sulfate powder can be used pre-printing at 2% WOF as a mordant and post-printing as a dye assistant. Iron bits, when bundled with the plants, can act as a co-mordant with alum and to shift colours in areas of contact to darker values. As a post-print dye assistant, iron can reveal hidden layers or promote overlapping ones: a wimpy print will often “pop” after an iron dip. The iron acts by greying or greening or deeply-darkening the print.

Tannins occurring naturally in tree bark and in certain leaves (e.g. Rhus typhina/sumac) contribute both fastness and deeper colouration to neighbouring prints. Tannin-rich seedpods like catalpa, green fruits from black walnut and twig barks from prunus species or sumac make strong direct contact prints and help fix nearby colours. Prunus cistena even prints on rock! When bundled into textiles with iron bits or dipped in iron liquor post-printing, tannin-rich leaves or barks from maple or sumac produce dramatic black, deeply greyed or even blue-greyed prints.

Dye powders

You can paint on dye powders that have been dissolved in water or sprinkle them on (see below)

Immersion bath

Immerse the eco printed bundle in a dye bath in a colour of your choice and process (see above). Use plants or dye powders to obtain your colour. For instructions for dyeing with dye powders, see the Maiwa site (see References below). For dye plants: be adventurous!

8. Other dye extracting processes:

Solar dyeing is really fun. Add a teaspoon of alum to a jar of water, fill it with plant materials bundled in cloth or paper and leave in the sun. Below are red cabbage (amended with ammonia and vinegar to shift colours) and coreopsis (orange-reds) dyes. In our local water, acids (e.g. vinegar) shift the pH to reds and magentas; alkalis (e.g. ammonia) shifts the basic blue dye in red cabbage to greens and teals

SolarDyes

 

 

9. Using Dye Powders

I buy dye powders of plants that are not native to my area and that I can use to create special effects on  textile or paper. Usually, I sprinkle the dye powders on; I can also paint them after dissolving them in liquid. Pre-reduced indigo as powder gives nice effects this way.

MaiwaDyes  Dye powders on silk, without eco prints:

DyePowders

10. Finishing

Rinsing

Dry the printed cloth and cure at least a few days before final rinsing.

No need to rinse papers.

Rinse cloth in plain water without soap. Some colour will normally wash out.

Dry, press and store or display out of direct light 

Light and wash fastness

The standard practices for naturally dyed handwovens apply to rendering eco prints wash- and lightfast.

Faded prints can be eco printed again!

The standard practice for establishing dye light fastness is to expose the dyed materials to strong sunlight for about a month. Attach cardboard to cover all but an inch of the dyed material; each week thereafter, move the card an inch or so to reveal a new portion of the dyed fabric or paper. Mark the dates on each exposed section. Eco dyeing and printing are still experimental processes so lightfastness information has not yet reached canonical status!

11. Recordkeeping

Record dates, textile type, mordants, plants used, extraction method, results obtained, etc. (I like to make Artist’s Books with my printed textiles and papers for keeping dye records).

12. Environmental Law

In some countries or regions collection of material from the wild, including plants, bark or lichens, is regulated by law. Please be aware of, and adhere to, the law in your country or region.

13. Toxicity of plant materials

If you are experimenting with any plant material ensure that you are aware of all issues related to toxicity in handling and processing individual species. A useful reference for poisonous berries, for example, is published by Lone Pine in “Wild Berries of Ontario”.

14. References

Cardon, Dominique (2007): Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science, London: Archetype Publications.

Diadick Casselman, Karen (1993): Craft of the Dyer, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Chambers, Fiona Hammersley and Cory Harris (2012): Wild Berries of Ontario, Alberta: Lone Pine Publishing.

Dean, Jenny (1999): Wild Colour: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Colour, New York: Octopus Publishing Group, Ltd. Random House.

Flint, India (2008): Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles, Colorado, USA: Interweave Press.

