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Tips on Creating Botanical Prints

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Botanical prints with leaves. Natural Dyeing

What do the words "natural" and "eco" mean to you? Just like the word "sustainable", "natural" and "eco" can be interpreted differently depending on your beliefs and values.  To some people, natural means no chemicals.  Others may interpret it as being direct from the source and no industrial processing whatsoever. When I started my natural dye journey, I realised (as I had mentioned in this post) that the process is not at all as natural as people make it out to be. In comparison with synthetic dyes, however, the process is a lot gentler.  Perhaps, we should call it "botanical dyes" or "botanical prints" to avoid the misconception that the process is completely natural. What do you think?


The City Ramble, Citizen Farm

I definitely had a lot of queries regarding the "natural" part of the dye process during my "Reconnecting with Nature" dye installation over the weekend.  Many visitors did not know that chemicals are used in natural dyeing, and were also intrigued by the long process. In fact, I guess you could say that the only natural part is the dye source itself - not processed and no additives! It sparked very interesting conversations, and one discussion I clearly remember is one with a secondary school chemistry teacher, Gerald. He said that perhaps I should use solvents instead of water to extract the pigments. This is something worth investigating!

Citizen Farm Singapore

A Walk in the Garden

Before the City Ramble, we were given a tour of the venue, Citizen Farm. Sam, our guide for the afternoon, shared with us the farm's philosophy of challenging the way we eat and live.

"Instead of consuming industrially-produced food shipped halfway across the globe, we want our community to thrive on sustainable, safe, and locally-grown fresh food."

It was interesting to not only see greens thriving in an urban setting, but also the rearing of black soldier flies for the breakdown of food waste, and their research into aquaculture technology to raise fish and grow crops. I love how the farm incorporates the close-looped concept into its operations!

I got a chance to try out marigold, red leaf hibiscus and red cosmos from the farm. I purchased a small box of the flowers and got down to the dyeing.  Once the dye pots of the marigold and red leaf hibiscus were made, I got busy. I was amazed by the yellow from the marigold (right, image below)), but the red leaf hibiscus (left) was awfully disappointing.

Red Leaf Hibiscus and Marigold Natural Dye Pot

Tips on Creating Botanical Prints

After getting an intense yellow from the marigold, I decided to use them in botanical prints. I sprinkled them together with the red cosmos in the middle of a long sheet of fabric before rolling it up tightly around a pipe. The piece was steamed and then allowed to rest before over-dyeing with mango leaves. I finally hand-embroidered the piece with a variety of Wt 50 sewing threads (DMC and Gutterman).

Botanical Print - A Walk in the Garden
🍀A Walk In the Garden🍀
Magnolia and cosmos botanical print
Mango leaf dye
Hand embroidered
Textile waste
Approx 30cm x 120cm

After so many attempts in botanical printing, here are some of the tricks that I have applied.
  1. Metal conducts heat so a metal pipe gives you the advantage over a plastic or paper-made pipe. 
  2. Roll it up tight and I mean REALLY tight to get defined and clean prints of the flora.
  3. Cure it for as long as you can. I cured it for at least 3 days before unwrapping it. 
  4. If you look really closely at the print, you will notice that flowers tend to smudge a bit and I found it particularly so for the red cosmos.  Compare this with the leaves that I have been trying out (see video below). So if you would like something really defined then perhaps leaves will be your go to flora.
What are your tips? Do share below!




Thank you to ShopHouse and Co for inviting me to be part of The City Ramble 2018, and to Citizen Farm for providing their support and lovely venue.

Have you signed up for the workshop?


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Abdelghafour

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