When I spent time with Polly Stirling in Ashland, Oregon last May, she strongly encouraged me to explore botanical printing and dyeing also known as eco-printing. She has been botanically printing her felt for years and feels strongly about reducing the use of “toxic” dyes and paints in clothing. I had the opportunity to study with Polly at her family’s camp in upstate New York last year
and as part of the felting retreat, she introduced me to botanical printing. She and her sisters gathered a variety of local plants, nuts, pods and flowers. They were laid out in neat piles outside of Odd Fellows Hall, our felting room. It was exciting to set up all the dye pots and treat and wrap the felt for printing and dyeing. I choose to print a felted dress with crab apples and dye in a copper pot with comfrey leaves and flowers and a felted tunic top was dyed in a black walnut bath.
Since that time, I have been dyeing and printing my felt and silk with eucalyptus leaves and bark, onion skins, ornamental plum, maple and rose leaves. The results have been spectacular. The nuno felted pieces take on a leathery look once they are printed and dyed. I have been experimenting with raw silk fabric, printing with eucalyptus leaves I collected in Northern California. The raw silk prints beautifully. I have added some raw silk tunics to my collection for those who are allergic to wool.
I held a workshop at my home last month and students learned different ways to prepare silks and cottons for eco-printing and dyeing. On hand were eucalyptus, ornamental plum and rose leaves, onion skins, avocado pits and a few other “goodies.” We used a cold extraction/hot bundling process. Once the fabric was printed, students had the opportunity to dip their bundles in a eucalyptus bark bath or a madrone bark bath. The results were stunning. It was fun to see how the plant material printed on the different types of fabric.
I will be teaching another eco-printing class in September.