Kadolph, Sara J. and Casselman, Karen Diadick (2004) In The Bag: Contact Natural Dyes. In Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 2004. http://ctr.sagepub.com 22:15.DOI 10:1177/0087302X0402200103. [accessed 1 January, 2013]

McGuffin, Nancy J., Ed. (1986): ‘Dye Plants of Ontario’. Concord, Ontario, Canada. Burr House Spinners and Weavers Guild.

Richards, Lynne & Tyrl, Ronald (2005): Dyes From American Native Plants: A Practical Guide, Portland, Cambridge: Timber Press.

Websites

www.wendyfeldberg.ca

http://www.wendyfe.wordpress.com

About the author

Of Orkney heritage, Wendy Feldberg is a fibre artist now living in Ottawa, Ontario. Wendy works in contact printing with natural dyes from local plant pigments for her embroidered textiles and Artist Books.

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Tutorial 2

Leaf Monoprinting by Cassandra Tondro

Cassandra Tondro’s online tutorial on extracting natural dyes from leaves to obtain a print.

Cassandra calls her end product a “monoprint” . Cassandra is a “Green” artist living in California. She has been making leaf monoprints for about four years. On her blog, she also posts about eco prints.

She has graciously allowed me to link to her tutorial.

Leaf Monoprint Process

http://tondro.com/blog/category/leaf-monoprint-process/

__________________________________________________________________________

Tutorial 1

Rust and Plant Printed Artist Book (modeled on my Artist Book “Botanica: New World Scroll 1 “

Eco Printing with Rust and Plants

Introduction

My artist book “Botanica: New World Scroll 1” is made from papers eco printed with rust and plant dyes as a contemporary take on traditions of natural dyeing and bookmaking. Object and process both invite us to slow down and savor making, handling and viewing a beautiful book, to appreciate a book’s tactile and visual pleasures as well as its intellectual ones. Historically, the first books were scrolls, sometimes pleated or slatted, objects of reverence treasured for both content and form. My book’s accordion and pamphlet-stitched structure printed in contemporary style on watercolor paper creates living links to a rich past.

To make my book, stacks of papers were layered with leaves and metals, sprayed with vinegar and water to rust the metals, then steamed over boiling water to extract the “eco” prints. Plant pigments combined with rust to deposit prints directly on the paper in a range of greys, charcoals and blacks as well as natural rust and plant colors.

The process of eco printing papers offers artists many creative options. For eco printing projects other than bookmaking, try stacking papers six sheets high and sized to fit your steamer, and then follow directions for processing an eco printed book.

Tools and Materials to Make an Eco Printed Book  

For the book pages

  • 6 pieces of 140 lb. watercolor paper, 4” x 8”, folded in half to make a section 4” x 4”

For the book’s spine

  • 1 piece of 80 lb. or 90 lb. artist paper, 4” x 24” folded into an accordion with 16 panels, each 4” x 1 ½”

To print the papers

For the spine:

  • Loose black or Rooibos tea leaves (dry)
  • Flat, scrap metal pieces

For the pages:

  • Tannin-rich leaves such as maple, chokecherry oak, sumac, walnut, etc. (“Botanica: New World Scroll 1” is printed with fall-gathered Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).
  • Flat metal pieces

To develop the rust

  • Spray bottle filled with 50-50 mixture of white vinegar (5% acid) and water

To stitch the book sections

  • Linen or other strong thread

To steam the prints

  • Covered cooking vessel (e.g. an old meat roaster) filled with three inches of water and fitted with a raised rack, large enough to hold the papers (Safety note: Do not use for food preparation)

To enclose the papers

  • Four pieces of cardboard, each 4” x 4”, two per stack of papers

To weight the papers

  • Bricks, rocks, heavy ceramic dishes (to ensure close contact between paper and printing materials)

Source of heat

  • Kitchen stove, portable hot plate, camping stove, etc.

