The following is the method I use for imprinting leaves onto fabric and works most successfully on silk organza. It works well on a variety of leaves except for very thick eucalyptus leaves.
Materials: Silk or wool fabric ready for dyeing, vinegar, spray bottle, water or dye from a dyebath if preferred, flat Eucalyptus leaves, garbage bags cut to lay open, book press, or bricks and two water resistant boards.
First gather whole leaves that are as flat as possible. Lay out fabric over enough plastic garbage bags to allow space around the edges that can be folded in at the end. Arrange leaves in your preferred design over one half of the fabric only, keeping in mind the fabric is going to be folded several times and the leaves need to fit within the folds. Gently fold the other half of the fabric over the top and spray with a water/vinegar solution. The amount of vinegar to water is a matter of experimentation but 1:10 works well. The vinegar brightens the colour of the dye and also helps to stop the fabric going mouldy. Dye from a dyebath can be used instead of plain water.
Make sure there is even coverage of the fabric and leaves and it is soaked enough to ensure dye penetration. Remember as with solar dyeing, if the fabric is dry the dye doesn’t move from the leaves into the fabric. Cover the fabric with the other half of opened out garbage bag. Gently roll the fabric and garbage bag in half and half again until the resulting package will fit in a bookpress or under some bricks and a water resistant board. Make sure the ends of the garbage bag are folded in to keep the moisture in the package. Place in the bookpress and tighten until firm, or within the two layers of board and place bricks evenly on top. Enough bricks need to be used to create a firm even pressure or the leaves won’t imprint on the fabric. Leave in the press for as long as it takes to create the desired depth of colour. In warmer weather a week is usually long enough, but check every couple of days that the package hasn’t dried out.
Printing with Eucalyptus Pigment
As mentioned in a previous article, reduced dye from the dyebath can be used to screen, stencil or lino print fabric. Reduce the dyebath until the colour is as concentrate as possible but still liquid. Some dyes from bark, sap and leaves thicken to a nice paste that can be used as is. Thin dye concentrate can be added to a print paste base for textiles. This can be bought at any good art store or over the internet. Premier Art Supplies in Adelaide, Kraftkolour in Melbourne, or Dharma Trading in the USA are all good suppliers for print and dye materials and auxiliaries.
Once the fabric is printed and dry, heat set with an iron until the smell of the dye changes. This is a strange method but works, and probably involves removing the face mask for a second or two. The printed fabric changes from a clear fragrant eucalyptus smell to a toasted fragrance that is still pleasant but different. This usually takes 3 minutes depending on the heat of the iron. Use a pressing cloth if you are worried about damaging the fabric. I’ve found that black dyes work best, followed by the sappy bark/leaf dyes in red-brown. I’ve had limited success with green dyes and gold is too pale to work, though may show on white fabric if you are keen enough to experiment.
Good luck and happy dyeing!
SAFETY PRECAUTION: Remember to use rubber gloves and a steam/fluid resistant face mask when using Eucalyptus dyes and print paste. DON’T USE UTENSILS THAT WILL BE USED FOR COOKING. Work in a well ventilated area away from children and animals.