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Botanical Printing: How To Create Stunning Prints with Plants

Welcome to your new favourite hobby! Botanical printing is so fun that once you start you won't be able to stop. It's surprisingly simple to get stunning results every time.
 Botanical Printing How To
Step By Step Guide to Botanical Printing
Step 1. Silk works really well for botanical printing, because it absorbs natural colour incredibly well, and you'll end up with vibrant results. You can also use any other natural fibres, like cotton, linen or wool. Keep in mind that colours will be more muted on plant-based fibres.
Start by pre-mordanting your fibres. The most common mordant is alum, which helps plant based dyes stay colourfast and encourages bright, cheery tones. You can also use iron, which darkens and "saddens" colours, or makes them more grey.
Simmer fibre for 1 hour with 8% of the dry fibre weight of alum. For example, if you have 50g of fibre X 8% = 4g alum. Let cool in vat for 2-12 hours. If using iron, use 2% WOF (weight of dry fibre).
Botanical Printing, prepare dyes
Step 2. Lay out your fabric. It can be dry or damp. Gather all your dye plants around. Fresh or dried, powdered or whole, it all works! The more different plants and textures you add, the bigger the surprise reveal will be at the end.
Botanical Printing, St John's Wort
Some of my favourite dye plants to use are:
St John's Wort*
Onion Skins*
Madder Root
Japanese Maple Leaves
Stinging Nettle
Black Hollyhocks
Feel free to experiment with anything you find growing nearby- you never know what colours plants hold. Or shop for dried dye plants.
* Plants I used to make the scarf pictured in this post.
Botanical Printing, laying out the plants
Step 3. Lay out your dye plants on one half of the fabric. Leave half of the fabric blank. It's best if you divide the fabric in half lengthwise. Lay out plants in a random distribution, a gradient of colour, or a geometric pattern- the world is your oyster!
Botanical Printing rolling it up
Step 4. Fold, Roll and Tie. Fold the blank half down over the half with plant material on it. Starting at one end, roll up tightly. You can also wrap it around a dowel or chopstick. Then, tightly wrap the bundle up with string.
Botanical Printing wrapping
Step 5. At the bundled fabric to steamer and steam for 1 hour. You may have to add water a couple of times to make sure it doesn't boil dry. Be careful opening the lid! Like with all natural dyeing, it's best to use pots/steamers that you don't use for cooking.
Botanical Printing, steaming
Step 6. Let the bundle cool off completely. This will help the colour set. Untie the string and unravel to see your new botanically printed fabric! Remove plant materials, wash, dry and enjoy!
Botanical Printing the reveal
Botanical Printed Silk Scarf