Many years ago precious pure wool blankets used to be the staple of a household. Nowadays they are being given up as the newer lightweights push them out of the linen closet. Lucky for us eco printers as they can now have quite the second life! You will love the Wonderful Wool Eco Printing and then go raid some linen closets…
As with the mittens wool can be used for so many things. These blankets came in many weights, quality and even colours. Some have been carefully stored and some have been washed and used. Depending on the weight they can become coats and jackets or accessories such as bags and scarves. Wool wears great and is not as fragile as you may think. Some have developed quite a ‘felting’ over the years. There is a lot of yardage in a blanket as well!
One of the easiest plant materials to dye wool is onion skins. Even with just a bit of pre-mordanting with vinegar (50% water for at least an hour) the wool prints oranges & reds easily with the skins. As a way of making shapes I cut them with some spice scissors.
I relied on my favourites such as maple and rose leaves as well as a newcomer; ‘wine weigela’. They have been pressed between newspaper until ready to use. Even after quite dried they can be reconstituted again.
This time the iron mordant is in the form of a soak in rusty iron water. I maintain a bucket of railroad spikes and water that I refresh with some vinegar now and then. I soak the leaves for about 30 minutes at least. Don’t be too strong with the iron as it will be harsh on the wool fibres and make it feel even scratchier. As with most of my projects I will do small test runs before investing a huge precious piece.
The wool tends to soak up a lot of moisture. It will keep dripping out the excess water as you work so its best to squeeze as much out as possible. Do not wring it as that may distort the wool. The prints will not be distinct if too wet. A towel to squeeze in will help wick the excess water.
Blot excess ‘iron-water’ from the leaves as well. Keep in mind that front and back print differently.
My intention was to have some background colour using the small flakes of onion skin. Be creative and unique. There are so many possibilities.
As an assurance that any prints will not bleed through to other layers, I cover in plastic (drop sheets are easily cut to the width and can be reused many times) before rolling.
The wool blanket starts quite thick and fluffy. I find that tying tight with string can cause deep indentations that are pretty permanent. I came up with my own unique way of keeping the roll flat but also still able to breathe. Much like sushi rolling, I use a bamboo placemat on the outside of the roll. As you see wool can get bulky quite quickly.
Another option is to leave some wool exposed to create interesting edge design by immerse boiling in some dye colour. The string/twine will act as a resist and I have often see it look like wonderful fringes on the edges.
If you would like a cleaner background and distinct prints then steaming for about 2 hours would be best. For some variation of colour and edges boiling would give more results. The addition of some dye stuffs ( leaves, onion skins, iron ) in the pot will add some colour.
Once you have steamed or boiled they can be opened. I often like to keep some of the heat and let it cool slowly by wrapping in a thick towel/blanket rag. Anticipation… until the reveal!
Such wonderful reds! Since wool is a protein fibre it prints great. The pressing of the rolls also changes the feel of the wool and it becomes a more dense fabric.
They remind me of wool coat melton; thick and sturdy.
Wonderful wool eco printing!
Oh, what to make with the great prints? How can I sleep with so many ideas floating through my head?! Pillows? Bags? Jacket? Journal? Vest? Quilt?
Alright, alright, here’s a sneak peek… I had better do this before we hit the heat of summer again…