Leaf bundles unwrapped

Last Thursday our natural dye study group met to bundle leaves and cloth together, following the eco-print method developed and deeply researched by India Flint (and explained in her luscious book Eco Colour.) I had tried this on my own several times with disappointing results. But this time, persistence, patience (well – a little more), the chemistry of autumn leaves, along with the camaraderie of cohorts have conspired in my favor. I am delighted with these results!


No mordant used for the first simmer, approx. 1 hour in water. After a couple of days, I drizzled an alum solution (a pinch of alum dissolved in 100 ml hot water) over the bundle (edges, sides, etc. sort of randomly), and simmered it again (still bundled) in a weak walnut dye bath. After a couple of days wrapped in bubble wrap on my radiator, I then unwrapped it (so impatient!).

The leaves I used for all these results include: Canada red chokecherry (Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum), and Candymint Crabapple (Malus sargentii ‘Candymint’). After arranging the leaves in a layer I then sprinkled on the onion skins (yellow). With the exception of the wool scarf, I bundled 2 or 3 layers of fabric and leaves over a birch branch from my neighbors tree. All bundled tightly with string.

silk and cotton

Above, 2 strips of silk over 2 strips of cotton muslin. The muslin had been soy sized some time ago and was put aside in my studio and forgotten about. I had played with natural dye extracts on the silk months ago, some pinks came from that. My meadow rue pattern was also printed with natural dye extracts. The 3 green leaf images near the top left are Chokecherry and Crab apple. The cotton is much more subdued, yet still lovely.

Japanese Maple

Not surprisingly, the Japanese Maple left a beautiful impression.


The onion skins made these pieces something special, I think. I especially enjoy the green of the Chokecherry with the rusty oranges.


(The Mulberry is one of my favorite leaf shapes.)

I am enticed by the rich, organic colors, the visual complexity, the sense of depth given by the layering of leaves and fabrics. So glad this is prime leaf collection season … I came home today with several varieties of Oak as well as more of the above. I look forward to playing with these techniques along with katazome materials and processes!

Some new work

Below are images of the pieces I completed since I have become a member of Project Art for Nature.

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Visiting my site in mid-June, I saw a field of one of my favorite native wildflowers, Monarda fistulosa (also known as wild bergamot or bee balm), not yet in bloom but vigorous with upward verdant growth. The topmost leaves of brilliant yellow-green seemed almost like sources of light. Three of the pieces are my response to observing this field.

I was also attracted to a hillside dense with tall, graceful grass. I have since learned this is an invasive and difficult-to-eradicate species called reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea). Its presence can lead to a decline in native plants. Since learning this, I have noticed it everywhere – in roadside ditches, parks, etc. It grows so thick it tends to choke the wetlands.