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.

How to Eco-Print on Cotton

Eco-printing on cotton can be a bit more fiddly than eco-printing on wool or silk. Cellulose fibres don’t take up plant dyes as easily as protein fibres do. I have spent about 5 years experimenting with how to best prepare cotton and leaves for eco-printing, and am now able to fairly consistently get bright, clear leaf prints.

Natural dyeing with eucalyptus leaves on cotton

I am delighted to be releasing my ebook, Gum Leaf Alchemy, to share this method with others. The process I have developed works particularly well with eucalyptus leaves, but I have also been getting some good results from experiments with other types of leaves, from both native Australian and introduced plants.

Learn how to eco-print on cotton

The ebook guides you through each step of the process, from finding and preparing leaves and fabric, to arranging the leaves and rolling bundles. Find out more here.

Rolling bundles for eco-printing on cotton
How to arrange leaves and roll eco-print bundles