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Is your head spinning yet trying to figure out all the ways to Eco Print? Well, let me introduce another amazing player to this fantastic magical game; Myrobalan.

Where does it come from?

This mystery powder is made from the ground nuts of the Terminalia chebula tree. It also goes by the name of Harde Powder. It is believed to have some interesting healing properties in traditional Indian medicine. For that reason it did not scare me as many of the other ‘chemicals’ do. ‘And it was easy & inexpensive for me to order it from a local health food supplier.

What does it do?

This unique matter is both a tannin and a mordant. It will dye fibres a nice buttery yellow (20-30% WOF) and provide good mordant for the hard to dye cotton fibre if used before alum at 15-20% WOF). Since it gives a nice warm yellow it can also be combined with indigo to further add tones of teal.

Since I am a hands-on person I tend to learn more by experimenting & doing than by reading. I put it through a few tests and observed what it can do. It is interesting how many different outcomes I had.

Achieving colours in the world of eco printing can be a bit of a challenge depending what species of leaves that you can find or what other natural dyes you add to the mix. Myrobalan loves iron! Whenever it has any way of the two coming together it creates a nice purplish grey. The depth does depend on the strength of both the Myrobalan and the iron, as usual. I much prefer it to the some of the dirty types of browns that some tannins create with the saddening of iron.

These are examples of a few media including paper and Rayon. It’s use is not even restricted to the usual rolled bundles of Eco Printing. (watch for future detailed posts) I can also see how stable some dyes are by how much they stain my hands and also my plastic sink; wow did I need to clean!

It is so amazing to see the reaction take place! A cooled tea made of the Harde Powder (myrobalan) has some drops of a weak iron solution (iron sulfate + water) added and immediately the dark greys appear! That is how I do test some of the strength as well. Is there a definite rule? No way…

Some of the favourite dependable printing leaves, iron blanket and a pre-dye of Myrobalan. I bet I know what you are thinking; so what are the recipe amounts? It depends on a few things? What ‘look’ are after? Do you want subtle tones/low contrast? Or do you want very dark background?

Not sure what way you would like? So many ways to use it in combination everything else. Oh, come on; just throw caution to the wind and let it surprise you. Is this not art?!

Using the tea (strong to weak) before printing will create a more ‘resist’ stencil type look (top) if using an iron blanket (bottom) or switch it all around backwards (middle) and get a very different detailed effect. (posts coming soon)

This cotton canvas is pretty heavy weight so the textures are much more pronounced since the thickness of the fibres comes into play. The ferns tend to not have much tannins to print on their own but work well with the Myrobalan for intricacy of shapes.

So grab yourself some and maybe it can even come in handy for whatever ails you… Happy Printing (watch for future detailed posts)

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 42 Comments

  1. Great post – I love seeing the different effects achievable. I use Myrobalan mostly with natural dyes, rather than ecoprinting, and had no idea it had medicinal properties too! I’ve been getting it from Maiwa, but see it’s more broadly available. Love your work 🙂

    1. Thanks! I know teas react with iron as well but there’s just something about the blueish tone that I love. Whenever I try something new I get obsessed and want to try it in all kinds of ways. Ah, the artist’s curse! 😉

  2. Hi Barb,
    I am always amazed by the things you come up with! I inherited some myrobalan but had no idea what it was or what to do with it. Perhaps when I get organised from my recent move and find it I can give it a try.

    Thanks so much for all you do to share your ‘secrets’. We your audience are always grateful to you for trying these things out and letting us know your various results.


    1. I recall how it was like cracking some secret code when I started! I would not call my self an expert at all, but I do have quite a lot of prints by now! Then again, an artist is never really at the stage of perfection! Happy printing!

  3. Thanks for this information Barb.
    Are you able to tell me if your jar of miracle mordant is purely this harde powder or if it’s blended?
    I’m in Australia and have only been able to locate blends at this stage.

    Thanks so much for a wonderful blog and for being so giving with your discoveries!

    1. It is from a place that sells supplies as well as medicinal products. It only states Harde Powder (Terminalia chebula) so I’d expect it to be pure. Well, I guess it’s a trade off since it’s almost impossible for me to find great euca here! When in doubt maybe a test would be worth it!

      1. 🙂 Thanks for your reply Barb. I’ll keep an eye out for it here. Since I posted my comment I’ve located some of the pure online for a reasonable price. So I’m looking forward to having a play when it gets here. It’ll be great if this is the magic potion for dyeing cellulose fibres.

        Yes, I must admit that eucys abound just outside my door! There’s loads of varieties that survive the snow if you’re in a position to grow your own.

