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Eco printing Workshop

Unlock the dye potential of plants - August 25th

Humans have been dyeing fabric for thousands of years with plants and minerals. Eco printing, also called bundle dyeing; it is a unique way of applying colour to fabric. By placing the plant materials directly on the fabric, you direct where the colour goes and you can get clean outlines of the plant shapes. This adds beautiful texture to the fabric

Not all colourful plants work as dye. Their pigments may not bond to the fibre or may quickly fade. For example beets, when cut they stain everything, but their colour quickly fades when exposed to light.  

The following is a quick outline of the process. The Guild's library, your public library or videos on YouTube are a great source of more information.

 How to eco print fabric

Step 1: Wash your fabric! This removes spinning oils, sizing, and anything else added to the fabric to aid in the spinning and weaving process. This step is also called scouring. If you are dying an old garment that has been washed many times you can usually skip this step. There are different methods for scouring protein fibres and cellulose fibres. Make sure to use a gentle detergent without any additives that could block stains; you want the fabric to accept stains. Synthrapol is often used for cellulose fibres and Orvus or Eucalan for wool.

Step 2: Mordant your fabric. To help the dye bond to the fabric you need to apply a mordant. I typically use alum because you can get it at most bulk food stores or art supply shop. Anything with tannins can also be used as a mordant such as Oak galls and tree bark. You can also use metal salts like iron and copper but they are toxic and are hazardous to dispose of. The type of mordant will also affect the colour. A plant may dye yellow with alum and brown with iron. This makes all the different possibilities of natural dyeing very fun to play Each mordant needs a different application method. You can find those instructions on the website linked at the bottom.

Step 3: Place you dye material on the fabric. There are lots of different plants that you can find locally. Some you can grow in your garden, some you can find in nature, others you can find at the grocery store.  

Here is a short list of plants you can use:

· Sumac leaves and berries

· Maple leaves (some dye better than others)

·  Oak leaves and galls

·   Acorn tops

·   Marigold

·   Goldenrod

·   Black walnut hulls (other varieties don’t work as well)

·   Eucalyptus leaves

·   Onion skins

·   Black tea

·   Dyer's coreopsis

Step 4: Roll or fold up your bundle and secure it.. You want to make sure the plant materials are not going to move around during the dyeing process. This way you can get some fun leaf imprints. You can secure you bundle with embroidery floss, so that it gets dyed as well and you can use it later for stitching.


Step 5: Cook the bundle for about an hour. Most people steam the bundle, this gives the most controlled results. It needs heat and moisture for the dye molecules to move from the plant material into the fabric. You could also place the bundle in hot water. This allows the dye molecules to move around a lot more.

Step 6: Let the bundle rest and cool before you open it. As it cools more dye is bonding to the fabric. It is best to let it sit overnight. This is the most difficult step! The next day you can then open it and let it dry before washing it with a gentle detergent.

The beauty about eco dyed fabric is that is it supposed to be splotchy. If you don’t like your results you can always dye it again with different plants and see what other magic unfolds. This process is all about having fun and no expectations. This is a process of play more than perfection.


I invite you to play


You can read more about natural dyes at they also have a wide selection of dye materials, base fabrics, and books. Heirloom Bohemia, a Shop in Kelowna, also has some dye materials and ready to dye fabric.


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