The Cotton/Linen Dyeing Problem

Silk is a cinch.  Right?  Prints beautifully.

Cellulose fibres, on the other hand, are more problematic.  So I want to master them in eco-printing.  India Flint’s Eco-Colour has some guidance on soaking cottons and linens in supermarket soy milk products.  I followed these and have just bundled the resulting pre-mordanted pieces of linen and cotton from de-constructed op-shop garments with various leaves and stems picked from the ground at my local wetlands and my own garden.

The results?  Every piece of cellulose fabric that I rinsed in an iron water solution printed beautifully in two hours of steaming.  To be realistic, it would have done this even without the soy milk pre-mordant. I won’t even bother to post the images.  Same same.

Well, OK, here’s one


Geranium leaves printed onto cellulose fabric which has been pre-mordanted with soy milk, dried, then soaked in iron water before bundling

The disappointment was that those I rinsed in copper solution (vinegar soaked copper tacks) and then steamed for two hours scarcely  showed any prints.  Almost white linen and cotton fabrics emerged from the bundles. I didn’t even photograph the relatively blank white cotton fabrics that emerged after I washed the bundled fabric.

What I DID do was to bundle them anew. This time I heaped the “used leaf refuse” from previous bundles in each piece of cotton and linen, adding a small quantity of chopped purple carrot for some different colour.  This is a technique I learned from Jane Flower  (  She calls it “water colour”.  I bound them as usual but instead of steaming, I simmered them for two hours in the base of the steamer, that is, in the water. Not just water.  I added a few small branches of Euc. wandoo thinking that the tannin would be helpful.  I dropped a small lump of iron in too.  Iron takes some time to work itself into a bath; adding it just up front of a boil up I figured would add some mordant qualities without sending everything black…







Above three images: various fabrics in cotton and linen bundled with used leaf material and purple carrot and simmered in a bath of Euc. wandoo and iron

Finally I want to record the fabric that resulted from my printing of a collection of leaves picked up by Julie Devereux on our walk in the wetlands last week. They were very interesting in that they seemed to have been eaten by insects in a way that made them look like lace. One was heart shaped.


Now I just have to find a way of giving these fabrics a new life in a work of some sort!

This entry was posted in Eucalyptus sp as dye, Geranium leaf printing, Iron mordant, Natural dyeing, purple carrots as dyes, soy milk mordant for cellulose fibres. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Cotton/Linen Dyeing Problem

  1. Julie Devereux says:

    Great work Margaret, and so good to keep records and photos of your pieces.

  2. soewnearth says:

    I have had great results with cotton/linen, the issue is that if it is something you wish to wear and wash, the colours don’t stay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s