Eco printing or Botanical printing has been the focus of my natural dye path in the past few months. Both terms are interchangeable.
What is the Eco printing or Botanical printing process?
Basically, this process allows for leaves and blossoms to be transferred to materials such as paper, fabric, clay, and leather. The leaf matter is placed on the substrate (fabric etc), then bundled and steamed. Or boiled. That is the basis of this technique.
Growing up in a Latvian household, we traditionally dyed our Easter eggs in the manner of Eco printing or botanical printing. Of course, it wasn’t called that at the time. But basically, we would wrap the egg (substrate) in onion skins and add some herb clippings or flower petals. Then the egg would be put into a clean, old nylon stocking or a piece of fabric, and tied closed. Then it would be boiled in water, in order to cook the egg. The results were always a beautiful surprise.
Eco printing is a term which was coined by the inventor of this technique, India Flint. Her mother was Latvian; India also writes of her memories of dyeing Easter eggs in this way.
Many other factors come into play to create different results, including mordants, tannins and modifiers
Mordants are mineral salts such as alum, copper sulphate, ferrous sulphate and titanium oxalate. Mordants are required in the natural dye process so that the dye will attach itself to the substrate and not be washed out. All natural materials in the dye process need to be mordanted.
Tannin is added to the mordant process when using natural dyes to dye cellulose fibres (cotton, linen, viscose, flax etc)
Leaves contain a certain amount of tannin, some more, some less. And often this is what is imprinted on the substrate. Some leaves also contain colour (eg. cotinus, sand cherry, eucalyptus).
Modifiers change colours in natural dyes (vinegar, citric acid, soda ash).
So, any combinations of these naturally occuring chemicals will create a myriad of results. In addition to all fabrics not being identical, it can be very difficult to replicate results in eco/botanical printing. Or in natural dyeing generally.
Here are some of my examples of upcycled cotton and linen napkins and tablecloths which have been created with eco printing or botanical printing.
Oftentimes, I like to combine techniques in my natural dye projects
Below are some fabrics which have been dyed with various natural dyes; some also have shibori resist technique and stencil printing. Afterwards, I have worked with eco printing to finish the design.