Ecoprinting with mordants and natural dyes

Feast or famine: I haven’t posted for a while, so today you’re getting a long photo-heavy post! All the garments featured are upcycled, bought from charity shops or auctions.

With most of the previous ecoprinting I’ve done I have not mordanted the fabric. I’ve used mostly silk and wool, which are protein fibres and tend to print OK if I bundle them with a piece of cloth soaked in iron. The vintage cream silk dress below, for example, was not mordanted in advance – I just used maple leaves and an iron “blanket”.

maple dress

So I extended this method to other silk garments that were already dyed different colours. The scarf below was a strong lime yellow, and I printed it with different geranium (cranesbill) leaves. I picked the leaves from the garden of lovely embroiderer Lucy Goffin, who makes beautiful bespoke structured garments and also runs the fantastic Marchants nursery with her husband Graham.

ecoprint geranium scarf

This is an orange silk skirt printed with maple leaves. The orange was quite dark, so the print is quite subtle.

ecoprint maple skirt orange 2 ecoprint maple skirt orange

And this was a pale pink silk blouse printed with larger maple leaves.

ecoprint maple pink blouseecoprint maple pink blouse 2

Just as experiment, I also printed an unmordanted yellow cotton T-shirt with sycamore leaves. As well as the shape of the leaves, I love the shapes produced by the long stalks – so you will see quite a few sycamores featuring below!

ecoprint yellow sycamore tshirtecoprint yellow sycamore tshirt 2

I then mordanted a batch of garments with alum, and dyed them with natural dyes before ecoprinting on top.

This is a cotton apron dyed with oak leaves and printed with sycamore leaves.

ecoprint apron

This T-shirt was dyed in the oak leaves after the apron, so it was a paler brown, before printing with maple leaves. The maple leaves were quite thick and waxy, so they seem to have acted more like resists than printing themselves. You can also see very clearly the effect of using an iron blanket, as I mistakenly forgot to include it in one part of the bundle! I may have to overprint this with something else.

ecoprint maple tshirt ecoprint maple tshirt2

Finally, it was back to silk. Here’s a silk top dyed with onion skins and printed with sycamore leaves.

ecoprint onion sycamore ecoprint onion sycamore2

Another silk top dyed with pomegranate and printed with sycamore leaves. Both the onion skins and the pomegranate gave very similar golden yellows after dyeing (sorry – forgot to take any photos), but I simmered the pomegranate bundle with the sycamore leaves for less time, so it’s brighter.

ecoprint pomegranate sycamore ecoprint pomegranate sycamore2

The cotton apron picked up more details from the leaves than the cotton T-shirts, and the silk was even better, perhaps due to the relative thickness of the fabric?So many combinations and permutations to try!

 

Eco printing samples part 2

In my previous post on eco printing I wondered whether the faintness of the prints, especially on felt, was due to the fact that the steam couldn’t penetrate the felt very easily when it was rolled up.

simmer sample group

So I performed a similar experiment but this time I immersed the bundles in hot water and onion skins and simmered them for an hour. Then I left them to cool overnight and opened them up the next day.

The results were definitely better, particularly on felt.

simmer sample felt eucalyptus

Interestingly, the eucalyptus on felt (above) printed orange, no matter what the mordant, while the rose leaf and petal dipped in iron mordant (below) came out best.
simmer sample rose felt

The iron mordant also worked best for sycamore leaves on felt (below).
simmer sample sycamore felt

Oak leaves on cotton mordanted with aluminium acetate (below) gave a  lovely clear print, regardless of which mordant was used on the leaves (or even when none was used at all).

simmer sample oak cotton

Sycamore and rose leaves also printed quite well on cotton, but those dipped in the iron mordant were clearest.

simmer sample rose cotton simmer sample sycamore cotton

On silk, iron-mordanted sycamore and oak leaves did best, while eucalyptus and rose leaves were pretty similar for all mordants.

simmer sample sycamore silksimmer sample oak silksimmer sample eucalyptus silk simmer sample rose silk

Conclusion? It looks as if full immersion rather than steaming is the best way to go, unless I can get a large pressure cooker or find some other way of forcing steam through the fabric more efficiently.

Shibori rust dyeing pt 2

To give you a break from yet another eco printing experiment, I thought I’d share another shibori rust-dyed scarf with you.

rust onion scarf6

This scarf is made of a double layer of heavier silk (it’s actually a man’s evening scarf), so I thought it would be more robust than the very lightweight silk ponge scarf that I used last time.

I bound it with rusty screws, slightly more loosely than last time. Because the silk was thicker and double layered, the rust colour didn’t spread as far or as fast as last time. By the time I had finished binding the screws on the silk ponge, the scarf was already a rusty colour all over, whereas with this scarf there were only faint traces of colour.

I was also concerned that although there would be good colour on the side of the silk that touched the screws, the other side of the scarf would be too pale.

So after binding it I put the scarf into the pot containing the onion skins left over from dyeing the eggs, heated it up and left it for a few hours. Then I removed it and left it to cool overnight.

When I untied the scarf the next day, it looked very dark at first.

rust onion scarf1

But as it dried it became paler, and there was an obvious difference between the two sides of the scarf.

After drying, ironing, soaking in bicarbonate of soda, rinsing, drying, and ironing again, this was the final result.

rust onion scarf2 rust onion scarf3

You can that the presence of the iron screws darkened the colour quite significantly – it’s much less golden than the eggs were.

And the kumo shibori pattern on the side of the scarf that was in contact with the screws is paler with darker rust marks compared with the other side.

rust onion scarf4 rust onion scarf5

Which side do you prefer? I’m not sure. But I have a reversible rust-dyed scarf with no holes, so that’s a result. 😉

rust onion scarf7

Eco printing on eggs

A quick Friday afternoon project, following the instructions in India Flint’s book Eco Colour. She says it’s a Latvian tradition, but my friend Magdalen says they do it in Ireland as well.

I pressed some small leaves against the shell, then wrapped the egg in onion skins and put it in an old popsock. Put the eggs in a pan with water and more onion skins, and boil for 10 minutes. Let it cool, then unwrap the eggs – voilà!

egg1 egg2 egg3 egg4

Tuna niçoise for supper tonight. 😉

Update on ecoprinted/rust dyed scarf

After yesterday’s post about my ecoprinted and rust dyed scarf, I had a couple of queries/comments about washing and colour fastness.

I ironed the scarf when it was dry to help set the colour, and noticed that the areas that showed as bright pink in the photos yesterday were much less bright. I was intending to leave the scarf for a couple of days before washing it, but then I read on this blog by Kimberley Packwood Baxter that I needed to neutralise the rust by soaking the scarf in water with bicarbonate of soda.

So I did that this morning – the soaking removed the crusty bits of rust that were attached to the scarf, but I didn’t lose much colour. Then I rinsed it, washed it with a bit of shampoo and rinsed again – still very little colour loss.

rust scarf1

Interestingly, now that it’s dry and ironed again, I can see the bits that were previously pink have changed to an olive green – would be interesting to find out why this is. Is it due to oxidation, or to the change in pH?

rust scarf 2 rust scarf3

Also, the outlines of some of the onion skins can be seen very clearly.

rust scarf4 rust scarf5 rust scarf6

I’m hugely excited by this technique – though it could be beginner’s luck (well, second-timer’s luck). I think the rusty pipe is acting as a mordant as well as providing the rust colour.

Already the next scarf is wrapped up and rusting gently on the windowsill – and I’ve acquired two more rusty bits of metal from building sites I was walking past. 🙂