Shibori eco-printing on wool

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.

Eco-printing on wool

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.

A method for shibori plus eco-printing on wool

I submerge this bundle in a dye bath and cook it for 2-3 hours (longer than I would do for cotton).

Eucalyptus leaf eco-print and shibori on wool

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.

Shibori folding with eucalyptus leaf prints

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.

Eco-printed, naturally dyed wool coat by Gumnut Magic

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.

Shibori natural dyeing and eco-print woollen vest by Gumnut Magic

You can see how well the eucalyptus leaves have printed over the synthetic dye, and the lines created from the folding method.

Find out more about combining eco-printing plus shibori on


If you want to learn this technique with step-by-step instructions, I have an ecourse all about wool and shibori. It is suitable for complete beginners, or for anyone who wants to learn how to combine eco-printing and shibori techniques on wool.

15 thoughts on “Shibori eco-printing on wool”

  1. Did you mordant the wool? With what and for how long? What’s in the “dye bath.” I usually mordant cotton with alum and then steam, not dye. Your coats are lovely. My eucalyptus has never resulted in such a beautiful color…..which is always part of the magic of eco printing.

    1. I didn’t mordant these pieces, it is not necessary for wool and silk unless you want to modify the natural colours. The dyebath was made from soaked eucalyptus bark plus a splash of iron mordant to help darken it. I prefer to cook my bundles through submersion rather than steaming. You can get these lovely patterns through submersion and it is just an easier set up.

        1. No, amazingly not. Felting requires friction and movement of the fibres, so because the wool is tied tightly it can survive the high temperatures very well without felting.

  2. Pingback: Shibori eco-printing on cotton – Gumnut Magic

    1. I use a variety of eucalypts to get orange or red prints on wool. The most reliable are any with silvery-blue leaves such as E. cinerea. But light green leaves are usually good too, while darker green leaves don’t give such bright prints on wool in my experience. I am generalising of course, there are over 700 types of eucalyptus and I certainly haven’t tested them all!

  3. Is the blue shirt also wool? It looks so beautiful! I’m going have my first go at ecodying and am wondering if you recommend soaking cotton in soy before or throwing it in like that?

    1. Yes, the blue vest is wool too, the blue is synthetic dye that was already on it when I bought it. You always need to prepare cotton with a mordant or binder – soy would help you get similar results to these, or you can use an iron mordant like I describe in my Gum Leaf Alchemy eco-printing on cotton ebook. Good luck!

  4. Absolutely loved these. Did you process the leaves in any manner before using them? Can one directly use freshly plucked eucalyptus leaves?

    1. Yes, freshly picked leaves are actually the best to use. You can also use dried leaves, or fresh leaves stored in water for a few weeks, if you aren’t ready to use the leaves straight after picking but they will lose potency over time.

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