Eco Printing with Tropical Leaves

4 03 2017

At the end of January I again had the opportunity to combine a winter vacation with eco printing in Mexico. I stayed at my Minnesota friends’ house in Puerto Morelos (a small beachfront town just south of Cancun) in exchange for sharing some new techniques I’ve learned in the past year with their Mexican artisan friend, Angelica. We built on what we learned last year about some of the local plants that print well, and added some natural dyes to the mix. We tried using the local tropical almond tree leaves for a dyebath, which gave a beautiful gold color. Here are a few images from the mini-workshop.  I especially love the unknown vine that was easy to find and printed up nicely, with and without iron.

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mexicoecoprint

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*  View my available scarves in the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP. *


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Eucalyptus Color Tests for Eco Printing

18 02 2017

I love to experiment!  It takes a certain amount of discipline and organization, but I’m always glad when I take the time. I mostly use my local leaves for eco printing, but I also love the colors and shapes of Eucalyptus leaves and seeds. Australian Eucalyptus, in the hands of India Flint, inspired the eco printing process, at least as I understand it. Since I’m a long way from Eucalyptus country here in Minnesota, I buy bunches from Trader Joe’s.

When I recently gathered up all my dried materials to move into studio space so I could spread out, I discovered quite a few dried Eucalyptus bunches I had stashed away!  (Is there a support group for Eucalyptus hoarders?)  The color from Eucalyptus leaves can vary from brown to orange to red, depending on many factors, including the type of Euca, growing conditions as well as the eco printing process. Knowing what color they will print is helpful when I want more control over design. So I decided to test my leaves for color, by taking a few leaves from each bunch. The tricky part was tracking which bunch the leaves came from… Here is my process.

  • Habotai silk fabric, Test 1 pre-mordanted in Alum at 20% WOF (weight of fiber); Test 2 no Alum
  • Bundled dry so I could track which leaves came from which branch.
  • Silk soaked in fairly weak rusty iron water about 10 minutes, as I’ve found a bit of iron brings out the richness of the colors in Euca leaves.
  • Plastic layer to TRY to keep the prints separate. (Interesting result, see below.)
  • Steamed 2 hours, over just barely simmering water. (My roaster was sluggish.)
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8 bunches of Eucalyptus (plus misc. leaves on right)

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Test 1: Eucas on silk pre-mordanted with Alum

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Test 1 Results

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Test 2: Silk no mordant (Eucas +2 poinsettia leaves on right end)

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Test 2 Results

RESULTS:

  • Leaves at 5 cm and 11 cm produced the strongest color. I think the leaves at 5 are the large Silver Dollar Euca.
  • Round leaves tended to produce more reds, although not all the round leaves did.
  • Alum pre-mordant didn’t make much of a difference. This was interesting, as I’ve heard you can’t get red from Euca leaves if you mordant with alum. Hmmm….
  • Plastic layer: All the strong reds snuck right through the plastic and repeat printed! The red prints on the far left end of both pieces are repeat prints from leaves at 5 cm. That was surprising!

So… keep some fabric scraps handy and keep experimenting!

Euca Maple scarf

Silk scarf eco printed with eucalyptus and maple leaves

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** View available scarves in the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP.**


 





Eco Printing with Butternut Tree Leaves

26 04 2016

Butternut is one of my favorite leaves to eco print on silk. My friend Maria has a huge but ailing Butternut tree in her backyard here in Minneapolis and she’s not sure how much longer it will stand. Butternut trees have become fairly rare in this area, unlike the more common Black Walnut. We thought it would be nice to try printing leaves from her tree onto a silk scarf, so if/when the tree does have to come down, she’ll have a keepsake.

She saved me some leaves in the fall, after they had fallen. I pressed some that were still fairly fresh and dried the others in a grocery bag, as they were too crumpled and dry to press flat.  They printed beautifully, similar to Black Walnut leaves, but in a beautiful golden brown.

I folded the Habotai silk scarves when bundling to create a mirror image, showing both prints from the top and bottom of the leaves. I first soaked the scarves in a dilute solution of rusty iron water for about ½ hour to intensify the prints. I made a few so my friend could pick the one she liked the best. This is the one she picked:

Butternut leaf eco printed silk scarf

Butternut Leaf Eco Printed onto Silk Scarf, 31

Here are the other two scarves I printed using the Butternut leaves from her tree plus a few other leaves. To vary the effects, I used a layer of parchment paper on these two so the pigment from the leaf wouldn’t go through all the layers. I also wrapped the first scarf around a copper pipe instead of a wooden dowel. It would also be interesting to try Butternut leaves or nuts as a natural dye, although a bit tricky to get enough leaves from a huge tree or nuts before the squirrels get them!

Butternut eco printed silk scarf, 34

Butternut Leaf Eco Printed onto Silk Scarf, 31



** View available scarves in the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP.**


 





Dyeing with Onion Skins: Red or Yellow?

12 04 2016

Onion skins are one of my favorite natural dyes, with colors ranging from yellow with alum mordant to deep rust and brown (with iron).  I usually just mix them all in one dye bath… I’ve been curious whether red and yellow onion skins give different colors when dyeing silk, so I decided to do a test. I separated, then weighed out equal amounts of red and yellow onion skins, then simmered them separately in stainless steel pans for about an hour and let the dye cool and sit overnight.

red and yellow onion skin dye

Comparing dye color from red and yellow onion skins

I added some squares of silk into each pot: no mordant, alum pre-mordant, iron pre-mordant plus some cotton. The red onion skins gave a slightly darker, more muted color. I was surprised that pre-mordanting with alum didn’t make a difference in the color, at least this time. Simmering it longer, about 15 minutes, made more of a difference in color. The silk squares pre-mordanted with iron turned a very dark brown.

Dye test results

From front: Silk no mordant, with alum, simmered longer, iron mordant, cotton with alum

Onion skin dye test

Onion skin dye on silk: red on left, yellow on right

Results:

  • So far I still like the color I’ve gotten using a mix of red and yellow onion the best.
  • More onion skins to fabric and longer simmering times gave more intense colors.
  • Pre-mordanting the silk with Alum had little, if any, effect. (I don’t quite believe this one, so I’ll keep throwing test squares into future onion skin pots.)
  • Just a bit of iron mordant gives a very dark brown.

Here are a couple of examples of my eco printed scarves using onion skin dye.

scarf dyed with onion skins

Eco printed silk scarf dyed with onion skins (mixed colors)

eco print scarf with onion skin dye

Onion skin dye modified by iron, eco printed on silk with sumac leaves


*  Visit the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP. *









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