Saturday, November 9, 2019


A few months ago my friend introduced me to a fabric dying process called Eco-printing.  She was making silk scarves dyed with a variety of things from nature, such as leaves and flowers, black walnut dye and rusty water.

When I did a search for it this is the description I found...

"At its root, eco printing refers to the act of directly applying plants to textiles to alter color, apply color and create interesting designs. “Natural dyeing” is a component, as everything used is natural, such as flowers, leaves, bark, bugs, roots etc. (yes…. bugs! I’ll get into that a little later)"

I love the way Kayleen said it...  "I love this process because you can put it all together, but like life, it often turns out differently than was expected. The outcome is a surprise and you have an opportunity to let go of the expected outcome and accept the gift of what is."

So let's start at the beginning...  It was suggested to me to use 100% silk, linen or cotton.  (You can also use 100% cotton t-shirts.) 

**Disclaimer**  I am NOT an expert on this process and am still learning with each session.

There are many techniques for eco-printing and these directions and results are based on my personal experiences.

Step 1:  Soak fabric in water, or mordant made of vinegar water or alum water.  Wring out until just damp.

A mordant or dye fixative is a substance used to set (i.e. bind) dyes on fabrics by forming a coordination complex with the dye, which then attaches to the fabric.  Basically, natural dyes will not adhere to natural fibers without the use of a mordant or fixative. While you may initially get a beautiful result from the dyeing, it will soon wash out or fade away!

Alum, vinegar, iron, copper, tin and chrome are some examples of a mordant.  I have only used vinegar, rust and alum as a mordant.  

Step 2:  Soak items that you want to leave an imprint in rust water or black walnut dye for a minimum of 10-15 minutes... the longer the better.  I am generally too impatient to wait much longer.  <>  

Step 3:  Arrange items on the damp fabric.  Top with a “blanket”.  

A rust blanket can be used repeatedly.  

In the photo to the right you will see that I have two different blankets... one was soaked in vinegar water and the second was soaked in rust water.

Step 4:  Roll the fabric onto a stick very tightly.  This is called bundling.  

Your choice of product for bundling can affect your final product.

You can use  a piece of metal rebar, a wooden dowel, a small branch, or copper pipe for a variety of staining.  You can also use PVC if you don't want any additional staining at all.)

Step 5:  Secure tightly with twine, or wire.

Step 6:  Steam for 90 minutes.

Step 7:  Allow to cure for 24 hours while enclosed in a plastic bag.

Step 8:  Unroll and allow to dry.  Press with hot iron to help to “set the color”. 

Step 9:  Wash with a gentle soap.  Dry and press one last time.  

And here is my first result >>>

You can see that the variety of staining from the rust blanket even though the center section of the silk scarf was covered with the rust blanket.  The lower end of the scarf had the "blank" blanket and the top end had no blanket at all.

Below is a picture of the "blankets" used with the silk scarf.  

Here is a small block of aspen trees (pattern from Fiona Sandwich's National Park Postcard library) that I recently made using the lighter of the two "blankets" shown above.

My larger piece of linen seems to be asking to become a wall hanging... What do you think?

As I pondered the results and the options with so many variables and the unpredictability for the finished product I wondered...  what would copper wire do?  What about maple or walnut dowels?  What if you wrapped the dowel with copper wire or silver solder???  The options are endless!!!

My very supportive husband graciously entertained my request for the dowels.  Because he has a supply of maple and walnut stock blanks for his business he allowed me to pick a few out...

The next printing session involved all of the above mentioned materials... Maple and walnut dowels, copper wire and silver/tin wire.

Here are some of my results...  

Here I am using a linen table cloth and placed items on the center 1/3 of the cloth...

I folded the cloth over the nature items and layered again...

I finally folded over the last 1/3 of the table cloth and bundled.  

I rolled the cloth on a walnut dowel that was wrapped with silver/tin solder.  

I secured the bundle with copper wire and steamed for approximately 2 hours because the bundle was so thick.

You can see that a maple leaf left some heavy staining and the copper wire cause some interesting colors as well...

The final results...

You can see the dowel wrapped with wire in the picture at the right and the pattern imprinted on the fabric.  The deep purple staining was from the walnut wood.

I am fascinated with this dying process and am curious about so many other options.  The combinations are endless!  I think I will need to exercise some self control because I have quilting that needs to be done!

I will be doing some more research about natural dyes and further investigation about the combination of different fabrics, mordants and the various reactions and results...

Want to know more yourself?  Do a search... I found that there is a "starter kit" available (no affiliation - I just thought it was interesting.)  I was lucky enough to have a friend that had already collected the various pots and pans and supplies required.

Have fun!

What are some of your ideas for using hand-dyed fabric like this?  

Leave a comment.  I'd love to hear from you.

Stay calm and quilt on,


Join me for the sew along that will feature vintage Kansas City Star Quilt Blocks

Linking with:

Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty
Peacock Party at Wendy’s Quilts and More
Scrap Happy Saturday at Super Scrappy
UFO Busting at Tish’s Wonderland
Finished or Not Friday at Alycia Quilts
What I Made Monday at Pretty Piney
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts
Colour & Inspiration at Clever Chameleon Quilting


  1. very interesting result - sounds fun

  2. I follow LuAnn Kessi's blog,, and she does a number of dying techniques with fabric. She uses them in quilts, table runners and tote bags. I don't think she has ever done this technique. It is fascinating and makes me want to get bolts of solid fabric to play with!!

  3. Several friends have used this technique and others to produce quilted works. You are SEW right... it's a TON of fun!!

  4. How cool! that sounds like a fun learning experience!