Saturday, September 25, 2021

Eco Printing - Take 2

In February of this year, I did some eco printing based on Caroline Nixon's workshop for If you don't remember the post, it's because it was never written. Last weekend I decided that I would take a second stab at it since I love the results of eco printing. Here is what I learned 😊

Eco Printing & learning

My first attempt, as you may have figured out, was not wonderful. That was due to a few things - like not reading the instructions carefully enough and by the fact that Ottawa in February doesn't have any green stuff outside to use! I had bought a couple of bundles of flowers and got a few great prints from the rose leaves but not much else.

Great eco print on the pocket of a linen skirt

However, I know that we can over dye, so why not over print? Those blank spaces on my fabric were certainly big enough to add more prints. 

I resolved to try again when I found a bouquet of eucalyptus at my local grocery store. They are really great for eco printing, so it was time.

All of the leaves outside are very green, with a few reds and oranges, so there is an abundance of material to work with. 

I re-read all of the instructions, watched all of the videos and was ready. On Saturday morning, with an apron over my PJs, I gathered what was available in my back yard and then set off to the school yard down the street to gather more interesting leaves.  

While I was picking leaves, the fabric was being scoured (washing the fabric with delicate soap in the washing machine). It was then time to let the linen soak in the soda ash mixture and then a quick dip in the ferrus sulphate mix (iron water). 

Here are a few pictures of the process.
Fresh leaves added to the previously
printed fabric
An assortment of leaves on my drop cloth

Once the leaves are placed on the damp fabric, I added a barrier (plastic wrap the first time and parchment paper the second time) and then rolled up the fabric onto dowels. When I used parchment paper as a barrier, I protected the rolled bundle with plastic wrap and then tied it using cotton bias strips.  

Into the pot they go

I used an old, huge cooking pot and placed the rolls onto a metal platform (made to cook chicken with beer - that I never used). Once all of the bundles were ready, I added water to the pot and then the fabric bundles were steamed for 90 minutes.

Wrapped and ready to steam

This batch had 7 bundles

Steaming the bundles

Seven bundles cooling off,
waiting to be opened

Once the bundles have cooled off, it's time to see the magic. The colours on the fabric are just wonderful when they come out. You then hang them up for 24 hours to cure and dry. Unfortunately, they don't look as vivid after they are washed.

You can see the difference below.

This is the same bundle that I added
leaves to in the top image.

The final result,
after being washed

My favourite piece is on new linen fabric that I purchased the day before. I used a technique that Caroline suggested for making larger pieces. 

The leaves are placed on one half of the fabric, and then the fabric is folded over. You're supposed to place the leaves as close to the fold as possible, so that you don't get an empty line. As you can see, the leaves weren't quite up to the fold but it's still a beautiful piece. 

You end up with an image of both sides of the leaves. It's not a mirror image since most of the leaves will print better on one side, usually the one with the ridges on them (the back side). When you use this technique, you want to place the leaves both front and back so that some strong images appear on both halves of the fabric.
My favourite eco-dyed piece

Adding leaves on one side of the fabric

Here are a couple more pieces below. This first one has some great prints but also shows what happens when the fabric is wrinkled while it's bundled up. 

The second piece was over printed. The original images were quite blurred but the over printing brought some lovely results. It looks like I'll have to do some mending at the same time as I stitch this one. What fun 😊

A wrinkle in the eco printed leaf

Over printed piece what will need some
lovely mending.

What I learned
  • After my first try, I was really disappointed with the results after the final washing of the fabric. I knew what to expect this time, and I believe that my eco printing came out better, but I will have to look into it to see if there is something that I can do to keep those beautiful colours and images.
  • In my first try, I didn't soak the linen in ash water. I missed that step and it probably made a difference.
  • I also read up on what plants make the best eco prints. I learned the hard way that you get nothing from tulip leaves! 
  • Here are some really great leaves to work with: geranium (the perennial kind), eucalyptus, locus leaves, rose leaves, ginkgo and walnut. I'm sure that there are more - I will have to check out more websites. I may have caught the bug...and I also need to do something with these!
  • I found a blog about how to dry leaves for eco printing (she's from Canada also :-)) so I think that I will join the animals out there and start saving up for winter....not nuts, just leaves! 
  • When an eco printed piece doesn't look that great, there is nothing stopping me from cutting out and using the good prints.
  • I also created a PowerPoint of the pictures that I took with the leaves, before and after washing. I'm hoping that this will help me for the next time.

  • Below you will find the finished piece, Mixing it up! from the fist 25 days of my #100dayschallenge. I didn't want to write up a new post just for the final image.

Related links
Linking parties

* If you're looking for Free Motion Mavericks, we are taking the week of Sept 23 off. The next link up will be with Muv on September 30. See you then!

Project details

Mixing it up!

First piece made during days 1 to 25/100 for 
@100dayschallenge on Instagram

Size: 12½" x 14½"

Materials: cotton scraps

Techniques: Improv piecing, free motion quilting, embroidery


  1. Great job, learning from your past experience and improving on it this time around, Andree! You got some very pretty leaf images!!! And great repurpose on the chicken/beer pot!

    1. Thanks Nancy. It did come out better this time. Hopefully I'll know how to keep the colour next time. It's amazing how resourceful we can be when it's important!

  2. Merci pour le partage, j'ai toujours voulu essayer et j'ai enfin trouver une méthode en français , donc à suivre

    1. Bonjour Marianne, bonne chance. C'est toute une aventure!

  3. I absolutely love this. Funny, you went to the park in your jammies with apron over them, lol?

    1. Thanks Denise - I did used to go out for walks with Chevy in my pjs, but it was late at night :-)

  4. I think these turned out amazing!! what a fun thing to attempt!

    1. Thanks Alycia. I've stitched the first one and really loved how it worked out. Thanks for hosting a great linking party!

  5. Very cool project! Definitely work a revisit and redo on the prints.

    1. Thanks Kate. Although I don't think that I'll really get into this in a big way, I do hope to revisit again and get better colours. Thanks for hosting! Take care.

  6. J'adore le rĂ©sultat ! TrĂšs beau rendu des vĂ©gĂ©taux, des couleurs, c'est superbe. Merci pour le partage de tes essais, et de ton expĂ©rience. Ca paraĂźt quand mĂȘme un peu compliquĂ© !

    1. Bonjour Frédérique, je crois que la base n'est pas trop compliqué mais comme toutes autres choses, si on veux des bons résultats, ça devient plus complex.


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