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How to Eco Print and Dye Fabric

How to Eco Print and Dye Fabric

Posted by Ros on 12th Aug 2020

Ecobella’s own artist & maker in residence, Ros, takes us through some of the basics on how to eco print and dye fabrics, using the natural colours found in flowers, leaves and vegetables. Ros turns her beautiful botanical prints into gorgeous journal covers and practical fabric baskets. You can find them here.

I love Art; and as an artist and a teacher I’ve dabbled with all sorts of media and processes over the years, from painting ( oils, acrylics, water-colour, pastels and multimedia collage) Drawing ( pencils, charcoal, ink and crayon )Printmaking (silk-screening, collographs, etching, mono-printing, lino-printing, wood-block printing and stamping ) Sculpture ( assemblages, paper-mache, and claywork )

Lately, I’ve been venturing into textile art, specifically Eco-printing and dyeing using natural botanical elements such as leaves, flowers and vegetables on natural fabrics such as silk, wool, cotton, linen, hemp and bamboo (and combinations of these) It’s a totally absorbing and fascinating process which has a long and rich history, a growing contemporary practitioners group, and unlimited potential.

I think it’s really great that you can find leaves on the ground, throw them into a pot and boil them up and make a dye to colour or paint with on paper or fabric. (Paper can be regarded as textile too, because it is made from the fibres of plants, and sometimes animal fibres (especially silk))

Here are the basic steps for eco printing:

  • 1. The fabric is prepared by scouring to remove any traces of additives or dressing from the manufacturing process
  • 2. Depending on the fibre you are working with, and the results you are looking for, the fabric needs to be Mordanted. There are many choices. This helps the dye chemically bond to the fabric.
  • 3. Fabric can then be dyed with a solution made from boiling leaves, flowers, roots, or bark from various plants. This is done by soaking in the pot of simmering dye for anything up to a few hours.
  • 4. And/or it can be printed with the leaves, flowers etc. by laying these on the fabric, rolling them up around a piece of wood or a metal rod and boiling or steaming them for several hours.
  • 5. Resist the temptation to undo immediately – Leave it overnight or a few days for colours to intensify before unwrapping, and then marvel at the magic!

There are many, many variants of each step, lots of great books to get ideas and insights from, and many wonderful tutors you can learn from (including on-line). 

What is so interesting about the process and results are that it’s hard to totally predict what will be revealed at the end of it – There’s always a bit of a surprise element, which can spark off new avenues of exploration.

Ros xx

Ros turns her one-of-a-kind botanical prints and artworks into soft, textural homewares. They make wonderful gifts for the eco-consious or nature-lovers in your life. You can buy Ros's beautiful botanical journals and soft fabric baskets on Ecobella’s online store here.

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