Eco Printing on Fabric … Take 1

I know, I’m late to the party but I just had to try this Eco Printing on Fabric stuff. It looks like such fun! And it is! Now, I’m kinda eaten up with it. There are printed fabrics in various stages of development all over this house.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

What is Eco Printing?

The way I understand it, Eco Printing is a form of natural dyeing where the colors from plant material are transferred to paper or fabric via steaming or boiling. (If anyone out there has a better definition, by all means let me know).

SAFETY NOTE: Even tho it’s called ‘Natural Dyeing’ and ‘Eco Printing’, beware that some substances used can be very toxic. Before you try any natural dyeing methods at home, please do your homework first. Here’s a great article on various mordants.





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So, here’s my very first piece of Eco Printed fabric. I chose silk chiffon (only because I have plenty of it for nuno felting) and also because the info I’ve read says that silk does not need a mordant for eco printing. However, you can use mordants to achieve different colors and textures.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

For my first eco printing experiment, I used what leaves I have available in the yard: black walnut, red maple, green maple, cleome, croton and redbud. These were laid out on half of the dry silk chiffon. (I’ve since learned that the fabric is supposed to be wet)

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

I folded the other half of the chiffon over the leaves and rolled the whole thing, very tightly onto a piece of pvc pipe. You can use a dowel, stick or even a piece of pipe for this. Note, depending on what metal the pipe is, it may act as a mordant s.a. a copper pipe which will alter the result. Then, I wrapped a cotton string around the package, again very tightly to make sure there is good contact between the fabric and the leaves for printing.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial





Next, I steamed the bundle over plain water for about 1 1/2 hours. Let this cool completely and leave the bundle to set at least overnight. The longer the better but I don’t have the patience to wait. It’s too much fun opening it up to see what you got!

Not surprisingly, the black walnut leaves printed the best. Black walnut contains its own mordant (tannin??) and is washfast and colorfast. Here’s how I dyed some yarn with black walnuts.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

I was also very happy with the red maple leaves which left a pale but very pretty lavender/lilac colored print.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

The other leaves didn’t do much, altho I did get a pale yellowish print from the redbud leaves.

Eco Printing on Silk Chiffon, a FiberArtsy.com Tutorial

Considering this was the first attempt at eco printing on fabric, I was very happy my results. The second batch turned out much much better. I learned how to make an iron mordant which dramatically changes and deepens the colors of the printed leaves. I’ll be posting that in the next few days so make sure to check back.

There are so many wonderful websites out there with great info on eco printing but I must give a special shout out to Threadborne. So much information there on eco printing, I think I read every word on the whole site.

You may also be interested in Natural Dyeing with Dandelions

SAFETY NOTE: Even tho it’s called ‘Natural Dyeing’ and ‘Eco Printing’, beware that some substances used can be very toxic. Before you try any natural dyeing methods at home, please do your homework first! Here’s a great article on various mordants.