Tongs and gloves for handling hot materials

Technique

To print the papers

  1. Make two stacks of papers each with three sections folded 4” x 4”
  2. Insert two or more tannin-rich leaves and a small flat piece of metal inside the fold of each section and also between each of the sections in the stack (I used maple and chokecherry leaves for their contrasting shapes)
  3. Spray –soak the stacks with the vinegar-water mixture.
  4. Place one piece of the 4” x 4” cardboard under and one on top of each stack.
  5. Wrap the stacks around with cotton string and tie securely.
  6. Place the two stacks side by side on the steaming rack
  7. Place the weights on top of the stacks
  8. Bring the water in the pot to a boil and steam for 60 – 90 minutes
  9. Turn the bundles every thirty minutes. Steam longer if the desired print is faint, shorter if too strong.

10. When complete, turn off the heat and allow the bundles to rest in the pot until cool or overnight

11. Unwrap the bundles, discard the plants but reserve the metal pieces for other prints.

12. Spread the papers out to dry. Remove stuck-on plant material

13. Once dry, flatten papers under weights.

To print the accordion spine

  1. Insert dry tea leaves between all the folds of the accordion; insert pieces of metal also inside a few of the folds.
  2. Spray-soak the spine with vinegar-water
  3. Tie with cotton string and steam as for book papers

To assemble the book

Write the names of the plants in English and Latin on the spine with black and/or gold archival pens

  1. Insert one 4” x 4” folded section into the second “valley” fold from one end of the accordion
  2. Stitch the section into the spine using linen thread and a pamphlet stitch
  3. Repeat with the other five sections
  4. Make two book covers (front and back) using 4” x4” eco printed end papers, textile and bookboard

6. Using PVA glue, encase each end portion of the accordion spine between an end paper and a textile-covered book board. (See image for ideas)

For more information, see the Resources section.

 

Tips

  • To help fix the colors, pre-soak papers for two hours or overnight in a solution of one teaspoon of alum acetate or potassium alum sulphate to four cups of water.
  • Rusted metals alone print colors in the orange-rust-brown range on papers.
  • Leaves may be layered on top of rust printed papers and processed a second time. This method tends to print tannin-rich leaves as black on top of rust.
  • Leaves printed alone without metals tend to print colors depending in their growth season: greens, blues, purples, yellows, browns are common
  • Natural dye powders can be sprinkled onto papers or diluted and painted on selectively, as can plant inks such as walnut
  • Dye assistants such as ammonia, cream of tartar, iron or copper sulphate can be painted on selectively to induce color shifts.
  • Spray papers with a deacidifier on completion of the project.

Resources for bookmaking and natural dyes

  • Alisa Golden: “Creating Handmade Books”
  • Shereen Laplantz: “Cover to Cover: Creative Techniques for Making Beautiful Books, Journals and Albums”
  • For a complete line of supplies and information related to natural dyes, dye assistants and reference materials, see www.maiwa.com
  • Jenny Dean (with Karen Diadick Casselman, consultant): “Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

 

 

77 Responses to Tutorials

  1. jeannie Shyam says:

    where have you been? Love this.

  2. Pingback: Making the book: Rusted paper | Rowan Borthwick

  3. Cedar says:

    This is so inspiring, and i have Shereen’s book from years ago when i taught handmade
    paper…..and have been eco printing for the past five or six years. Why I hadn’t put these together is a mystery, but apparently I now have yet another path to travel on….my worry is that I don’t live long enough to use all my supplies…lol

  4. Edith says:

    A wonderful resource for a beginner like me! 🙂

  5. Edith says:

    Hi Wendy, I just did! I am so grateful to both of you for offering such wonderful resources and educational tools for anyone who wishes to learn the art and craft of eco printing and dyeing.

  6. Karen says:

    This is great. Thanks so much for sharing. I live in the Sonoran Desert so I’ll have to experiment with what nature provides here.

