Wednesday 30 May 2018

Printing with Plants

Eco Printing

Something I've had on my 'to do list' is eco-printing - I've read a lot about it over the years and at the weekend I finally got myself organised to give it a go!

Spring and summer are a great time to try it as there are lots of plants and flowers to experiment with, but I kept my first try minimal using some of my japanese maple leaves, geranium foliage and some sprigs of rosemary (Minnie, if you are reading this I took note of what you mentioned about acer leaves!).

Firstly I prepared a stack of paper and some odd scraps of fabric and soaked them in an Alum mordant solution overnight.  A mordant is used to help 'fix' the colours to the base medium.

Next I layered my papers and fabrics up with the leaves and clamped them together with some small bulldog clips I found in the office.  Some materials, like the chiffon and wool,  I rolled and tied up with string.

You will have to forgive me, as I haven't taken enough photos to show you each stage - I was so caught up in the alchemy it slipped my mind!

I had bought a cheap steamer to use only for dyeing, and with a good amount of water in the bottom,  placed my bundles in the two tiers and weighed them down with some stones to get as much contact as possible between the layers.

This was then put on the heat and simmered for a few hours - I am blessed with an old aga, so I put the whole thing in the bottom oven and left it there, only disturbing to turn the bundles and swap the tiers of the steamer.

Now, I believe you are then supposed to remove from the heat and leave for as long as possible - ideally overnight - but I just couldn't wait that long!  I could see the colours and prints had transferred to the bundles and only managed to leave it for a few hours before having a peek!

It was like Christmas, unwrapping little parcels to see what magic was inside!

The leaves had left good prints on the papers - it looked as if one side of the acer leaf left a different colour to the other side.  The geranium prints were a little less defined.  Perhaps I didn't have enough weight on top?

The prints on the old scraps of wool blanket were a little less defined, which I kind of expected.

The loose weave linen turned out great - the acer and some onion skins were placed on one half and I then folded over the other half which has resulted in a mirror image.  I was surprised at the brightness of the colours - especially from the onion skins!

I had wrapped a ribbon of chiffon around a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a rusty nail which has resulted in variegated colour along its length which is rather nice.

The odd piece of white chiffon was a bit of a failure, but a happy one.  I don't think I rolled it up tight enough, and probably should have rolled it around something to get better contact, so there aren't any actual imprints of the onion skins and acer leaves, but they have dyed the material  beautifully - look at those gorgeous colours!  The string which was wrapped around it also has a delicate tinge to it.

So, all in all a pretty successful experiment, and these papers and fabric scraps will go into my collection to be used and worked into for future projects.  I will definitely be doing this again, perhaps with some different plants - I'd like to do some immersion dyeing too, just to get some of those lovely natural colours on some material or wool.  There are all sorts of combinations of mordants to use to alter the colours, so it should be interesting!

Solar Dyeing

I have also stuffed some alum, rusty nails, plant material, fabrics and yarns into some jam jars with water and put them out on the patio in the sun.  Solar dyeing is definitely a waiting game - I'll need to leave them there for at least a month to do their thing (although I've already been there shaking them and peering at them only 3 days in!)  I can already see that the plants are starting to dye the water, so  I'll let you know how they get on - and of course we could do with some good amounts of sunshine to help!

Leaf Printing

Sticking with the leaf theme, I also had a bit of fun just painting leaves with acrylics and pressing them down on some materials and papers.  Child's play, but nice results!

I've already cut a couple of the samples out from the loose-weave linen and silk scrap and I'm incorporating them into a little hanging.  My hope is to add some words to this and present it as a prayer flag.

Prayer Flags

I've been finding out some more information about traditional prayer flags, and I really like the idea of adapting them as a textile project.

In short, they originate from India - coloured pieces of material with sutras printed onto them.  They were also important within Tibetan and Nepali Buddhism. The flags would be printed with Buddhist prayers, mantras and symbols  and hung outside to flutter in the wind; the silent prayers vibrating and lifting into the air and then carried by the wind across the countryside.  A lovely thought that all beings touched by that wind would be uplifted and happier.

photo credit:  travel2photograph

Wouldn't it be a most wonderful world if we could spread happiness, kindness and positivity around the planet on a gentle breeze?

Sometimes, I have to have a stern word with myself - like 'take a deep breath' or 'come on, you can do this'.  They are little mantras, or self-affirmations that we mutter to ourselves under our breath sometimes. 

What message would you think of to set off into the breeze?  What words do we sometimes need to hear to get us through a tough time, or a moment of fear or anxiety?

Fundraising Workshop Idea

This idea of creating a prayer flag, with your own message, memory or hope on it using the slow-stitch method (ie simple running stitch) is something anyone could do and I'm thinking of holding a fundraising Crafternoon in the autumn for MIND - what do you think?  Would it be something you'd be interested in coming along to?  It would be a nice way to spend a few hours - playing with fabrics, stitching and having your own flag to take home with you - oh and there'd most definitely be cake involved!

There are many examples of textile art 'prayer flags' to be found on Pinterest if you want to have a look, and as soon as I've finished mine I'll share it so that you can see the kind of thing I'm thinking of.

This idea goes back to my interest in the links between crafting and good mental health, because after all it affects every one of us - and I'm not necessarily talking about diagnosed mental health illnesses as I'm not really qualified to talk about that - I just mean MENTAL HEALTH, the same way we talk about our physical health.

Often physical and mental wellbeing are interlinked; going for a run, walk or swim can be extremely good for our mindset - but crafting, even on the most basic level, can also be a great way to immerse yourself in doing something to help reset your mind and relax.

I know someone who has a stressful job, but his workplace hold 'wellbeing' sessions for staff - what a great idea!  He has recently been to a session led by an artist, and despite never painting before he has created a really great piece of art!  I think he surprised himself, and he actually enjoyed it too and could well continue with it as a way of 'switching off'.

I often describe hand stitching, particularly running stitch,  as therapy - it's a great mindful practice which requires you to take a little time for yourself, away from phones and gadgets,  and simply focus on the needle going in and out of the fabric.  It can be quite meditative and calming.

I'll make up some simple flag samples over the summer and give the fundraising workshop some serious thought -  but will probably need to follow some mantras to have the courage to do it!

B e   b r a v e . . .

I'd love to know your thoughts on the workshop idea, it's always good to hear from you!

Wishing you a happy and healthy week.

xx Tanya xx