In Week One of my eco-printing ecourse, we explore how to combine eco-printing and shibori dyeing on wool. Shibori is a Japanese dyeing technique, where you fold or tie up the fabric in order to create resists. Then you submerge the fabric in dye. The resist area stays plain, while the exposed area picks up the dye. This produces a pattern. By placing leaves inside the areas of resist, you can get organic leaf prints surrounded by geometric patterns of solid colours. Here is a vest dyed in a similar way to what we explore in the ecourse:
To create this, I used eucalyptus leaves for the eco-printing, and created a dyebath of eucalyptus sawdust with iron mordant to darken it.
Following on from my recent post about combining shibori dyeing and eco-printing on wool, here are some similar effects achieved on cotton. I really enjoy combining organic eco-prints with geometric grids or lines from shibori dyeing methods.
This pattern was created by folding the tshirt up into a small bundle, adding liquidambar and Japanese maple leaves as I went. Then I tied it tightly with string and submerged it in a dye bath of eucalyptus bark and iron, cooking it for about 1 hour. The fabric was mordanted with homemade iron and alum mordants, following the instructions in my ebook, Gum Leaf Alchemy.
Here is a close up of a similar pattern, this time with eucalyptus leaves and an iron mordant. The large section of lines show which part of the tshirt ended up on the outside of the bundle, wrapped tightly with string. There are smaller sections of lines where other parts of the tshirt were also on the outside of the bundle, because of how it was folded.
This long-sleeved tshirt was also folded up, but into a smaller bundle which was pressed between two square pieces of hardwood. This helped to create a very even, geometric pattern to contrast with the organic shape of the leaf prints. This piece was also mordanted with iron and alum.
This piece of fabric was mordanted with iron, covered in rose leaves and folded into large squares. I pressed the fabric between 2 tiles, clipped the tiles together then submerged the bundle in a dye bath and cooked it.
If you would like to come back to this idea later, you can pin the below image.
I’ve had plenty of luck lately finding lovely second-hand woollens to dye. Although cotton is my favourite for eco-printing, it is always a nice treat to use wool for a change. It gives such different results, especially when using eucalyptus leaves.
My favourite method for eco-printing on wool is to fold up the garment into a square, adding leaves as I go. Here I have used eucalyptus leaves. Then I press the bundle between tiles or blocks of wood and tie it firmly to hold the leaves in places. For thin bundles, clamps or clips can also be used.
I submerge this bundle in a dye bath and cook it for 2-3 hours (longer than I would do for cotton).
When it has cooled down, I unwrap it to reveal bright orange prints where the leaves were touching the fabric, and dark patches where the edges of the bundle were exposed to the dye bath.
Sometimes the dye seeps into the bundle and surrounds the leaf prints. And lines are created wherever the string was pressing firmly into the fabric.
Here is one of the finished pieces. The shibori patches have dried quite light on this one and just add gentle areas of warm brown to contrast with the bright leaf prints.
This piece I folded up into very small squares and tied between two pieces of hardwood. The fabric was already dyed blue with synthethic dyes when I bought it.
You can see how well the eucalyptus leaves have printed over the synthetic dye, and the lines created from the folding method.
Combining shibori and eco-printing methods can create dynamic designs that have both structured and organic elements. To create this design, I used woollen thermal garments, eucalyptus leaves, wooden boards and string.
The eucalyptus leaves were placed onto wool, which was then folded up using a simple shibori accordion fold. The garments were pressed between the wood boards and tied tightly to hold the shape. Then these bundles were boiled in water for about 2 hours. I added eucalyptus leaves and iron to the water, to dye the exposed bits of fabric.
Here you can see how the exposed wool has picked up dark colours from the dyebath, while the wood has masked the inner bits of fabric. This creates strong contrast against the leaf prints.
Beginning to unwrap…
This is the back of the final design. I love how this way of folding creates many lines of symmetry, and some bits of the fabric get more exposed to the dyebath than others.
I’ve been wanting to try dyeing with Australian Indigo (Indigofera Australis) for a long time. I’ve got a small bush growing but it is still too young for harvesting. So I was very excited when some friends offered me clippings from their huge plant.
There are a few tutorials online specifically for Australian Indigo, at Turkey Red Journal and Tinker Maker. But I really wanted to keep it natural and avoid using Sodium Hydrosulphite. I kept researching and came across a method for Japanese Indigo which uses cold processing of fresh leaves. Despite Japanese Indigo (Persicaria Tinctorium) being a completely unrelated plant, I decided to give this method a go. And I’m so pleased with how well it worked!
I followed the instructions on The Dogwood Dyer’s blog, which involve whizzing up fresh leaves in a blender with cold water and vinegar. I strained this liquid then folded and tied some small cotton samples and soaked them in the dye.
After the first soak the cotton has turned this vivid green.
The next day I did many rounds of short dips and each time the cotton got darker and more blue.
This is the darkest that the triangle got, plus some lighter, greener samples and an Indigofera Australis leaf. Isn’t it magic that these leaves can produce such a dark blue?!
This was my first time trying shibori. It was so exciting to unwrap my little triangle and discover the beautiful patterns that folding and tying had made on this top.
And here are a few other samples. I really enjoyed beginning to explore the many hues that Australian Indigo can produce. Now to find and grow more plants!