Eco-Printing – The Process

Eco-Printing really is quite a process.  After all, there’s not a lot of difference, in terms of process, from how we do it today from how we did it a hundred years ago. The materials we use are different; for instance, we purchase our aluminum or sulfate or soda ash in a plastic bag or aluminum acetate or calcium carbonate in a jar rather than starting from scratch. Of course, some of us may use pressure cookers or microwaves to hasten the process, but it’s still simmered, boiled or steamed.

While I still make a lot of the natural dyes from the plants themselves, such as sunflower, avacado, onion skins, berries, sumac berries and leaves, acorns and oak galls, bloodroot and so on, we may buy the dyes already prepared. Then, there are some that we can’t get locally, such as logwood that gives us gorgeous red purples to orchid blues but only grows in Mexico, Central America, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, the Guyannas, Madagascar, and India. And then there’s madder, an ancient material that imparts reds, mulberry, orange-red, terra cotta. It’s  primary dye component is alizarin, a root product. Madder   can be found in Japan, South China,  South East Asia, India, Turkey, Europe, Africa and Australia.

But we still have to mordant and boil or steam our fibers and cloth.  And I still go out and forage for all the plants I use, either in my own backyard or in some favorite parks or secret places. In one of my best places there are old, very old apple trees and yesterday I discovered what are now wild grapes, although I have no doubt someone planted and harvested them back when this land was farmland, which was actually not that long ago here – 50 years or so.

First day’s work, June 15th, Summer 2016 is now mostly processed and freshly unrolled and not yet washed or ironed. (I’m heating up the water to simmer the last of the day’s batch as we speak.) Yes, it may lose a little to the washing of it but what’s lost may perk right back up when the hot iron presses into it. Or maybe a piece of it will get a spritz of vinegar to brighten it up. But, I digress…

Silk ScarfSilk Scarf.1.Alum mordant, dipped in vinegar water. Sprayed with seawater.20 minutes on log in water in pressure cooker.

Ferns, sumac, unknown shrub leaves, young birch, and everything printed. Even the ferns which have never printed for me before!

Silk OrganzaSilk Scarf 2.Alum mordant . Dipped in seawater; sprayed with soda ash, Some leaves soaked in vinegar water, others in iron water. Vinegar water blanket. Simmered with avacado dye.Would have been great had I not almost set it on fire when it ran out of water.


The Twins Experiment

Cotton Twin 1Twin 1.Alum mordant. Dipped in Seawater.
Opened next day, June 16th.

Cotton Twin 2Twin 2Alum mordant. Dipped in Seawater.
Opened on Saturday, June 18th. In this case, there’s not a significant difference. Now, the reason there’s not much here is that I tried printing birch leaves, but they did not want to print.


Silk Noir with “Blanket”Leaves on Silk NoirSumac, Oak, Maple, Birch

Raw Silk 1 w.BlanketThis was mordanted in alum, then soy milk but did not get my usual second batch of alum.

This time the birch actually printed, even on the iron blanket ever-so-slightly backwards and forward. With the hope of getting a good print on the blanket, and for a test I used the same raw silk, and placed the leaves first with the veins down; then another layer with the veins up and covered that with a blanket.

So, as you see below, I think this could have benefitted from a couple more days to give those fainter prints more definition.

Alum mordant, dipped in vinegar water. Sprayed with seawater.

Ferns, sumac, unknown shrub leaves, young birch, and everything printed. Even the ferns which have never printed for me before!

All in all, a good day’s work and a good start to get back into the swing of things!

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