Last month I tried eco-printing with a friend, and this month I got to unwrap the amazing results. The surprises were better than Christmas as a child! Eco-printing is a technique developed by artist India Flint in Australia, where leaves, flowers, barks, and husks leave a colourful imprint directly on fabric through pressure and heat. Check out this interview with India Flint for a quick primer: http://www.quiltingdaily.com/blog/go-wild-dye-textiles-naturally-qa-with-india-flint
This technique interests me because I love the designs that leaves and flowers make, and I am curious about the natural dyes found in the plants that grow around me, like blackberry, oak, and sumac. So one day I went over to my friend’s house and we spent the afternoon laying plants down on merino wool and silk, then bundling everything tightly with string. She has an outdoor area for her dye pots, which is important for good ventilation as you never know what chemicals will be released by natural dyes! After leaving the pieces to dry and set for a month, I unwrapped and heat-set all the fabrics with a hot iron directly on the fabric. We made four pieces, using a slightly different process for each so we could see how the effects differed.
Here are the beautiful results;
Piece #1 – Grey Merino Wool, wrapped in an iron blanket around a copper rod and boiled in an iron pot 1.5 hours.
This one turned out quite dark, most likely from the heavy use of iron. Plants included yellow rose petals, orange onion skins, relief prints with bracken fern, and purple/coffee-coloured sumac polka dots.
Piece #2 – White Silk, sprayed with vinegar water, wrapped around a copper rod, and boiled in an iron pot for 1.5 hours.
This one turned out like a beautiful salt-dyed watercolour or tie-dye! The yellow rose petals came out with a clear colour, and the blackberry leaves left a lovely dark purple. This piece went green on the end due to the copper rod. Where the edges came away from the roll, the yellow turns to olive green and the purple darkens to almost black, most likely from the contact with the iron during boiling.
Piece #3 – White Merino Wool, pre-mordanted in Alum, wrapped around a copper rod and soaked first in old iron water with leaves then boiled in a copper pot for 1.5 hrs.
This one unrolled with vivid colours and clear leaf prints! The onion skins were bright orange, the eucalyptus leaves and flowers made perfect red prints, the poinsetta and blackberry leaves made lovely grey and purple splotches, and a sprinkling of weld turned an olive green.
Piece #4 – White Merino Wool, sprayed with vinegar, wrapped around a copper rod, and boiled in a copper pot with rust for 1.5 hours.
This piece had lots of interesting visual elements. The edge next to the copper rod turned a bright turquoise-green, the onion skins showed as a rust colour, the sumac made lovely coffee-coloured polka dots, and the blackberry leaves left a crisp purple-brown imprint.
Out of all the techniques, the ones that turned out best were the pre-mordanted merino wool and the vinegar-sprayed silk. I discovered that I prefer a copper pot to an iron pot so that the colours don’t become overly dark, and that the tighter a piece is bound the clearer the imprints are. I am excited to try again, as I see the plants around me differently: I find myself looking around as I walk, constantly wondering, what colour will that plant make?