  7. Lynnae says:

    Hello, I’m fairly new to botanical eco printing on silk scarves and cotton fabric. I have tried several techniques from different people and I’m still not getting the results I want. I have a feeling it has to do with location, plant material and acid/alkaline water and soil. Is there a tutorial on working with fabric instead of paper?

    • wendyfe says:

      Hello Linnae

      I will post a tutorial soon on eco dyeing/printing on fabrics. Meantime, if you want to buy a magazine, you can get full instructions in an article I have written for the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, a UK magazine; you can order it online, the summer 2014 issue.

      The technique is the same for fabric as for paper. make sure you get firm contact between cloth and plants, plus pre mordant with 5% alum acetate to weight of fibre. Weight the bundle or stack very well – I use a ceramic dish on top of the bundles usually sometimes with a brick in the dish

      Good luck

      Wendy

  8. Lynnae says:

    Thank you…I’ll look for the magazine online. I’ve been steaming bundles or rolls on pvc pipe. Haven’t weighted them. Thanks for the 5% alum…I’ve been guessing.

  9. wendyfe says:

    Linnae

    You can increae the alum ; 5% is a starter amount. Try also 2% iron liquor or add iron bits to the bundle or buy powdered iron , ferrous sulphate. You can also paint on the iron liquor selectively,either before printing or after. Mixing leaves and flowers helps, too, esp. If the plant is tannin-rich. Tannin, iron and alum are your bundle buddies along with firm contact

    W

  10. wendyfe says:

    Excuse me, Lynnae! i was thinking botanist..hence the ‘linnae’…

  11. Lynnae says:

    I figure it is the American spelling…..I’ll be unbundling 3 scarves to see how they did fairly soon. I steamed them and let them cool and I’m wondering if I should let them set a few days before unbundling. Didn’t think about pressure on top so will do that next time. I sprintzed with vinegar and used the Alum water in the steam….I’m experimenting. I have some really great yellow scarves from the last batch of soaking in alum water then steaming…which I will need to do again to get prints!! I pulled the string really tight this time when binding. Part of the issue now is the main plant blooming is Chamisa which is yellow. Next year I have plan for a more extensive dye garden. It’s raining in New Mexico…which isn’t that normal for this time of year. So, I’m waiting for it to clear a bit….then we’ll see! Some people tell me to let them set or soak for days or weeks and I didn’t find that to do much. Thanks for all your thoughts!

    • Lynnae says:

      With the silk scarves I’ve finished by steam pressing when dry…letting them set for a few days, then washing in gentle soap and a vinegar rinse. That’s where I lose quite a bit of color. With paper there is no washing/rinsing and I can see how that would be much more colorful.

  12. wendyfe says:

    I find that presoaking the fabric in the alum water gives better results than spritzing during. That owrks best for silk. For cotton and linen, it is often best to do three soaks- in alum- tannin- then alum again, no need to rinse in between.

  13. Eve Studd says:

    May I just check with you that alum potassium sulphate will fix colours ok on paper, even though paper is made from cellulose fibres? I’m hoping to avoid alum acetate as I believe it is a fine powder and I hate wearing dust masks and the like.

    • wendyfe says:

      Yes, Eve, both kinds of alum will act as mordants for paper, AKA cellulose fibre.
      Caution, though. Even PAS will give off fine powder. You can experiment without alum. Some plants do not appear to need any mordant in this technique. The plants that are considered sources of substantive dyes in traditional natural dyeing will do OK without alum. As for “fixing” – alum will not necessarily fix the colour for ever. Fading can occur. But that depends on a number of variables. Discussion for a another time in a blog post. Be ready to re- dye or over dye. You can try 2% iron to WOF, liquor or powder, as mordant. The iron canndarken the colours a bit.

