Eucalyptus Ecoprinting: bamboo vs soya fabric

After my first eucalyptus bundling experiments a few weeks ago, I’ve been desperate to have another go. I had some scarves ready to dye and chose to compare bamboo, a cellulose fabric, and soya jersey, a protein fabric.

The eucalyptus leaves were torn off by my toddler son who wanted to help me :-) 
The eucalyptus leaves were torn off by my toddler son who wanted to help me 🙂 

When I unrolled the bamboo scarf, the smell from the eucalyptus was incredible! I couldn’t believe how dark and rich the markings were. The bamboo fabric had produced apricot colours last time, so I was amazed by the reds!

The next day I reused the eucalyptus leaves and bundled them in soya/organic cotton fabric (50/50 blend) and added in a few fresh leaves, too. (Since there is some cotton in the fabric, I still pretreated it in my usual way in soya milk to help with the take up of colour.)

When I unrolled the fabric, the immediate result wasn’t as striking as with the bamboo but I liked the range of different colours. I noticed that the leaf imprints were captured in more detail on this fabric. The colour didn’t bleed through the layers of fabric like with the bamboo, so each print was more distinct. I suspect that more colour will remain on the soya fabric (compared to the bamboo) after rinsing, but I’ll have to wait and see.

The reason I was keen to try soya fabric is because it is a protein fibre like wool and silk, but of course it is plant derived. As I am vegan I do not use animal products of any kind, but I do appreciate that protein fibres absorb plant dyes better than cellulose fibres, like cotton and bamboo. Soya fabric seems to be a way around this moral issue and enables me to test out protein fibres.

Some vegans use “peace silk” where the silk worms are not killed, but from what I understand, the farming of silk worms to produce silk even in this way is far from cruelty free and still involves the exploitation of living creatures.

The bamboo fabric on the left has produced pinks and reds, which I would describe as more summery colours, and the soya blend on the right is more autumnal.

These scarves will be for sale in a few weeks. I don’t rinse fabric for a few weeks in order to help with the fastness of the colours. It’s a long process but it’s worth it!

Triple bundle dyeing with eucalyptus leaves

I had a stem of dried eucalyptus leaves waiting to be used, so I decided to experiment with bundle dyeing for the first time. I used bamboo fabric that was pretreated in soya milk and left to cure for around a week.

My son loved laying the leaves onto the fabric as I rolled up the bundle. He saw what I was doing and rather than stop him from touching it, I just let him get involved and he had so much fun.

Below is the result of steaming for one hour. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I unrolled the fabric!

I reused the same leaves in a second bundle with new fabric to see if the second steaming would extract even more colour, or perhaps different colours. This is an idea that I read about in one of India Flint’s books.

The colour was just as beautiful as the first bundle and there were flashes of yellow this time. 

The leaves were used a third time. 

I was amazed how much colour could be extracted from just a handful of leaves. Even the third print produced a pretty pattern.

Below are the three experiments. The first bundle is at the bottom and I discovered that the second steaming (middle) seemed to produce the deepest corals with the greatest range of colour.

Bundle dyeing, or eco printing as it’s also known, is definitely the most economical way of plant dyeing as such a small quantity of plant matter is needed.

In contrast, when extracting colour into a liquid dye bath, a 1:1 ratio of plant material to fabric is usually used, and a lot of colour is ‘wasted’ as it never attaches to the fabric and ends up poured away at the end of the process. When making a ‘dye soup’, the water acts as a middle man and holds the colour, but in bundle dyeing there is no middle man; the colour transfers directly from the plant into the fibre, with no colour wasted in the process. Also I feel that I used much less water steaming the bundles than I would in a dye bath, although I would need to actually measure the amounts to be certain.

After my first bundle dyeing experiment I am now hooked and can’t wait to do more!

Dyeing with Avocado Skins

Avocados are probably my favourite food ever, so it hasn’t been too much of a hardship to eat lots of avocados over the past few weeks! I saved the skins (and also the stones for future use) and stored them in the freezer.

The fabric was mordanted in soya milk, left to cure for over a month. The avocado skins were soaked and heated in water and after 24 hours, the mush was squeezed through a muslin cloth to reveal a beautifully deep red dye.

I used a 1:1 ratio of avocado skins to weight of fabric, but I could see that there was still a lot of dyeing potential in the dye bath so I dyed two more scarves afterwards.

The fabrics left to right are bamboo silk, organic cotton and hemp/cotton jersey. I also dyed another cotton scarf that’s not pictured. The markings are all created through various methods of tying and clipping to form resists.

The fabric swatch on the top left was modified in iron water which produced a beautiful deep mauve colour. 

I am currently carrying out lightfastness tests on the aldercone and avocado skin dye. The swatch at the bottom on the right is madder mordanted with aluminium acetate as a control.

Dyeing with Alder Cones

I have an abundant supply of alder cones right on my door step and I’ve collected a couple of shoe boxes full of them so it was time to try out this dye!

I pre treated my fabric in soya milk, by soaking it in a bucket of diluted milk over night, spinning it out in the washing machine and leaving to air dry, then doing two more dips. I left the fabric to cure for a month before using it.

The reasoning behind the soya milk treatment is that the soya protein coats the cellulose fibres of the fabric which makes them more protein-like, therefore making the fabric more receptive to plant dyes. I did the soya milk treatment instead of mordanting in aluminium acetate, which I used to find to be a fairly quick and very reliable method, but I do not want to use metallic salt mordants anymore due to their potential toxicity. Plus it’s much more exciting experimenting with new methods! (I first learnt about soya milk mordanting from India Flint in her book, ‘Eco Colour’.)

The alder cones were soaked over night in water, then heated in an aluminium pan for a couple of hours to extract the dye and the liquid was finally strained through a muslin cloth.

The fabric was soaked in the dye bath for about 24 hours, with a couple of heatings during that period.

The scarf below was modified with iron to deepen some areas of the pattern.

The final colour from the alder cones is a delicious, warm caramel, deepening to a chocolate brown when modified in iron. I will continue collecting alder cones to experiment further!