Hello folks! If you read my first post on eucalyptus dyeing then you may have gathered that I was none too thrilled with my results. So I was determined to get back to it and see if I could get some crisp eucalyptus leaf prints. I figured that it might be nice to work on a smaller scale this time (or at least until I achieve a result that I am pleased with) so I will be using some silk pillow covers. Here goes!
- protein fiber such as silk or wool
- eucalyptus leaves (you will need to find a eucalyptus species that is suitable for dyeing such as red ironbark or silver dollar)
- paper towels
- stick, small piece of pipe, or a dowel
- artificial sinew or twine
- pot with steamer basket – please use a pot that is dedicated to dyeing!
- Derwent Inktense color blocks (optional)
Step 1: Alright first things first! Technically you can dye nearly any natural fiber with eucalyptus. However, if you choose a protein or animal fiber like silk or wool you will not need to use a mordant (mordants help to fix dye to fabric). So if you would like to use cotton or linen you will need to pre-soak your fabric in a mordant such as alum. Alum is available online and some say you can buy it at the grocery store although I have never seen it there. I generally purchase mine here. As I previously mentioned, I will be using two blank silk pillow covers that I purchased through Dharma Trading (I swear they need to start paying me for the free advertising!).
As far as the eucalyptus is concerned, this may require a little research if you don’t have easy access to a tree. The silver dollar variety is readily available in the U.S. through florists and some markets. I would try Trader Joes since their prices on flowers and plants can’t be beat! The leaf shape on this variety is much more circular (as the name implies) so you will end up with a different but no less lovely result. I will be showing you two examples of this process, one is very simple and the next is a bit more complex.
Now let’s get down to business! First wet your fiber in a vinegar bath. This isn’t absolutely necessary but it will help to fix the dye and it’s an easy step so why not? If you choose not to use vinegar you should definitely wet your fabric. Then lay it out onto a layer of paper towels making sure that it is as flat and smooth as possible. I didn’t do this the first time and I needed to carefully lift up my fabric (with the leaves already in place) to slide the paper towel underneath. So learn from my mistakes people and put down the paper towel first! Then lay out your design on one half of your fabric. I’m doing this in part because I like that I will get a mirror image of my design but this also allows me to make a smaller bundle that will easily fit into my steamer basket (this will make more sense later). If you have a larger steam set up and want to do a different design then go for it!
Step 2: Lay the second half of your fabric on top of the first being careful not to disturb your design. Press with your hands to smooth.
Step 3: Place another layer of paper towel on top of your fabric then use a stick (I’m using a piece of eucalyptus), a small pipe or a dowel to roll your fabric into a bundle. Be mindful not to disturb your design as you are rolling it up. Tie it tightly with artificial sinew or twine to create a neat bundle.
Step 4: Place in your steamer basket and turn your heat to high. When it comes to a boil turn your heat to low and let it go for one hour. When your hour is up, turn your bundle over and steam for one more hour.
Step 5: Let your bundle cool completely and unroll. Some folks say that you should wait 24 hours to open your bundle, but having tried this I really didn’t feel like it made much of a difference. It’s truly like opening up a present! Here’s what I got.
Sooooo pretty! I love that there is variation in the leaf color on number one. And the shadow of each leaf is nice in number two – I’m not sure why that happened but I like it. I decided to add stems to the second one using these. I took the red and rubbed it on the metal lid, then added some dark grey and a bit of orange. I added some water with a small brush and I was able to get a nice reddish orange.
Hmmmm, maybe I liked it better before the stems? What do you think? I’m toying with the idea of giving this one a quick dunk in some black tea. Stay tuned…
Step 6: Hang your fabric to dry and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours to “cure.” Waiting truly is the hardest part!!!
Step 7: Iron to set your design, give it a quick wash in a mild detergent, hang to dry and iron again. Now they’re ready for their cover shots!
So as you can see I decided to give both of them a little tea bath. I dunked them for approximately one minute and then rinsed them under some cold running water. I then ironed them while they were still wet to set the color. They dried almost immediately with the hot iron.
Although I loved the crisp white background I began to notice that the areas where the dye had bled were looking a bit like the pillow case was dirty, which was not a good look! I figured that a creamier background would help to blend things. Mission accomplished. 🙂