Botanical Printing of Clothes & Slowing Down

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Botanical Printing of Clothes & Slowing Down
It has been a long time since I last blogged. Christmas came, then it was the New Year, and immediately after that it was time to celebrate Chinese New Year.  On top of all that I was busy preparing for my upcycling and textile art workshops (have you seen what I have in store for you?) and collaborations.  I always try to remind myself to slow down, which brings me to the point of posting my tutorials. When I was known as Green Issues by Agy, I was posting DIY and upcycling / repair tutorials almost every week. The reason why I was doing this was that is what my wardrobe needed - it needed a revamp and I did not want to buy new clothing, and I also wanted to share it with everyone.  It was a lot of clothing to go through!

It then transitioned from upcycling into repair, and now I am at the stage that I don't see the need to be posting more of these DIY tutorials unless I have a need for it. I don't want to do the tutorials for the sake of doing it, or going out to buy a thrift item just to upcycle it. It would be such a waste. In fact I wrote about How to Upcycle to Complement Your Wardrobe.  Now I am focusing on my art and artivism, and if it adds value to my wardrobe then I will definitely use it.

Botanical print

My Natural Dye Journey So Far

Anyway, enough waffle, because I have been working on printing leaf dye onto my clothing. I have an organic cotton top from Thought Clothing and, with all the sweatiness in Singapore, it starts to go yellow. So I steamed the leaves directly onto the garment before overdyeing it with mango leaf dye. Finally, it was back to some handstitching with DMC embroidery thread. I must admit that I had very difficult time with the stitching because there was so much iron-on tear away stabilizer involved. Without the stabilizer I would have warped stitching in the jersey material, but it took so long to remove it!

Eucalyptus leaves

Botanical printed t-shirt

Botanical print - eucalyptus leaf
Immersion dye - mango leaf
Fabric - organic cotton (scoured, soya milk binder and alum mordant)
Embroidery work

Embroidered and botanically printed organic cotton t-shirt

How long did this take me?

Here is a breakdown:

  1. Scour and dry - 1 day
  2. Soy milk binding plus drying - 1 day
  3. Alum mordanting - 2 days
  4. Botanical print plus curing and drying - 5 days
  5. Immersion dye and drying - 2 days
  6. Embroidery work - 5 days
Total number of days spent was 16 days!

Natural Dye T-shirt

Is Dyeing Using Botanicals Difficult?

Since starting in early 2017, I would say a definite "YES!". I find it very difficult to predict the colours from the plants especially when nature changes over the year.  Different month, different colour. It is so complex, yet very satisfying when you see the result.  I find it hard to imagine what natural dyeing would have been like before the invention of synthetic dyes - I spent 11 days just on the dyeing of my t-shirt. I recently read this article on Turkey red process where fabric is taken through a laborious 25 day process with various organic matter including blood and dung!

Is it More Environmentally Friendly?

To be honest, I am not sure. I may be taking colours from nature, but I:

  1. Used soy milk that could have been drunk
  2. Used manufactured alum
  3. Used a lot of water, heat, and even the botanical print involved the use of cling wrap! 

I suppose the fact that I saved the t-shirt from the landfill is some sort consolation for me, but the important take home for me is the slowing down. It is so therapeutic, as I explained to Nova of Cultivate Central in this video.

What steps have you taken to slow down?

Be part of my natural dye journey at the City Ramble Design Trails - Process this weekend, 10 - 11 March at Citizen Farm.

Take part in my beginners natural dye workshop (in collaboration with GUILD) happening in May!

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