We have leaf prints!
Those are amur cherry leaves.
The really intriguing orangey yellow splotch is from a plant called Common Ninebark, which is one of the rose family (so I figured it might make a neat print – which it did). The parts of the plant I used had little flower blossoms on them, and they made fascinating colours!
Below that you can see a mountain ash (rowan) leaf.
So, technique: I put a bit of water in the sink and dropped in two used (very used) tea bags. I swished that around for a bit, took the tea bags out, and soaked the silk scarf for a few minutes. (Tannins help with mordanting, see.) The silk wasn’t pure white anymore, but it wasn’t very much stained by the tea as it had been very weak.
Then I laid out the damp silk and laid my plant leaves on the silk. I covered each section with watercolour paper, as I had read you could get imprints on the paper as well (which I did, see below). Then I layered plastic bags over the paper (some of which had writing on them, which was a mistake, as I have the words “Amur Cherry” imprinted in a sadly obvious spot on the scarf, I’ll have to cut that off), and folded the scarf into a rectangle. This was then steamed over a pot (cookie cooling rack over pot of boiling water, silk package laid on top of that and covered with an upended bowl) for a little bit, then put into a plastic bag sandwiched between two layers of bath towel and squashed under a heavy crock for three days.
I kept peeking, and when I could see that there were prints showing on the silk, I took it out. Amazing! The prints actually darken a little as the silk dries, and I’ll set them with the iron once it’s had a chance to dry completely.
The marks on the paper were also really interesting:
What I wanted most of all was for the layers of silk to be separated from one another, so that I could see the leaf shapes. This wouldn’t work really well if I rolled it into a sausage, because the layers would all smush into each other, so I thought folding it around a resist made the most sense – and why not use a resist that would make interesting prints on it’s own while I was at it?
I also used the frozen rose petals to make some dye: the dye bath came out brilliantly purple, but the resulting dye on the silk was that colour everyone calls “dusty rose” – a very pale almost tea-like shade with just a hint of pinkness to it. On the positive side, the dyebath and the silk smelled fabulous, a huge improvement over dock, which has a really weird mutant pickle smell to it once it gets wet and soggy.
I took the leftover rose petals from making the dyebath and pressed them between two small pieces of watercolour paper, steamed them briefly, and set them under the crock for a few days too. The paper smells just lovely and has some interesting swirly, watery prints on it. I’m curious to see what it looks like once it dries.
Encouraged by the leaf printing success, I took the rose dyed silk out of its dyebath and layered it with poplar, wild rose, and saskatoon leaves, since those are the plants I have in abundance around here. It’s been folded around plastic resists (no watercolour paper this time, and no ink on the bags) and is being squashed by the crock. I think the two step process should be very interesting – I actually don’t recall if I tea-dunked that one as well, but I think I did.
I also made a dyebath out of some frozen blue flowers, and we did get a lovely blue solution, but the yarn I stuck in it didn’t change colour – though the dyebath did exhaust. Or maybe the colour just faded out of the water, I don’t know. I didn’t have many flowers to start with so perhaps that’s part of the issue.
Anyway, we are making headway with the ecoprinting experiments … I can’t wait to do some more!
There is still room in the workshop at the Pegg Garden on August 25 … more info here!