Eco Printing Meets Shibori

Sometimes I wonder how the heck I got to this point. Printing with leaves, up-cycling all kinds of things? I bet it’s all my parents fault; all those memorable nature hikes with my dad and watching my clothes being made by my mother and luckily as I absorbed it all like a sponge. Here’s a bit of both coming together wonderfully as Eco Printing meets Shibori.

Amazingly simple stuff:

Since Wool is a protein fibre it prints quite well, and what better way to find it than as old virgin wool blankets. I appreciate how cherished they had been by the older generation and are now just being trashed in most cases. Doesn’t every one have a bag of dried onion skins collecting in their cupboard!? ‘And you know I have a treasure pile of dried leaves!

Wool is quite unique, as it is really a ‘bunch’ of hairs; so it tends to not absorb moisture and hold onto it as much as other fibres. Why does that matter? When eco printing wool the amount of ‘wetness’ should be just right or it will either not print or print in a very fuzzy soft way. I squeeze as much as I can from the blanket that has been soaked in a vinegar water (or allum water) solution. I had tried spinning in the washer but that proved to be too dry for printing. Even while the pieces are sitting awaiting bundling they seep out water as they just can’t hold it.

Simple Shibori:

Wool is also bulky so keeping the pieces smaller will allow for better fit into the cooking vessel! These 12″ x 20″ pieces allowed a triple accordion fold.

The Leaves:

I tend to accelerate the hydrating by soaking in a warm-hot water that has some iron sulphate added, then they ready quite quickly, and blotted. The amount of iron can vary with the plant type and my mood. (best is some testing) Plan about a third of the vertical distance to place rehydrated leaves with both vein-up and vein-down.

Fold one third over that and then add another row of leaves.

Fold over the last third. I now understand why some sections did not print as I did not have leaves on the top and bottom. You may decide to add some but will need to manipulate as you fold the traditional triangle pattern. There are 2 types of the triangle pattern as I used in these pillows.

I’ve kept the pieces to a small size since vintage wool blankets are quite bulky. This is all ready…

The Tieing:

I have always admired the way that the string makes designs on the fabric when bundling eco prints. To ensure some defined ‘lines’ I have use a thicker propylene string. I know dye will not penetrate it and it will definitely be super strong.

The Dye Stuff:

Wool loves onions! Yes, it ‘s amazing what yellow onions can give in the way of dye (as I discovered with the crazy egg dyeing I did this year) plus I had a jar of it staring back at me every time I opened the fridge.

If you want a strong colour make sure you have a high percentage of skins. I like string colour so initially the pot had as much as I could cram in and water to cook. In order to have them submerge I needed to add liquid.

I cooked and a slight simmer for about one hour and then let it sit over night.

How wonderfully rich the colour seems right out of the pot!

I can’t wait to open the bundle and find that indeed it had not all leaked through so it performed just as shibori dyeing with indigo!

The strings also gave awesome details! I will definitely be making more of these!

The silver maple & red weigela printed nicely in contrast to the rich red-oranges! Who needs eucalyptus!? After washing and a bit of hair conditioner to soften the wool they kept pretty well all the colour!

I know these are small but I have a plan for these Eco Printing meets Shibori pieces … Stay tuned for another completely new idea! Had I known I’d be so excited about wool leaves and onion I would have laughed! Thanks 💗💗Mom💗💗for being the best and teaching me so much without me even knowing it! Happy Mother’s Day, I miss you so much but feel you channeling into my work somehow!

Happy printing and making!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Wow well done you and so timely for me too. I am just embarking on the craft of felting having found a whole sheeps fleece in our barn that must be 50 years old…crazy but true….and investigating all my options on dyeing and was checking out rust to get those colourways and now you have confirmed the use of onion skins and that it seems colourfast too. Did you have to set yours in anyway? Vinegar? Salt?…..Now I just need to get me some skins . Thanks Barb…..another great tutorial Bx

    1. I had soaked the wool in vinegar or alum. Silk and wool take the onion easily and I have not seen it fade in my scarves that are a few years old. But I have not had them in direct sun either. My Jacket has also held it well. If you want to get darker more brown tones a bit of iron will make it darker. It will also make it a bit coarser though. Key; experimentation! Happy printing!

  2. Can’t wait to try this, thank you for the inspiration. I have some coloured blankets, lemon & blue. I wonder how they would look with this method?

  3. Thank you for wonderful website. Question: why iron sulphate? Why not ferrous oxide or iron liquor for your leaves?

    1. As I understand ferrous oxide is different as it it not soluble in water. Yes, you can use the iron liquor (or rust water, as I call it). It works well and I have had amazing results with it as well but sometimes I’m not sure of it’s strength exactly. Iron sulphate just simplifies it a bit for me. Best thing; lots of experimenting!