Experimentation and Discovery

Hi Friends,

Last week I got the bug to do some leaf printng, even though it’s not leaf printing season. When I feel inspired to do something, I have to do it now, whether it’s practical or not.

I’ve already made all of my leaf print silk scarves for the year, back in winter, when it was leaf printing season. So I decided to experiment with some cotton and rayon shirts and scarves I had hanging around, that weren’t intended for any other use.

It’s more difficult to print on plant fibers than it is on proten fibers, like silk and wool. I don’t use the powdered metal mordants that many dyers use to get color to adhere to plant fibers, and I knew I would need leaves that give strong colors on their own to get reasonable prints.

I went to nearby Kimball Park to see what leaves were available. Lucky for me there were lots of Ironbark Eucalyptus and Fernleaf Ironwood leaves on the ground. Both give a strong rust color, with the Ironwood being a bit more on the pinkish side.

Natural Dyes leaves

Since I don’t have any specific project in mind, I’m free to experiment. In addition to the leaves, I found a large piece of bark from one of the Eucalyptus trees. I decide to try wrapping a cotton scarf around it, and boiling it to extract the color. I’m going to let it sit in the dyebath for as long as possible before I unwrap it. So far, the color looks good, and I’m hoping to get an interesting texture.

Eucalyptus Ironbark Dye

I thought I would try layering some images before doing the leaf prints on a cotton scarf and a cotton t-shirt. I mixed up some indigo crystals with cooked potato starch, and used large stamps for the prints.

Indigo Crystals Handprint

Potato starch isn’t the preferred method of applying thickened dye, and I don’t know if it will work. Right now the prints are sitting on top of the fabric and haven’t absorbed into the fiber. We’ll see what happens when the pieces are steamed with the leaves. I’m hoping the color will adhere, but if not, no big loss. I’ll try something else.

Then I was inspired to use my rusty rebar rods on a long rayon sarong. I soaked the sarong in watered down vinegar, and placed the pieces of rebar at an angle. Next I’m going to place them in the opposite direction to get a crosshatch pattern. It will probably take four or five iterations before I get something that looks good.

Rusty Rebar Dye

It’s fun to play when I’m not under any pressure to produce and don’t have expectations about what will happen. This is art at its best! I love the process of experimentation and discovery.

What has captured your interest lately? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.

With love and appreciation,


Leave a Reply