Category Archives: ecoprints

Hardy Eucalyptus for printing in cooler climates

 Thanks to the discovery of the Eucalyptus eco-print by India Flint, many textile enthusiasts around the world have fallen in love with the wonderful prints achieved from the leaves of these trees. It seems however, that many believe we can’t grow the varieties useful for contact printing and dyeing in colder climates. It is also a widely held view that those that will cope with our winters will become a menace, quickly growing to enormous heights while stripping nutrients from the soil. 

My groups of dyers really enjoy contact printing and dyeing with native plants and trees. However, there is something magical about the colour and fastness of eucalyptus on wool that makes it so special and so many buy leaves from florists to achieve the wonderful burnt orange prints and long to have a free and ready supply.

Claire, one of the group,  brought an article about Kangaroot Trees  for us to look at (October 2015’s, The Garden). We got quite excited at the possibility of growing a eucalyptus or two as dye plants. However, we first needed to find out which would give us good contact prints as well as cope with various growing conditions, survive our winters and not outgrow our gardens. After reading the article and looking at the website, we realised, this Worcestershire nursery, stocks more than 50 species of hardy Eucalyptus. The owner, Hilary Collins, very kindly agreed to send us samples of six varieties. We chose the following based on their varied leaf shapes,  small to medium growing size (can be container grown) and hardiness.

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At our next meeting we bundled samples of each between pieces of silk and wool, sprayed with a little vinegar and water and then steamed the bundles for an hour.  Five of the six were juvenile leaves except the leaves of the E. pulverulenta, Baby blue which were adult.

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The results of all the samples were excellent. All varieties produced good colour, though the unusual small leaved species E. crenulata  produced greenish leaf prints with red stems, a lovely delicate combination. According to the catalogue this variety is hardy to -10, is tolerant of poor drainage and also has beautiful perfumed flowers.

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E. parvula or Small leaved Gum has nicely shaped pointed leaves, good colour, can be coppiced, is hardy to -20 and can cope with alkaline soils. This was a real favourite and one on my short list. This variety seems to be the most robust and adaptable of all the varieties we sampled.

E cinerea

E. cinerea or commonly know as Silver dollar has rounded leaves, a real favourite with florists, gives good colour and is hardy to -8 to -13. My sister keeps me supplied with foliage from her tree in London. It is a good variety though not as hardy as some.

E nicholii

E. nicholii or Narrow leaved Black Peppermint has lovely feathery foliage and is hardy to -15. It produced good prints contrasting well with the more rounded varieties. I think this varietyis probably my favourite.

E perirana

E. perriniana or Spinning Gum is hardy to -15, gave good colour and interesting prints. The only restriction would be the leaves form around the stem and so would be more difficult to use individually.

We were really happy with our results and are thinking about varieties which would be most suitable for our different gardens. I already have at least two on my wish list, though, with a move on the horizon I may have to wait a little longer!

Winter Landscapes

I am gearing up for new works that will explore the world of trees.

Recent experiments on papers, with winter leaves, bound and simmered have yielded tones that reflect the winter landscape.

IMG_9308There is so little colour left in the windfalls

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yet they have given me, some lovely, ghostly leaf prints.

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Mark making with different potions are giving me ideas for bigger works

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though how to brew a larger landscape?

Eucalyptus Brews

I’ve been busy playing with eucalyptus gifts from my family. E. cinerea from my sister, which produces wonderful red prints and E. globulus, from Kate, from a felled tree in Hampstead.

E globulus has large leathery green sickle shaped leaves which gave colours from buttery yellow to pale orange and browns.

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The leaves were wrapped and bound in the cloth and around copper and steel tubes and then boiled in various brews. The copper brought out the golden tones and the iron in the steel gave muted greys and blacks. I even wrapped and bound bone beads and put them in the brews with interesting results.

The wonderful thing about eucalyptus on wool is that is substantive without the mordants normally necessary for natural dyes. I need to see how the beads keep their colour.

