Saturday, 12 September 2015

Natural dyeing - eco printing

Having started to experiment with natural dyes it was only a matter of time before I came across eco-printing. This is technique where leaves and other plant materials are pressed against fabric or paper and are steamed or simmered so that the dyes from the plants adhere to the fabric or paper. India Flint and is one of the artists using this technique on fabric and Cassandra Tondro gives a good explanation of the technique on paper.

I tried both the fabric roll and the paper stack. It's fairly straight forward. With the fabric you lay out a strip of fabric, cover it in leaves, petals or other plant materials, wrap it round a stick, tie it up and steam it for a couple of hours. Then you leave it for as long as you can stand before unrolling it.

 The plants laid out on the three strips of fabric.

The sticks prepared

Half way through steaming

Meanwhile, I prepared small rectangles of paper by soaking them. I used various different paper including brown wrapping paper and a few sheets of ordinary printer paper but mostly I used 165g artists paper. After soaking them I create a paper block by layering the paper with plant materials. I put two pieces of paper between each layer of plant material as you only need to print on one side of the paper. I also included two pieces of silk as an experiment. Once the stack was complete the whole things was sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, tied up and steamed for two hours. I turned it over half way through the steaming.

 Here is the stack being made. The paper is still wet. each piece only measures 13cm x 17cm because they had to fit into the roasting dish I planned to steam them in. I did read that you should press the plants first to make them flat but it didn't seem to be needed as they squashed down pretty well.

The picture above shows the stack ready to be steamed. Next to that you can see the pan I used. It's an oval roasting tin and I propped the rack up on two ramekin dishes to keep it out of the water. I put a stone on top of the stack, then put another two stones on the lid of the pot which pressed the lid down nicely against the stone inside creating a bit of a squeeze on the stack. On the right you can see the stack after two hours of steaming. It's held together very well. 
This is how the stove looked mid dyeing. The large pot on the right has the stack of paper in it. The other three pans have the red cabbage dye in that I wrote about in another post. The front left one is about to be badly burnt but I don't know that yet! Just in sight on the left is the handle of the steamer which has the fabric rolls in waiting to be steamed. I thought about putting them over the cabbage dye but I'm glad I didn't as when they were steamed they turned the water in the steamer green and it would have affected the cabbage dye.

It was a busy few hours. I'll post the results in the next post.

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