Botanical Printing Fun
Autumn has definitely arrived in my little corner of the world, the trees are turning breath-taking shades of red, gold and orange and starting to fall to the ground.
This week I met with two friends who I normally meet every couple of months for a felting play-date but we couldn’t pass up the perfect opportunity to use the abundance of natural materials at our feet and have a go a botanical printing. Not something any of us are experts in but its always fun to try new things isn’t it?
I have been playing with botanical printing for a couple of years now, so I already had a selection of materials to hand (rusty water, logwood extract, a tea urn and fish kettle for steaming etc) but Janine and Nancy also brought materials (red onion skins, another fish kettle, hot plate etc) with them, along with the all important vegetation and mordanted fabrics.
After looking through some of my previous attempts we settled on a logwood carrier blanket for the first attempt. The leaves were dipped in iron water before laying on our fabric, covering with the logwood-soaked carrier blanket and steaming. These were our results…
Janine’s dye blanket was smaller than the fabric she was printing, I love how her leaf prints appear to be breaking free from their logwood “frame”:
I loved the greens Nancy achieved with jasmine and rose leaves:
This was my silk scarf part way through the reveal…. logwood blanket with leaves still stuck to it on the left, printed scarf on the right. I was a little disappointed with the eucalyptus leaf in the top centre of the picture, I have previously achieved some lovely orange prints from this tree but not today.
My silk scarf revealed….
Never one to make life simple, I added a previously printed nunofelt scarf to the other side of my logwood blanket. I was reprinting it because I did not like the original, insipid print, but I like the over-print even less! 🙁
Now it is dry it arguably looks even worse! Not to my taste at all. Yuk!
Next we tried a dye bath (as opposed to steaming our bundles), we mixed a sweet-smelling concoction of eucalyptus bark and red onion skins:
I thought most of the leaf print results from this batch were a little disappointing (only the cotinus appeared to work) although we did get some nice shibori style stripes. The colour difference between the alum-mordanted and unmordanted silk was striking, mordanting really does yield brighter colours.
We sprinkled dried safflower petals among the iron-dipped leaves before bundling and simmering for 90 minutes.
Nancy had better luck with a second piece of cotton in her bundle:
Finally we tried soaking our fabric in tea and using an iron-soaked carrier blanket, the tea gives a gentle yellow-brown colour but where the iron reaches the tea, it turns almost black:
I was quite surprised by how much the colour of the leaf contributed to the colour of the print, in previous tests I found the orange and red leaves gave yellow and brown prints, just like the yellow leaves…. this really is a craft that relies on serendipity!
Another surprise was the beauty of the iron carrier blankets, they really stole the show!
Nancy also had a promising looking result from a heuchera leaf
But when the leaf was removed the print underneath was a little disappointing…
Our final bundles of the day were arguably the best. Janine and I used some large fatsia leaves and I included some wisteria that Janine had brought, this gave one of the most beautiful greens I have ever achieved from a botanical print. We dipped the leaves in iron water and used a logwood carrier blanket again.
While I love the white silhouette effect of the large fatsia leaf on my scarf, I am in awe of the detailed print Janine achieved from hers…
Feeling inspired by the wonderful greens Nancy’s jasmine had given, I carried on after they left, pruning my poor garden far more than it really needed 🙂 However, while the maple and liquid amber leaves printed beautifully, my jasmine wasn’t as pretty as Nancy’s:
I included a nunofelted scarf on the other side of this dye blanket too and was pleased with the colours from the sycamore and oak leaves, I think the yellows work beautifully next to the blue-grey background:
I also put another bundle in the red onion and eucalyptus bark dye pot, but this time it was simmered for 2 hours, and I think the leaf prints were much improved from the extra 30 minutes of cooking:
Thinking of having a go yourself? You should, its a lot of fun if you like unwrapping presents! You can never really know what you will get 🙂
All but one of the scarves / fabrics in this post were steamed or simmered for 90 minutes, however, I found simmering in the dye bath yielded better results if they were left in for at least 2 hours. I know some botanical printers steam for a lot longer or leave their bundles to cool overnight before unwrapping, but I never have the patience to do that! 🙂
All the leaves were placed with the veins facing the fabric to be printed, in theory the stomata (the holes that the leaf “breathes” through) on the leaf underside should give a better print as there is more opportunity for the tannins to be released, but the prints on the iron blanket (they are printed from the top of the leaf) were equally stunning, I will leave it to you to experiment with that and see which works best.
In most cases (not when the iron blanket was used) we dipped the leaves in iron water before laying on the fabric.
All fabrics were gently washed after printing to remove the iron and organic material.
12 thoughts on “Botanical Printing Fun”
Hi Teri, eco printing it is so much fun ! Everytime it is like a birthday present, what is in that package? I printed some t-shirts last summer and and went through the same stages like you of wondering. Now i like to find out how it is to print on leather.
Did you do all those pieces on one day?
Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Ifke, yes, I love unwrapping the bundles, it is so exciting to see what you will get! 🙂 I have seen one person posting photos of eco-printed leather on FB, in the printing with botanicals group (a good group to join if you are a beginner as they don’t just post pretty photos they explain the methods too).
Yes, all the photos above were printed in one day, but there were 3 of us 🙂
Please let us know how you get on with printing on leather….
The printing is certainly fun and you’ve got some pretty prints there!
Thank you, my expectations for botanical pretty are quite low (I still consider myself a beginner) so I am almost always pleasantly surprised when opening the bundle 🙂
Always quite the process, isn’t it? Sounds like a fun party and you even got presents!
Yes, lots of presents, and I even liked most of them! 🙂
This looks like fun! I did some eco-printing a few years ago via Nicole Brown from Clasheen (online courses) but have never used an iron blanket. I’ve been wanting to get out all the stuff and have another go at it, and now you’ve inspired me. Would you mind explaining the process with the iron blanket? I have only tied up my silk and wool fabrics with cording, around pieces of iron pipe. Thank you.
The iron blanket is very easy – first you need some iron water, put a handful of rusty (or at least iron) nails in a bucket of water and add a tablespoon of citric acid or a cupful of vinegar and leave for a week or three until the water starts to turn yellow. You can stir it periodically to speed up the process.
Soak a piece of cotton, torn up old bedsheets are good (the carrier blanket) in your iron water so it is evenly saturated then wring out. Layout a sheet of plastic, your fabric to be printed and your leaves, then place your iron blanket on top, roll up and bind tightly before steaming for at least 90 min.
That’s all there is to it! 🙂
Eco printing is fun particularly in the company of like mind participants….patience – nope, I’m always too keen to see the results. But as you say it is a craft of serendipity.
Thank you for the explanation about the iron blanket, something I’ve not used before.
Have you tried red cabbage? It gives an amazing blue colour, but I don’t know how fugitive it is over a long period of time.
I thoroughly recommend having a printing party, you get all the excitement of unwrapping extra bundles without the work of laying them out.
Yes I tried red cabbage on an eco-dyeing workshop a few years ago, as I recall you could change the colour by changing the pH, but yes, I think you are right the colour is fugitive (not permanent). If you are interested in eco-dyeing, I recommend Jenny Dean’s Wild Color, I like how it gives you different colour swatches for each plant for the different types of mordant and different parts of the plant.
Looks like you had a lot of fun. You got some really nice clear prints and some much nicer colours than I usually see.