Dyeing with eucalyptus leaves Part 5

Solar dyeing

This is probably the most environmentally friendly form of dyeing with Eucalyptus leaves.  All you need is a glass container with a screw top lid, leaves and water.  Solar dyeing works best in summer when the sunlight is strong, but good results can be achieved in winter if the jar is kept in a sunny place for longer.


Use a glass jar large enough to fit the fabric and enough leaves to dye the fabric.  Cheap discount stores often carry a range of glass jars with screw top lids in different sizes, or use clean household or preserving jars.  Remove any paper labels from the jar.  Place some leaves at the base of the jar, then wrap leaves in the fabric at random and stuff into the jar with more leaves around the outside of the fabric against the glass of the jar.  Finally place more leaves on the top until the jar is jammed full, and add as much water as will fit, and attach the lid firmly.  It’s important to keep the level of water over the fabric and leaves for the dye to extract.

Place jar in a sunny place for a few days to a few weeks depending on the weather, turning from time to time to get even sun coverage.  Check the jar to see if the amount of dyeing is to your liking.  Whole leaves may give a leaf imprint onto the fabric, or randomly patterned part leaf prints.  Pods can also be used, especially the large Mottlecah pods.  Solar dyeing is a fascinating way of creating patterned fabric, and adding dyes from a simmer dye bath can expand the colour range.  I’ve successfully solar dyed multi coloured patterned fabric in one batch but it can also turn out a muddy mess!

Eucalyptus dyes on fabric are like oil paintings.  The fabric is fast to washing and some sunlight, but can be reworked if placed back into a dyebath with leaves or an active mordant.  Colours and patterns can shift and turn into something unexpected.

Leaf Imprinting and Pigment Printing will be discussed in the next article.

SAFETY PRECAUTION:  Remember to use rubber gloves and a steam/fluid resistant face mask when using Eucalyptus dyes.  DON’T USE UTENSILS THAT WILL BE USED FOR COOKING.  Work in a well ventilated area away from children and animals.


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Artist in Adelaide, South Australia. I enjoy viewing and participating in street art and experimenting with photography for surface design.

3 thoughts on “Dyeing with eucalyptus leaves Part 5”

    1. Hi Janelle,
      According to artist India Flint in her book ‘Eco Colour’ cellulose fabrics such as cotton need pre-mordanting in alkaline and protein solutions before the eucalyptus dyes will bind to the fabric. Prepare a bucket or tub with a tablespoon of soda ash or washing soda to 10 litres/2 gallons of water and 5m/5 1/2 yards of fabric. Soak the fabric, gently wring out, drip dry, then repeat several times and alternate with soaking the same fabric in 1 litre/32 fl oz soy milk (no additives) to 10 litres/2 gallon of water. The fabric is then rested for as long as possible until the alkaline and protein solutions have worked their way into the fibre. The fabric can then be dyed. I’ve had some success over-dyeing cotton this way (immersion over heat), but I haven’t tried it with solar dyeing. India mentions other methods in her book: Eco Colour by India Flint, http://www.indiaflint.com/page3.htm

      Good luck and please let me know how you get on 🙂

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