Natural Dyes – Leaf Prints

Kay and Leaf PileDenise Dyeing Leaves on PaperLast week, my friend, Kay Hille-Hatten, and I spent a day trying to do some natural dyeing of leaves onto paper. I had tried this not too long ago, but with less than satisfactory results. Kay found some directions from her book-making sources, and we followed them to the letter. What a difference clear instructions make!

We used all cotton rag paper (Arches watercolor paper, BFK Rives print paper, and Lennox print paper) and painted them on both sides with alum dissolved in water. We gathered lots of plant material (leaves, bark, flowers, berries) and other things we thought would dye (tea leaves and rust). We laid out the materials on paper and covered some of them with another piece of paper. Others we just left without another piece of paper. We then rolled them up on bamboo chop sticks and tied them tightly. We took out the chop stick and placed our bundles in a large steam pot. We kept the water level below the steam vents to avoid too much water on the paper. I think we probably steamed them for about 5 hours before taking them out.

We got some fun results and learned a lot about what works well and what does not work well. We liked using a top and bottom paper to get mirror images of the leaves. Otherwise, you get a design one two sides of one paper, which creates a dilemma of which side to use. Here’s some samples of our results.

Leaf Prints - view 2

Leaf prints - view 1

Leaf Prints - view 3

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