Natural dyes, eco printing and shibori

Natural Dyes

I work with a variety of Natural Dyes, some of which I source and process locally and others I buy during my travels or from online shops.

Firstly, the fabric must be scoured. Next is mordanting. In the case of cellulose fibres (linen, cotton, flax), the fabric is usually soaked first in a tannin bath. Finally, the fabric is put into a mordant bath. The mordant attaches the dye particles to the fabric. Mordants are necessary in all natural dyeing in order for the dye to “bite” or take hold in the fabric. Once these steps are completed, the fabric is ready to be dyed.

It’s always magical to remove the threads or the resists from a fabric, after it has been immersed in a dye pot. Or removing leaves from the fabric once it has been steamed, during Eco printing. Equally enthralling is the sometimes surprising colour result. It’s all about experimentation (and chemistry).

A pot of acorns ready to be cooked and made into a natural dye for fabric
sumac berries




Eco Print Technique

Eco or Botanical Printing involves pressing natural elements into fabric to produce a print. I primarily use leaves from my garden, as they are highly printable. These include: tulip tree, cotinus, locust, plum, cherry, apple, rose, dogwood and others.

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.

Although I have incorporated Eco printing in my work before, it was an additional technique that I used to enhance my fabrics. A brief explanation of the eco printing method is described here.


Shibori is an ancient Japanese art similar to what is commonly known as tie dyeing. There are many ways to create shibori. The technique chosen and the resulting dyed fabric depends upon both the type of fabric and the dye being used. Differing techniques may be combined in some cases to achieve increasingly more elaborate results.

Some examples of how I make Shibori prints in the MaiTribe Studio can be found here and here.

Cotton that has been Kumo shibori tied.
Indigo kumo shibori
Indigo and Arashi shibori
Indigo nui shibori
Nui shibori on habotai silk scarf, dyed with sumac, cochineal and walnut dyes