Many things influence the nature of images you'll get, After you've prepared and mordanted your fabric, plant selection is the next decision you'll make. Which plant materials, and how you use them, will have a great deal of impact on your prints.
When I eco-print, I aim for impressionistic, somewhat abstract images - for suggestions of leaf shapes, rather clear crisp leaf prints. So I tend to lay out two, three, or more types of leafs on a piece of fabric, and I often tear or chop and layer the materials. The pieces below were done using this method. Looking at them will give you a general idea of image and colour these types of materials can produce, but it'll be difficult to pick out distinct examples of what a specific material looks like. I delight in letting the materials work with each other and the surprises that come when I open my bundles.
I want to tell you about some of my favourite plants and how I use them. My most reliable stand-bys are: rose bush leaf, apple tree leaf, sugar maple and oak tree leaf, and black walnuts (in the bath) . Bonus, these are not hard to come by! I often use these as a foundation and add other plant mateials.
Japanese maple, smoke bush, and coral bell leafs are favourites, probably because they tend to imprint well and often give smoky purple greys. The piece below shows a few smoke bush leafs fairly clearly, but also draws colour from other leafs, darkened and intensified by a healthy dose of walnut and iron in the cooking. The fabric is fine wool.
I also love the colours and prints that can come from raspberry and blackberry leafs, and from strawberry leafs and runners. The piece below shows the beautiful lines that can print from strawberry runners. You can also see leaf shapes - coral bell and apple. Note that the fabric (linen) is loosely woven and quite textured, yet it still printed well.
In all of the pieces I've shown you here, the materials worked together in the bundles to influence the intensity and colour of the print. And colours can also be affected by the other bundles, and what's in the bath if the bundles are immersed for boiling rather than held above the bath for steaming.
For those of you who prefer distinct, identifiable images of specific leafs, here are a few suggestions that will help you to get what you want.
- place your piece of fabric on a piece of parchment paper, which you will roll up with the fabric. The paper will prevent transfer of colour or image from one layer of fabric to another.
- lay out each leaf, stem, or flower so that it can come in full contact with the fabric - i.e. so that there isn't a stem of other leave overlapping.
- steam the bundles rather than immersing them for boiling
- reduce contact between bundles in the steam chamber either by keeping a bit of space between them, or by wrapping each bundle in parchment paper.