Ecoprinting with eucalyptus

My neighbour Len three doors down has a very large eucalyptus tree in his garden. I kept meaning to ask if I could go and “prune” some cuttings, but I don’t see him very often (it’s like that in London!).

But I came home one day a few months ago to find a landscape gardener’s truck parked on the road filled with various branches and cuttings, including eucalyptus! There was no-one around to ask (it was lunchtime), so I salvaged an armful of eucalyptus – and it’s been sitting on my front porch ever since.

For those of you who have never done any ecoprinting, eucalyptus is one of the easiest plants to work with. It doesn’t need a mordant, prints on pretty much anything (including plastic!), and, as a bonus, fills the house with a lovely smell while “cooking”. 🙂

So last week I finally got round to using some of it for ecoprinting. I started with a cream wool scarf, which gave some very strong prints.

scarf with eucalyptus ecoprints

As they were so strong, I wondered whether the prints would still show if I overdyed with indigo. I hummed and ha-ed and took a mini straw poll on Instagram, where there was a slight majority in favour of leaving it as it was.

But I tested the indigo vat after the dyeing session with Carol and it seemed to be fairly weak. So I overdyed. 🙂

eucalyptus ecoprint overdyed with indigo

I’d tested the vat on cotton, and it came out fairly light blue, but the wool scarf clearly took the colour much better, so the scarf is darker than I expected. But the prints still show through.

I also printed a couple of raw silk scarves. Because the fabric is much lighter, textured and semi-transparent, I was quite disappointed when I initially unwrapped these, as the prints didn’t seem to be as strong. However, one of the things I learnt on Irit Dulman’s workshop is that you can’t tell what the final print looks like until the fabric is dry and ironed – and indeed, the print was stronger when the scarves were dry.

I’m still considering whether to overprint these with some different leaves treated with iron, but I may resist(!), given the indigo result.

As the eucalyptus worked so well on wool, I made a couple of felt vessels and printed these.

felt vessels ecoprinted with eucalyptus felt vessels ecoprinted with eucalyptus

I don’t think I will overdye these! 😉

Finally, in case you thought I was kidding about eucalyptus printing on plastic, here’s a picture of some of the plastic wrap I used to cover one of the scarves!

plastic ecoprinted with eucalyptus

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

12 thoughts on “Ecoprinting with eucalyptus”

  1. Brilliant Kim – so interesting to be experimenting with all these options. I enjoy seeing your pictures and plan to do some shibori dyeing with acid dyes I have knocking around in my workroom, having been spurred on by our day together. Am off to France on Wednesday, so when I come back I suspect. Can take some cloth to stitch into patterns while I’m away, so thankyou for giving me another string to my bow!!

  2. What a great find of eucalyptus. It doesn’t grow here so I haven’t tried it. I especially like your two felt pieces. And the plastic would be perfect in a mixed media piece. You know you can iron different plastics together and then stitch on them?

    1. Thanks Ruth. There’s actually a surprising number of eucalyptus trees in London, so I guess some species are hardier than others.

      When I first started working with textiles I used plastic a lot – fusing plastic bags with vilene and stitching on top. I might have to return to my roots! 🙂

  3. What a great results Kim! Irit teached us well 🙂 Love the felt objects as well as your experiments with plastic, I want to try that!

  4. Hello Kim, I absolutely love the printing on felt vessels. I don’t have access to eucalyptus leaves here in Oregon, but I would love to try some other leaves. Fig leaves are pretty or I wonder how pine needles would work. I have never tried Eco dying and I am eager to learn. Do you recommend a specific book or you tube lesson? Also, at what stage did you dye the felt vessels? Was the resist still inside? Thank you so much for sharing your lovely art. Regards, Terri S.

    1. Hello Terri – thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your comments about my felt vessels! 🙂

      I haven’t tried fig leaves, and the only evergreen I’ve tried is casuarina in a workshop with Irit Dulman, which prints beautifully with an iron mordant. I have India Flint’s book Eco Colour, but I don’t watch Youtube much – I’m a bit impatient! Irit is a great teacher so I would recommend her workshops – she was on the west coast recently. The Printing Nature group on Facebook also has loads of useful info. But for me it’s essentially a case of experimenting for myself with the plants available locally.

      I dyed the felt vessels after removing the resist and fulling completely.

      Good luck with your eco dyeing!

      1. Thank you so much for the tips and suggestions. I will look up Irit Dulman and India Flint. 🙂

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