Eco-printing on paper video tutorial: St John’s wort

Here’s a simple video tutorial for eco-printing on paper using St John’s wort. I’ve used three different variables to get quite different results from a single plant:

  • plain watercolour paper
  • paper soaked in iron mordant
  • paper soaked in logwood dye

Although I love the bright results St John’s wort gives on plain paper, the discharge print is really special. As mentioned in the video, you can learn more about discharge eco-printing on paper from my ebook, Plant Poetry. That ebook covers a whole range of methods for eco-printing on paper, and has many examples of plants that are suitable to use.

Here’s a quick version of the tutorial, if you just want to see the process without all the explanations:

Please excuse the sideways orientation, it’s to make it easier to view for those of you on phones!

Here’s the three variations together:

If you’d like to learn more about St John’s wort, or check out some more prints using this plant, take a look at my earlier blog post.

Discharge eco-printing on cotton with logwood and geranium

Discharge eco-printing is a method that has been mostly developed and refined by Irit Dulman. She has some very useful information about this technique on her blog. It is a type of eco-printing where fabric is dyed a solid colour, then leaves are placed on top. When the bundle is cooked, some of the leaf acids and other compounds react with the solid dye and ‘discharge’ it, leaving a leaf print surrounded by colour.

Geranium leaves eco-printed onto logwood dyed cotton, creating a discharge effect

As with other types of eco-printing, most people seem to do discharge printing on wool and silk. But because I prefer using plant-based fibres, I have been experimenting with this technique on cotton. This is my most successful piece so far.

Discharge eco-printing on cotton

I used logwood dye for the background, which has created a rich earthy purple. And I used 2 varieties of geranium leaves to create the discharge prints.

As you can see in this video, one variety creates far clearer discharge prints than the other. But I am happy with both, because I wasn’t going for an even, uniform appearance with isolated, clear leaf prints. I like the moodiness of this tope, which reminds me of night skies and fireworks and magic.

Discharge eco-printing: Geranium leaves and logwood on cotton

I am still very new to this technique. But here is what is working best for me so far: First I mordant my fabric with aluminium acetate, then soak it in a warm dye bath until it is the colour I want. I choose a leaf with good discharging potential (Irit Dulman shares many examples of these on her blog). Generally the back of the leaf discharges more, but I like to use both sides and see the different effects. After placing the leaves on the dyed fabric, I fold it up, clamp it between tiles and cook as usual.

Examples of a cotton top dyed with logwood and discharge eco-printed with geranium leaves