Natural Dyes: Captured in Print

Mordant dyes can create a look of nature that will last long after the leaves in the garden are gone.

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Prepare mordant baths (see “About Mordants” on Page 30) and set aside. Then, place a crisp leaf, vein side up, on a non-porous work surface.

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With natural dyes and this simple leaf-printing technique, you can bring your herbs into any room of the home and keep their images year-round. Using edible plants and nontoxic chemicals, even children could help with this project outside on a sunny day. Print your favorite herbs on placemats, napkins or tablecloths, or take it a step further and put them on slipcovers or pillows. Try these prints on a cotton t-shirt or shorts, and wear a little nature in your travels.

You can take fabric with you on field trips, hikes or vacations and pound your leaves in the field, then mordant (used to hold the dye) them when you return home. Keep your fabrics away from light until you’re ready to mordant them, or your images may fade without being fixed to the fabric.

We tried test strips of basil, cilantro, dill, two types of lavender, marjoram, mint, rosemary and sage. The most successful images were produced by cilantro, dill, French lavender and basil. When experimenting with different dye plants and chemical baths, leave a sample out in the sun for a few days with half of the image covered to see how colorfast your fabric is in sunlight.