New Year and New Ventures

The holidays and family gatherings have come to an end leaving me, like many others, feeling tired, overindulged and yearning for Spring. The weather has been windy and wet and days are still far to short. New work is on my mind, though distractions and lack of a studio have hampered progress so far

Last summer a couple of students on one of my workshops told me about a monthly course  they had been going to in Herefordshire. Run by quilter, Ineke Berlin participants work on projects using her facilities and drawing on her expertise.  It seemed like an interesting idea which I then put to others. I had an amazing response and so the initial one day turned into two.We will gather, initially around my kitchen table and then will meet in my tented studio in the garden to learn new techniques, share ideas, and work on our projects.

During the first days last weekend we walked and gathered thoughts and leaves, took photographs. Back around the table we sat and wrote in our journals then stitched, marked paper and bundled leaves which we then steamed and simmered in our witches brew (a cauldron of simmered onion skins, left over tea and leaves) while we exchanged our stories, useful tips and drank tea. Though the trees are bare and shoots of Spring are only just appearing we managed to make some interesting paperwork.

 

It has been a great way to kick start the year.  Next month we will be looking at rust printing and fabric bundling.

Bundles and Books

 

I’ve just spent a warm, sunny weekend, in good company, teaching and experimenting with various papers, plants and potions.

The first day of the workshop involved folding stitching and bundling various papers and fabrics with vegetation from the kitchen and garden. The bundles were then simmered  and most left to steep overnight. Other papers were prepared for the following day.

The results were some colourful pages and some lovely strong prints from leaves and flowers. We all made discoveries and gained inspiration for future work.

On the second day papers were steamed and more prints revealed. Dan kept us supplied with lots of refreshments and provided a feast of home made focacia breads to go with our lunch of soup, hummus, harissa and salad.

After lunch paper pages and pockets were stitched together to make books.

 

 

At the end of a lovely weekend, everybody went away with their individual books and pieces of silk and cotton.  I think a good weekend was had by all.

Botanical Alchemy

We have been winding down after the workshop, playing Catan by the stove and keeping out of the rain. We are all reflecting on such a wonderful weekend with a lovely group of women who came from as far North as Saltburn in Yorkshire, East as London and West as Devon for this three day workshop.

Inspired by India Flint’s book Eco Colour this workshop took her bundling techniques and aimed to share her sustainable dye practice. We used locally sourced dye stuffs and simple mordants and modifiers. Silk, wool and cellulose fibres, were stitched, folded, wrapped, bundled, simmered and steeped over the three days.

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Rain kept us inside for most of Saturday, stitching samples of various fabrics onto papers around the kitchen table. The wood burning stove keeping us all cosey and Dan made us plentiful cups of tea and coffee.

In between downpours, we managed a woodland walk. We gathered leaves and tree flowers left for us by the squirrels and had a surprise meeting with a Roe deer. We returned and put leaves, onion skins and discarded kitchen waste, including onion skins, cabbage and fallen petals in our folded paper and clamped them together and put into two baths.

The first paper bundles were opened that afternoon revealing wonderful colours. Two bundles were also prepared, simmered and left to steep overnight.

Sunday was glorious and was spent in the garden with much folding, wrapping and binding of silk and cotton around sticks, copper and iron. Claire brought some Eucalyptus and the rest of the dyestuffs came from the garden as well as the nearby woods.

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Seven bundles were prepared and put into four pots of various brews. After simmering and steeping overnight, the bundles were laid out to drain, ready to be opened when everyone arrived. They all looked much the same from the outside.

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However, once opened, glorious colours, patterns and leaf shapes emerged. Wonderful!

Stitching  again together on the third day and one last bundle on fine cotton gauze and the workshop was over.

So soon these lovely generous and enthusiastic women left with a loaf of Dan’s home made bread and a couple of Persicaria tinctoria plants to start their indigo dye garden. I will hope to lure them back with more botanical alchemy. Next time it will be the quest for the perfect blue.