      Good luck. TRy mixing the alum with water inside a big cardboard box with a hole cut in it like a kitty pee pee house…

      • Eve Studd says:

        That’s great, thank you so much for generously sharing your info. I’ve been a natural dyer for ages and have just recently discovered eco printing and starting to experiment. Such fun! It’ll keep me out of mischief for hours! I might try copper as well, I believe it’s good on veg fibres although I expect it will change the background colour a bit. Many thanks again, super website/blog.

  14. wendyfe says:

    Copper works, too, though I find not as dramatically as iron. Ammonia, too. Using the various modifiers, try painting areas of your printed cloth or paper after dyeing, and before dyeing as well; you can also selectively paint the plant materials themselves, as opposed to the cloth or paper, and before steaming.

  15. Peter says:

    Eco i thought was shotened from ecological .Eco dyeing ,Natural dyeing..Your page is full of non ecological toxic things ..Powder dyes amonia mordants .copper and aluminium sulphates .are very toxic ,We dont cook in them any more most hot water pipes are no longer copper .
    There are books available on Eco dyeing using natural bark leaves flowers etc collested from around you that is far less hazardus than what is recogmended here .India Flint from aust has some excellent books out and does work shops all over the world .
    People think because these minerals come out of the ground they are safe

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you for the commentary, Peter. You raise a number of debatable points on the subjects of “eco” and toxicity of plants and mordants. I have explained my use of the epithet “eco” throughout the blog so frequent readers might realise that it means many things and no common understanding is available at present among natural dyers. Alum is not toxic per se, and certainly not unsafe if used as I and other dyers direct. It is a mordant, a metallic salt, and has been used for centuries for helping dyes bond to fibres. In fact, today, one can buy potassium alumininum sulphate in food stores ( people use it, among other things, for keeping pickles green). Some eco dyers elect not to use mordants, as you point out ( of which alum is one) that is their choice. These days, indeed many dyers are aware of eco issues so that now, it is normal for dyers (as far as I can tell from research)to elect not to use chrome or tin as mordants which are not regarded any longer as safe to use. The use of iron and ammonia is safe of used as reported on my pages and in the references. Do browse. I would be glad to answer any questions you have.

  16. Good day!
    I apologize for the errors in the text – I write with the help of an interpreter.
      First of all, thank you for what gives technology! I see that is not alone in expressing gratitude. And it’s very good.
    I am engaged in the eco-print recently, any information analyze what suits me – I want to do. I want to learn to get a predictable result on cotton. Silk and wool dyed quite simple. I am using alum or rusty water. I make good prints, but there is always something to strive for.
       I wish you success!

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you for your interest and your visit! I recommend also thsaid blog of my friend, Elena Ulyanova in Kherson. She blogs at The Importance of Procrastination

      Good luck in your new work!

      Wendy

  17. dotyuki says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have been researching at the library but your site is the best for information on how to do this printing on paper! I begin to experiment next week.

  18. Milada says:

    Good morning, fantastic blog unusual information. Many mysteries explained. I started my adventure with the recently ecoprinting I’m still learning. My effects are less spectacular but because your information will make them grow.
    Congratulations achievements!
    Milada

  19. Christine King says:

    Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge. I took a two day Eco Printing workshop at Fiber College, Searsport, Maine with Amelia Poole from Maine. I thought I died and went to heaven. This technique made me fall in love with my gardens all over again. I am sad that it is Fall here in Maine and I won’t be able to experiment with my plants much longer. I love your site! Once again, thank you for sharing!

