Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dyeing, naturally………


Since we are talking about leaves….or I am….I will share my leaf steaming experiments with you.  That is exactly what this is my experiment. 

I’ve been into playing with leaves all week and one day I came across the name India Flint, who is a master at making fabric dyes with natural materials.  India lives in Australia and teaches worldwide, you can learn more about her work on her blog "Not All Who Wander Are Lost".  This woman makes incredible art!

India, recently, published a book titled “Eco Color”……trust me, I covet this book.  However, I am not now, nor do I ever think I will be, dyeing fabric in any volume.  I am going to see if I can find the book at our local library….’cause I know it must contain some great information on the alchemy of dyeing fabric….but right this moment I can’t justify buying a copy. Note: “can’t and right this moment”!

So, after looking at her photos and watching You Tube videos….this is what I came up with as a method for dyeing fabric using steam and leaves!  I think this is similar to how she does it, but I don’t know that for sure….in any case, this works too.


I tore a strip of bleached muslin into a strip about 9 inches wide by 36 inches long and placed fresh leaves (not dried out) on top of one half of the fabric.

IMG_1621 Then I folded the other half over the top….to make a muslin/leaf sandwich, yum?

IMG_1622Now you need a stick about 18 inches long and some string!  You fold up the sides of the fabric about an inch on each side, just enough to hold the leaves in place.


Starting at the loose end of the cloth, roll the fabric around the stick….as tightly as you can.  When all the fabric is wrapped….tie the string around the fabric to keep it in place on the stick.  You will need  a fairly long piece of string.


Keeping wrapping the string around the fabric….you want to keep the leaves, fabric and stick in a tight bundle.


It should look something like this…..tie the ends together.  Don’t center the fabric on the stick….one end should have only about five or six inches of stick exposed.


Here’s where the fun begins!!!  Place the short end of the stick into pot of boiling water, I used a deep stock pot with about five inches of water in the bottom.  The fabric does not sit in the water……you are STEAMING it.  I added Eucalyptus leaves in this batch, just as an experiment, but I don’t think it made a difference in the end color results.

I am NOT a chemist, I just doing what seems logical to me….I think the stick I used made more of a difference than the leaves in the water.  For the first batch I steamed, I did not have leaves and used a stick from a Crabapple tree.  This batch I used a stick from a Fig tree.  If, nothing else, I can see the fig branch had some moss on it and it left some dark stains on the fabric that I like.

I put the lid on the pot, off to side of course, and brought the water to a boil then turned it down to a fast simmer so that the “fabric on a stick” is steamed for about an hour.  Keep an eye on the water level in the pot, you don’t want to “fry” the pan or start a fire!

Time’s up!


Well, steamed fabric on a stick!

IMG_1631 What do you think?

IMG_1632 The lovely steamed leaves…..remove the leaves and here’s the finished product.

IMG_1633 This is one half of the fabric and……..

IMG_1634 This is the other.  I don’t know exactly why one side is lighter or didn’t take the leaf dye as well, but I do know that was on the outer side of the stick and the “top piece” of fabric. 

It is common practice to use some sort of mordant to help stabilize the color.  I did not do that, but as an experiment, I rinsed the light end in vinegar and water.  Next I will iron the whole piece with a hot iron, hoping that will stabilize the rest of the color.  Only time will tell if using the vinegar makes a difference.


This is the first piece I dyed, earlier this week, using this method.  I like that I got a some better leaf prints on this one, that maybe because I used fewer leaves with less over lap, but I like the colors of the second experiment better. 

Well, this was fun……try it! 

I would love it if you, dear readers, would share your experiences with fabric dyeing with me.  As I said, I am not planning on doing this in a big way but I would very much like to hear more about your experiences ‘cause, what I really learned, is how much I don’t know but I would like to learn more. 

I will be making a few more of these unique fabric pieces because they lend so much personality to a collage or journal page. 


Julie said...

This is really fun! You can bet that this will be my nnext thing to try...I am immediately wondering about using green and yellow leaves together....lemon-lime!!! I will look for this book also! Thanks for sharing all this wonderfulness!!!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I see why you asked if I wrapped the rusty fabric I had on my blog last week. I am going to try this because I found a person who details the steamed leaf process, but I already forgot the web address. Her tutorial is for watercolor paper, though. I promise to try this with fabric now that the weather is cool enough I can actually cook in my kitchen again (grin).

elle said...

This is great. I need to save this for next fall. Thanks

Dianne said...

an amazing process, and turned out well! I like the second batch of color best too...well done.