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


10% off shopping preview at Diverse this Thursday

OK – my Christmas shopping period officially kicks off this Thursday with a special preview evening at Diverse in Brixton, with 10% off all purchases.

diverse invite 2014

This is the third year that Diverse and Makerhood have collaborated on a Christmas promotion to show off the work of local makers, and each year it gets bigger and better.

This year there are 21 makers with work on sale – including some of my scarves. 🙂

You can see the full list of makers taking part on the Makerhood blog. The promotion runs from 6 November to 5 January.

I also have some other events coming up, which I’ll blog about soon.


Possible new Christmas products

OK – it’s still August, but I’ve been trying out some ideas for possible new products for Christmas.

The indigo scarves are always best sellers, and hopefully I may have some eco printed or rust scarves available this year too. But it would be good to be able to offer more felt products at reasonable prices.

I sold a fair number of felt iPad/Kindle pouches last year, though probably not as many as I would have liked, given how popular this technology is. 😉 Mostly I add interest by adding fabric (nuno felt) or prefelt cut-outs, like these Matisse-inspired pouches.

matisse ipad pouches

So I thought about adding more 3D effects.

3D ipad case

However, this takes considerably longer so I would have to charge more, which may not be feasible in the current market.

Verdict: Possible, but maybe when the economy is a bit stronger.

Scarves are always popular at Christmas, so what about some felt ones to increase my product range?

ruffle scarf sample

I tried a sample ruffle, but wasn’t happy with it. The colours of the sample don’t work together very well, but even if they did, I just don’t think I’m a ruffle person.

Verdict: No go.

Finally, I tried a scarf based on paper garlands I used to make as a child. You fold a sheet of paper in half lengthways, then cut into it from alternative sides before opening it out.

paper garland

I adapted the idea slightly and came up with this cutwork scarf.

cutwork scarf cutwork scarves

This was much more to my taste. 🙂 And by using different colours in each layer, you get a lovely sandwich effect when you cut through.

cutwork scarf cross section

Just have to make sure it’s fulled really well to avoid having to seal lots of edges! 🙂

Verdict: I’m going to make a few of these and see how they go.

Let me know what you think – I’d be interested in your views!

Indigo spring

After a break of around two months I finally fired up the indigo vat and did some dyeing yesterday.

The first experiment was to see if I could do something with the sample of smocking. Unlike shibori, where the stitches are pulled tight to create the resist, some of the stitches in this type of smocking are left loose. I knew that just dipping it in the indigo as it was would probably result in just a blue piece of cloth, as the dye would be able to penetrate all areas of the cloth.

lattice smock

So in the end I bound it to a pipe, as in arashi shibori, but left it flat, without compressing it. I knew from previous experiments of dyeing paper overlaid with cloth that the indigo won’t fully penetrate more than one layer of cotton.

This was the result, front (top) and back (bottom).

smock shibori front

smock shibori back

You can vaguely see the crossed lattice pattern in the top photo, but the bottom one looks more random. Back to the drawing board on this one for now.

More successfully, I dyed a linen pouch in a mokune pattern.

indigo shibori pouch

And threw in a few scarves for good measure.

It was so lovely to be able to hang them out in the sunshine to dry. Seems like spring may be on the way at last.

Good start at Sprout Arts

Phew! It’s been a busy start for our sale and exhibition at Sprout Arts in Streatham.

sprout-front-window sprout-insidesprout-side-window

On two of the four days that we’ve been open so far, Carol has been running workshops, on making felt slippers and Indian appliqué and embroidery.


My scarves have sold well, especially the arashi ones – I sold out on the first two days and had to make some more on Friday! Here’s a happy customer, Jane, who bought the first one – a perfect match for her sweater!


We also had a visit from a real woman of the cloth (vicar with dog collar) – we thought she’d come to scold us for being imposters! 😉 But she was very nice, and bought one of my scarves.

At the end of today Carol and I had to remove some of our items for our stall at the Garden Museum tomorrow – are we mad trying to do two sales at the same time?

Then it’s back to Sprout until 10 December, with another couple of markets after that. I’ll definitely need Christmas recover!

Scarf production line

Christmas is coming, the indigo’s in the vat, the scarves are on the line (when the weather is fine).

Latest batch of upcycled wool, silk and cotton scarves:

indigo shibori scarves indigo shibori scarves indigo shibori scarves

The next batch waiting for another dip in the vat:

shibori scarves in production shibori scarves in production

And the next haul of scarves waiting to be bound, clamped, stitched or wrapped:

assorted scarves

Details of markets, sales and exhibitions to come!



Catching breath

Phew! Since getting back from holiday it’s been non-stop trying to catch up with everything non-textile.

But finally this morning I got the chance to spend some textile time helping to clean some sheep fleeces. My friend Carol was given a couple of Shetland fleeces from a friend who rears Shetland sheep in Cornwall, and she met Mary, who had also been donated four different sheep fleeces from an Irish farmer.

Soon Carol’s kitchen smelled like a farmyard as the six fleeces were unrolled and laid out on the floor.

fleece1 fleece2 fleece3

My experience of scouring my own fleece last year came in useful, as we placed parts of the fleeces in sinks with hot water and shampoo to get rid of the the muck and lanolin.


However, even with two sinks, one tank of hot water was not going to go far with six fleeces – we only managed to scour two half fleeces before it ran out!


Still a little way to go!

I managed to combine the trip to Carol’s house with some very fruitful visits to local charity shops, as this haul of scarves shows – one cashmere, one wool and three silk. These will be upcycled in the indigo vat – the production rush for Christmas is about to begin!


Here’s one I made earlier – a beautiful linen scarf that was originally grey with rows of sequins at both ends. I wasn’t sure how they would react in the indigo vat, but they emerged unscathed, twinkling like stars in the night sky. 🙂

linen mokune2


Latest batch of upcycled scarves

Increasingly I’m sourcing more of my scarves from charity shops, vintage markets and car boot sales.

I love the thrill of the hunt, and there’s a real sense of achievement in taking a slightly tired cast-off, cleaning it, and transforming it back into a desirable item by stitching, clamping or wrapping it in the indigo vat. And it feels more sustainable than ordering cheap silk scarves from China.

So here’s a sneak preview of my latest transformations. First, a couple of raw silk scarves.

upcycled scarf2 upcycled scarf6

This was a multicoloured silk scarf that was a little gaudy for my taste, so I thought I would try to tone it down with some arashi shibori. I think the jury is still out on whether I succeeded. 😉

upcycled scarf5

And with winter fast approaching, I’m starting to work on thicker scarves. This one is a mix of wool and silk.

upcycled scarf1

And this is a knitted cashmere scarf with ori-nui shibori.

upcycled scarf3 upcycled scarf4

Ironically, we seem to be having another hot spell, but I’m sure that will soon change!