Good leaves to use for eco-Printing: experiment one

I’ve been working exclusively with gum leaves for the past few years. I love everything about them- their shape, their smell, the amazing range of colours and textures I can get from them. But I’ve decided to spend time this year experimenting with other types of leaves to eco-print with. I’m curious about how well the method I described in my ebook will work with different leaves.

For this first experiment, I did a leaf walk around Hazelbrook, gathering from a wide range of native and introduced plants. I collected 2 leaves or small branches from each plant, so I could compare the difference between using them fresh and letting them soak for a while.

The leaves were placed on mordanted cotton, wrapped into bundles then boiled for about an hour. Some leaves would do better with lower temperatures, but I was processing eucalyptus bundles at the same time and they definitely need boiling to properly release their colour.

The bundle I did with fresh leaves had a few promising prints, especially the dark blue maple leaves at the top, and some quite nicely outlined grevillea leaves (at least I think that’s what they are, I didn’t take notes as I gathered!). Overall, many of the leaves produced indistinct prints and bled out a lot of colour which turned the fabric quite dark.

I let the extra leaves I had gathered soak in water for a month before repeating this experiment. I got many more clear leaf prints this time. Some of the colours were quite incredible when I first unwrapped the bundle. The two ferns were almost light aqua, a colour that I haven’t seen in an eco-print before. All the colours have dulled a bit since unwrapping. Next time I might try leaving the bundles for at least a few days before unwrapping, to let the colours develop further.

The top left print is from acacia leaves, either black wattle or similar. The bottom right print is a grevillea leaf, and the others I’m not sure about.

Along with more maple leaves, I was delighted to get this clear fern print. I’m excited to try more things with different fern varieties as they have such distinctive shapes. I have a selection of local fern leaves currently soaking, ready for future experiments.

5 thoughts on “Good leaves to use for eco-Printing: experiment one”

  1. Hi Louise. I have started dabbling in eco printing and bought your ebook a few weeks back. Compliments on it! It’s filled with much invaluable advice & honest experience. Thank you. I do have a query – I forgot to scour 2 pieces of new cotton before mordanting (vinegar/water) I used only gum leaves but the print hardly visible. Strong suspicion the new material needed scouring – Eek! Can I go back & scour? … or best rinse & mordant again. The silk scarf took the leaves beautifully ps I simmered both rolls in pressed Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (1:2 added water) so silk is beautifully tinged purple on the edges. Thank you. Warm regards, Rita -Stellenbosch, South Africa

    1. Hi Rita, sorry I just saw this comment. Yes, I sometimes scour fabric after failed eco-print attempts, then re-mordant it. So glad you liked the ebook. Have you been doing any more experiments lately?

  2. Pingback: Good leaves to use for eco-printing: experiment two – Gumnut Magic

  3. Hi! Here in Europe we steam the leaves to open them before printing. Soaking sounds like fun, but don’t they rot in a month? Do you add anything to the water?

    1. Hi Nadia, I just soak them in plain water. You’d be surprised by how long most leaves can soak without deteriorating and I really do find it helps me get bright clear prints. I’ve developed my skills with other leaves a lot since this blog post and will soon be releasing a new ebook about a range of different leaves that are good for eco-printing with and how long I recommend soaking them for.

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