Summer is in full swing in my garden, so that means I’m eco-printing on paper with all the leaves and flowers I can lay my hands on. I’m stockpiling printed papers and fabric to make books during the barren winter months. Over the weekend, I posted a video on Instagram showing me unwrapping my steamed bundle, and I got a lot of questions, so I wrote this post to show you how I did it.
Please note that I’m not an expert on eco-printing, and there are many wonderful books out there by folks who really know what they’re doing, such as India Flint’s Eco Colour. I’ll just show you what works for me.
Step 1: Mordant the Paper
First, I dissolved 1 teaspoon of aluminum sulfate in a cup of hot water, then added it to 2 gallons of cool water. I tore 2 full sheets of Rives BFK paper (175gsm weight) into smaller pieces and soaked them in the solution for 2 hours (but often I do it overnight).
Step 2: Prepare Bundle
Next, one of my favorite parts – gathering leaves and flowers from my garden. Some botanicals work and some don’t; just experiment with what’s available where you live. Here I used maple, dogwood, and red oak leaves, as well as leaves from shrubs such as smoke bush, hydrangea, and sand cherry. I had good luck with thread leaf coreopsis and some interesting but blurry prints from delphinium flowers (below)
I layered the botanicals with the pre-treated, still wet paper, added a piece of corrugated card board on the top and bottom of the bundle and used binder clips to hold it all together.
Step 3: Steaming
Lucky for me, I have an electric turkey roasting pan set up on my back porch so that I can make these prints whenever the mood takes me. I place a brick in the bottom so the bundle doesn’t touch the metal because it will burn, and I add a couple inches of water and heat it until the water is simmering. Then I place the clipped bundles on the bricks and weigh them down with more bricks. I steam it with the lid on for 2 hours, checking the water level periodically so that it doesn’t run dry.
Step 4: Reveal the Prints
I remove the bundle using a heat-proof glove and allow it to cool for an hour. Then I carefully remove the clips and unpeel the layers. I like to do this while it’s still wet because if you allow the leaves to dry, they will often permanently stick to the paper. Here’s a video of the unveiling:
If you have any questions, feel free to ask below. I’ll do my best to answer them or point you in the right direction.