EcoPrinting: I Think I’ll ‘Leaf’ it Alone

Seeing these gorgeous examples of this relatively uncomplicated technique naturally made me want to try it. I used leaves and flowers from mums, cosmos, and petunias. Turns out what grows in the wilds of my backyard in suburban Denver (or at least the stuff I picked) gave up less than glorious results. They look like yellowed antique fabrics which is cool, but at the same time they look like antique fabrics that need a good washing. Sort of dingy and dirty.


eco print on silk charmeuse


The last one I did on a much lighter weight silk that’s chiffon-like (I love this stuff – 5 mm habotai).

The fabric was soaked in an alum solution which preps the silk to accept and retain the color. Over half the fabric I scattered my little leaves and flowers and such; this time including orange nasturtiums, bright pink and fuschia impatiens, some little blue and yellow wildflowers and some purple thistle-looking things I found while walking the dog. Ignore those blue blotches – I poked at the fabric in the alum solution with the end of a brush that apparently had been used to stir some dye at some point. Organization of equipment: I have none. And when you’re dealing with pristine white silk it can pretty much ruin your day. But I digress.


I folded it in half lengthwise and then in half lengthwise again. The whole thing got rolled up and bound tightly with rubber bands.


I put the bundle into my super fancy steamer setup for small items (bamboo rice steamer from Goodwill on top of an old electric vegetable steamer filled with water and set on high), covered the top with a towel and put the lid on for it to steam a good 45 minutes.

IMG_9968  IMG_9969IMG_9970

After steaming you can see how much of that color is extracting from the plant material. So far so good.


I set the bundle outside in the sun so it would dry faster because I just don’t have the patience to wait the 24 or 48 hours for it to air dry. Once it was dry to the touch I unrolled it.


The pattern is repeated because I folded it and maybe if I had more flowers and leaves overlapping each other it wouldn’t look quite so much like rows. The nasturtiums printed nicely but the rest looks like little pastel blobs.

CONCLUSION: Probably should have just let it sit and dry for the 48 hours. Did the exposure to sunlight affect it? Possibly. Do I want to try another one to find out? Not really. I’m underwhelmed by my results and although I really, really love the look of those eco printed fabrics on Pinterest I’m not inclined to research what sorts of plants yield the best prints and try to track those things down.

I saw… I tried… I have more fabric for my scrap pile. I’ll find something to do with them, for sure.