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you, Christine! Lucky you, taking a class with Amelia. Her workis lovely and her “ethos” admirable. Good luck to you in your adventures. Dry some plants and freeze some of the same this winter and see what lovelies appear from the winter bouquet. There is always the fridge (red cabbage, carrot tops), the green grocer’s and the florist…and under the snow, too – perennial geraniums, for example. Hope you report your doings

      Wendy

  20. Nikki Hegarty says:

    Really informative thank you:-)

  21. Pingback: Eco Dyeing – we can all do it. | Fun with Fibers

  22. hello! i am studying textile design at the moment and hoping to pursue it as part of a degree- i found your tutorial amazing and so much clearer than others on the internet, thank you! i was wondering what fabric you used for your ego dyes? if I’m going to invest in a fabric i wanted your opinion on what would be best to bring out strong dyes as I’m doing to use it as part of a portfolio! love your work by the way!

    many thanks, hannah

  23. llewena newell says:

    What can I say but just superb reading also love all the comments so a giant thank you to all

  24. Pingback: Eco-Dyeing with Judy Newland – Growing a Dye Garden

  25. Thank you for this Blog. It is very informative and helpful. I love eco dye printing and your suggestions have helped me along the way. 🙂

  26. lia flemings says:

    I’m interested in Eco deying. The article give great information. Thanks.

  27. meryl hayes says:

    These are great tutorials, thank you. I have been doing rust dyeing on fabric, moving on to eco dyeing which is a lot more complicated. Having read your tutorial I am going to try on paper to use as a background for monoprints. I have a drawer in my freezer full of leaves/berries etc just waiting to be used! Love it!

  28. Steph Squires says:

    Not only a great tutorial for eco print, but your beautiful work is an inspiration as well! Each time I google I come back to a different page on this site and get another eye opener.
    I just unrolled a batch of prints on silk and some of them could use some help with modifiers, which I haven’t tried before. I soaked some of the leaves in vinegar – some were soaked way too long and lost their colour too – so overall it’s an acidy bunch of prints with some nice reds I’d like to keep (or not to lose) but need some definition with a light touch. I was looking at recipes for alkaline modifier and read somewhere that 5-10 ml of ammonia per 100 ml water is good. Also have some ferrous sulphate and read that 1/2 tsp per 100 ml water is the recipe for a dip but it seems like a lot of FeS to me, as the tiniest pinch will change a full dyepot.
    Also wondering about the steaming after modifiers have dried, whether a full hour is needed and worrying about losing the anthocyanin reds by overheating.
    Finally dithering about whether I could moisten/iron these without a full rinse, just so I can see through the wrinkles at what I’m doing. Or perhaps wait a few days before modifying? Only two days since these were steamed. TIA for any advice, I love this process and it is such an adventure. 😀

    • wendyfe says:

      It is good to know that the info on my site keeps being helpful, Steph. The recipes for amounts of modifiers are by no means ” canonical” if you get my meaning. I agree that one is better off to start small with a tiny pinch or spoonful and work up, all the while keeping notes. Note the other variables operating in the dye pot – type of fibre (protein, cellulose) heat, water content, process time, other dyes and their chemical constituents- all have their influences – singly and in collaboration with each other. Juggle the variables by all means but keep careful notes of all the actors appearing in your dye drama of the day! Take an experimental approach. Yes certain colours can be lost by overheating or remain undeveloped by underheating. You will only know by trying the different options. As you said, it is an adventure and you have to write your own guide book eventually.

      • Steph Squires says:

        Thanks, Wendy, for good advice. I’m trying to keep better notes, but with many actors I still end up with a question mark. I could answer some questions with an experiment or two, so that’s what I’ll do.
        I hope you are well, and keeping best wishes for you and Shlomo in my thoughts.

  29. Irma Coumantarakis says:

    Hi Wendy,
    I have been ecoprinting silk scarves for awhile now. I was getting alot of autumn palate colors (orange, brown and green) and wanted to get a wider range and more intense colors. I purchased some dyes from Maiwa which have been fun to experiment with. My questions is: How do I get the dye color to permeate the whole scarf? I bundle it around a PVC pipe and only the ends of the scarf take on the color.
    I tried a Lac dye recently with a variety of leaves including maple, cotinus and eucalyptus bundled inside. I pre-mordanted with alum and spritzed the scarf with vinegar water. There was a faint pink color on the outer border of the scarf and the ends. The rest of the scarf was colored just from the leaves. I tried tossing the whole scarf into the dye bath. I lost all the pink color and it turned the leaf prints a deeper orange/brown.
    I’d really appreciate some advise. Thanks,
    Irma

    • wendyfe says:

      A lot of questions in your text here, Irma. Good you are experimenting! are you keeping good notes and taking pictures?
      I label my samples with the notes written on them to explain my results. No way you will remember otherwise.

