Using Pomegranate in Eco Printing

Is it not wonderful when you can use cast off ‘stuffs’ to create new beautiful ‘stuffs’?! That is one of the reasons I like this earthy art form so much. Using Pomegranate in Eco Printing opens a whole unique world of possibilities.

The Pomegranate Kitchen Scraps:

Sadly, Pomegranates don’t grow where I live but there are times where they are quite affordable. The tiny morsels of flavour are such a great edible treat and I make sure to get every last one, but the skins and pulp is what we use here.

Fill a (used for dye) pot with plenty of water to accommodate the easily chopped rinds and simmer. Generally speaking I try to keep temperatures down since many natural dyestuffs will lose some of their brightness when subjected to quite high rolling boils. ‘Slow and low’ will bring out the most from the matter. After as long a cook as you can handle (an hour and allow some cooling) you will need to strain it. I use old sheer curtain mesh and squeeze every drop out that I can.

It shows a lovely warm red but that will not be the product since the major ‘gift’ from the Pomegranate is the tannins. As you may have found in this eco printing adventure the tannic acids in the leaves give us the results and Pomegranate is high in this.

The Eco Printing Process:

In my opinion here are no ‘definite’ rules to printing with botanicals. I am foremost an artist and less of a scientist so I do like to just ‘try-and-see-what-I-get’ most often. If this is all new to you you may want to check here for many of my instructions.

In this case I used an ‘iron blanket’ as a top layer over the placed leaves and an additional reused plastic barrier. The amount of iron will play a factor in how dark and dull the tones will be. Note the warm yellow that is imparted by the pomegranate.

This is the print left on the iron blanket after the alternate steaming, as it was used multiple times; eventually it will be almost solid black. As you may noticed in all my eco printing iron plays a role in making the print permanent and iron loves to combine with tannin. Tannins also act as a mordant to help bind alum to cellulose (plant based) fibres. Sound complicated? Yes, for sure. I learn most from observing results of my tests.

The Magic Revealed:

I have learnt that ‘more’ tannins + ‘more’ iron = darker prints. Note the way that the leaves created a resist since they blocked the tannin and iron from combining. The reds are actually from the natural colour of the Japanese maples leaves. Adding alum into this process (before or after the tannin) will add an extra dose of golden yellow. How much you ask? Well that is always the question; there are some complex calculations of %’s against weight of fibre (WOF). I’m a ‘dash of this and dash of that’ kind of person…

After a vigorous wash, dry and iron it looks a wonderful taupe with buttery yellow shapes. A happy ‘accident’ of red maples just rounds it all off.

Won’t you brew up some of your rinds and let nature amaze you? I’ll warn you though; it may become addictive. Alright, gotta run and roll up some more bundles… because nothing is more fun than opening up and discovering the magic! Happy printing!

Let me know what wonders you’ve created.

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  1. Would you like to get some eucalyptus?
    I live in Sydney Au. I can send you as much you wish.

    1. Awe, that is kind of you to offer! I did have others who did and when they checked with the post office it was illegal! It’s probably so that no diseases travel across the world. There was even a site which sold dries leaves and they would not ship to canada. I will have to rely on a florist but they will not guarantee any specific specie. What time of year would it be best for me to try getting some due to your seasons? Thanks so much anyways!

  2. Good day, Barb. Thank you very much for the inspiration and warmth that filled all your stories. I live in Russia in the north, we do not grow eucalyptus, but we sell brooms for a bath from eucalyptus branches, they are not expensive for us and I use them for eco-printing. Not all eucalyptus trees give a good result. I like maple leaves, I took your advice and dried them a lot.

    1. I have used some euc leaves that are sold for tea but they did not print red. I am fortunate to have the maples though! AND I have a good stock pile, just need more time in a day! Happy printing!

      1. Good day, Barb! Here’s a plant: Reynoútria japónica. Contains a lot of tannins and is very well printable. Color gives pink when using iron sulfate. Beautiful leaves and I think in Canada this plant also grows. Sorry if I was too intrusive and my poor English

  3. I love the work you’ve put into ecoprinting and this site! I am a starting ecoprinter (experienced natural wool dyer) and I need to work with cotton and local plants (or easily available in supermarkets) exclusively, but I just fount out that the peels of bananas also give a nice tannin when simmered. I combined two strips of cotton, one soaked in the banana tannin for about an hour and the other dipped for a few minutes in rusty water. The banana strip mainly got a nice grey with some outlines (maybe it was too wet) and the iron strip got quite nice definition of fern leaf, oak leaf, young birch twigs, grape leaf.

  4. I have a silk fabric that I painted with pomegranate and iron. How do I print something bright now?

    1. Is it very dark? From my experiments printing more than once the residual iron and tannins will still react even after washing. If there is some areas that are light you could use a cochineal dye It’s almost impossible to predict certain outcomes! But bright dye like cochineal and logwood are you best choices… Happy Printing!

  5. Barb, you are absolutely the BEST! I love your work and your posts, and you are so helpful to people who ask questions. This is gorgeous, and I hope to try another batch of silk. You may be hearing from me again as I digest this all, get some pomegranate, and see what I’ve got in stock. Any particular leaves you wouldn’t recommend with this current process? I’m thinking of sumac and rose leaves…


  6. Hi Barb, hope you are well! I’ve been following you for a year now and love you instructions! I don’t eco print on fabrics yet but would this pomegranate work on papers? I’ve boiled my stacks in avocado dye and the results were great butthe only iron added was some from the pot itself. I like my prints not too dark so i can draw on them after. Another dye i used is citrus dy from my grapefruit rinds i started the dye heating then added the stack in the same pot. The light yellow dye went much brighter at the bottom of the stack than the top sheets. Now i flip the stack half way thru the simmer.
    Like you i love experimenting, but I’d like to predict a bit more.
    Keep up the great work you do👏👍

    1. Paper is considered a cellulose fibre which is like cotton etc. So whatever works on cotton should work on paper. The variety of papers may play into the result somewhat. I’ve even added the iron afterward where I wanted darker areas. There’s really no limit is there?! Enjoy

  7. I love this blog. Thank you for sharing. I’m feeling a bit dense here. Did you use the pomegranate to dye the fabric or treat the leaves?

    1. Oh, was I not clear… I used it on the fabric. But I have seen so many variations tried that some are using dyes and tannins on the leaves. It would be complicated since some leaves also have a certain level of their own tannin. Good luck