      For other colours besides the autumn range, you need to research the plants that yield those colours you want. (FYI: Lac dye is from insects not plants. Vinegar is an acid and its job is to alter the pH of the water/dye. When you alter pH you trigger changes in colour. See my blog posts on using red cabbage with vinegar to obtain different colours, as an example. Do not go around throwing vinegar on stuff unless you know what it will do – or unless you are simply experimenting…I do not use Lac but I know that insect dyes such as cochineal are extremely sensitive to pH changes ) …as for bundling around a pipe: the aim of that method is to have some areas dyed and some left the original colour. Overall colour should happen in immersion dye baths. Nothing to stop you from dyeing a cloth two or three times to get the colours and the variations you want. That repeated dyeing is what natural dyers have always done to increase colour intensity in an immersion bath. Colour intensity in eco printing comes as a result of the right amount of heat, processing time and contact pressure between plants and substrate. Take a bit more time and do some slow and careful reading of the best practices by known eco printers.

  30. Sue says:

    Am new to Eco dyeing and am currently doing an online course with Nicola Brown this is a great tutorial many thanks will follow with interest would like to find out the basics for steaming Eco prints in a microwave

    • wendyfe says:

      I have not used the microwave for eco printing, Sue. You are on the brink of becoming the expert – that is how on becomes expert anyway, with a question nobody can answer to your satisfaction – thus you do the work!

      wendy

      • Sue says:

        Thanks Wendy will give it a try!! Just wasn’t sure if I would need to try to ‘cook’ it for ages or briefly but I should soon find out!!

  31. Debbie says:

    Just found thiese tutorial s. after yet another failed attempt to get leaf imprints. Am getting colours from plants coffee etc but fail to get impressions I can’t see I’m leaving anything out 😔 But won’t give up. Will follow step by step these tutorials

    • wendyfe says:

      Hi Debbie,

      Tips:

      1. Use plants known to give reliable colour – check my plant list for ideas
      2. Wrap TIGHTLY and WEIGHT down.
      3. Repeat that tip! Very close contact between substrate and plant
      4. High heat, lots of continuous steam.
      5. Use fresh plants for your experiments where possible. When you know more anout how the fresh ones behave, try dried.
      6. Leave cooking for at least 30 mins – up to an hour in most cases

      Good luck

  32. is it possible to have plant dyes with same method on cotton fabrics as well ?

    • wendyfe says:

      Yes, Pramila, it is. BUT you must be sure to scour the cotton fabric very well to remove all susbtances from laundry, etc. using soda ash and boiling water to remove the built-up substances. Then prepare as for dyeing as for linen. You will get different results on cellulose fibres (like cotton and linen) than on protein fibres (wool and silk) so follow common natural dye preparation for each. Consult a reliable dye prep reference manul for more details. As usual in eco prints, ensure close contact between plants and fabrics. Good luck!

  33. Jennifer Gunson says:

    Excellant, thank you for such details. Jennifer

  34. victoria says:

    gracias por compartir tu experiencia!!!!!!!

  35. Nancy Potek says:

    I am a bit familiar with eco dyeing. I usually use silk, but also cotton and linen, My process is similar to yours. However I dyed a linen blouse( which I had previously dyed in Organic indigo) with mostly eucalyptus leaves and put a cotton (dipped in iron) blanket between sections. The cotton did print although on the dark side, but the linen blouse came out with mostly black blotches.The other items in the vat came out as more or less I would have predicted. I am not sure how to fix the linen blouse or why it happened.. Any suggestion?
    I came to your site and fell in love with your garden photos and research. Since I am in northern Wisconsin, a lot of your research is relevant for me. Thank you for your generosity by sharing all this information( and the photos!)

    • wendyfe says:

      Hi Nancy

      So iron tends to fix colour ( the ones that need fixing ) and also changes it by darkening. Whatever colour you use with iron will change. Instead of using an iron “blanket” during dyeing, try painting or stamping ir stenciling on the iron liquor in selected areas after taking the cloth etc out of the dye bath.

      Happy playday!

  36. kipamela says:

    I just happened across this tutorial/forum by chance..lucky me! Have enjoyed reading it all and I have a question. I’ve been eco printing irregularly over the past 12 months with variable success, mostly on silk scarves. I’m wondering about a dye bath after printing. For example, if I were to put an eco printed silk scarf into a logwood Dye bath, is just the not-printed areas going to receive the logwood dye, or will it also dye the printed leaves so that I lose the leaf colour? I’d be grateful for any help thanks.

    • wendyfe says:

      Hello Ms. Kipamela

      If you post-dye the printed fabrics in a dye bath, yes, the eco prints will take on the colour of the dye bath; the eco printed colours will usually change a lot. You can also simultaneously simmer the tightly bundled eco prints in an immersion dye bath – you were mentioning logwood.

      The areas exposed to the dye will colour and those protected by the bundling will remain the colour of the plants, with some leaking possibly. Check out the work of Irit Dulman and Fabienne Dorsman Rey whose results with simultaneous dye bath techniques are excellent. I have often used this technique with walnut dye and indigo. Good luck.

  37. kipamela says:

    Thank you for that Wendyfe, very helpful information which I’ll use soon.

  38. I feel like I’ve received a wonderful gift reading this post and comments. I’ve eco dyed a bit on papers and am now experimenting on silk. I did a few beautiful plant rubbing transfers but they disappeared almost completely when I bundled and soaked. I’m sure so missed a step somewhere but I’m not sure where. Could you tell me how to ensure prints stay? Should I have ironed or donething before next dye? Many thanks…what a wonderful community.

    • wendyfe says:

      Thank you, Agnes. Best to check the cloud of tags on my blog and follow links to mordants. Also check the tutorials and the dye plant list which give some indication of which plants and substrates need treatment before eco printing. Ironing has little or no bearing on print longevity – possibly on definition of the print. You should try to read up here on the basics of how to print

  39. dotyuki says:

    Wendy, I really appreciate your site. I have been eco-printing, principally on paper with a bit on silk and cotton. I have a bought piece of 100% wool and want to know how to prepare for eco-printing. I see that I should wash it but uncertain with what and how. I would hate to agitate it and have the fibers bloom. Should I use synthrapol ? Thank you for any help.

  40. wendyfe says:

    Prepare wool for eco printing in hot but never boiling water, barely bubbling, and yes, a teaspoon of Synthrapol for a medium sized pot. Do not poke or agitate. Keep submerged by putting a small plate on top. Maybe 45 mins. Then drain and do not wring or squeeze hard. Pat, press and smooth the wool. Think as if you had a kitten in your hands. Rinse with warm water by gently immersing and changing water until it runs clear. No drastic changes in temperature, IOW. Use alum acetate as a mordant if the dye requires it.

    Best of luck!

    Wendy

    • dotyuki says:

      Thank you so much for your help. I have been using Alum acetate for paper so I could just use it. I do have potassium aluminum sulfate too. Will take your advice.

  41. wendyfe says:

    If you can find Orvus paste, I think that is better to use with wool than Synthropol. Orvus paste is used by farmers to wash farm animals. You can also use New Dawn dishwashing liquid, the blue one ( I think) – this is the bird rescue soap – used to remove oil from feathers. Or baby shampoo. The water temp should be about 165

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