      2. 🙂 Thanks for your reply Barb. I’ll keep an eye out for it locally. Since I posted my comment I’ve located some of the pure online for a reasonable price. So I’m looking forward to having a play when it gets here. It’ll be great if this is the magic potion for dyeing cellulose fibres.

        Yes, I must admit that eucys abound just outside my door! There’s loads of varieties that survive the snow if you’re in a position to grow your own.

        1. Sorry, commenting on a months old post. You could also try to source some myrobalan from an Indian grocery store if you have any close by. I have a few in my suburb, so when I saw it had medicinal properties and that Indians like to use it as a tea, I thought I’d try out the local stores. The first one I went into had it available for $3.90 for 300g. I asked the guy working there if it was purely myrobalan and he said it was, so here’s to hoping! Have yet to try it out. Do I need to soy milk pre-treat my cotton, I wonder?

          1. When I got all excited with the myrobalan I printed the linen without a mordant and it has held great. A soy pre-treat may not be a bad idea. Sometimes the artist in me crosses her fingers and just dives in… or be scientific and test first. Thanks for the tip of where to find! Happy printing!

    2. Hi Carol, I just read your message and as I am in Queensland and recently got %100 Terminilia Chebula powder (myrobalan) from Bryon Bay supplier recently I thought I would let you know if you have not found any yet.

    1. Well, It’s a question I get a lot, and it sounds like a nice idea but there is so much legalities and insurances that makes that scary not to mention how much time that would also need. I am constantly running as it is trying to stay on top of things! Maybe once I connect with a venue/school! Keep checking out my posts, I try to be quite thorough!

      1. Mi chiamo Giuliana
        Il mio paese è​ l Italia precisamente Santa Vittoria in Matenano, la regione Marche.
        Lei è veramente tanto brava e generosa nel condividere!
        È stato bello averla scoperta
        Giuliana Viozzi

        1. Grazie per le gentili parole! È incredibile poter condividere con tutto il mondo! (Thanks for the kind words! It is quite amazing to be able to share to the whole world!)

    2. Hola, sigo tu trabajo y me encanta mucho los resultados, sigo cada post, y siempre aprendo contigo gracias por los consejos, saludo desde Chile.

  4. I always read your emails; they are full of inspiration. The human mind is amazing. So happy when it finds expression through the creativity of a strong, joyous, generous woman. How hard you work! Mostly, I paint. I have health issues, responsibilities and limited space and not much time to branch out, especially when it involves learning some new scientific process. But working with natural materials like this is becoming increasingly attractive to anyone who wants to protect the environment. It can also provide new sources of income for so many people who, literally, have little to work with except flowers, leaves and rusty nails. I am fortunate to own a computer, right now, and am able to follow your instructions on line (including all those comments from others who report on their own discoveries; it does take a village.). But I may not always have computer access. Many people do not. While knowledge and experience develop over time and learning is never complete (thank God) , it would be helpful to have some current ring binders and room to insert project pages with updated information. (Think Department of Conservation publications.) It wouldn’t require any extra writing. You have, already, prepared clear, concise, easy-to-understand lessons and gathered the comments. Just collate them according to subject matter and date and make them available at a reasonable cost. They could be useful for workshops, public or private schools, senior citizens centers, homeless shelters, boys and girls clubs, anywhere where people can benefit from training in the arts. Updates could be printed at the public library or mailed directly to subscribers. Art is not just a hobby to brighten up a dull afternoon. Many famous artists have spent their lives making both beautiful and practical products that enrich our lives; it is part of being truly “human”. THANKS.

  5. Hello Barb, this is such lovely work. I wonder if you would comment on whether you have used oak nut gall or tannic acid with iron – and if you have, why Myrobalan is preferable to you? I have tried oak nut gall and iron on cotton and get that great grey -blue, but even though I’ve used AA mordant too its just mostly washing out a week later.

    1. I have not found an easy supply of oak gall so I have no experience with it. I like the myrobalan since it is gives such strong results. I don’t know why it would be washing out, seems odd. I even used the Myrobalan on un-mordanted linen Maybe try a different fabric? Why a week later, not immediately?

  6. Love your art and especially love your blog! You are such an explorer! I just started playing with myrobalan and I can’t wait to see more of what you do with it. Have you tried it yet on vintage linen ( well-scoured 😉)? Thanks!

  7. Do you have a website that goes into more instructional details for dyeing? What’s an iron blanket?
    My passions: polymer claying, ceramics, sewing, drawing, painting, crafting, making.
    Looks like I need one more!

    Thank you

    1. I have many posts for Eco printing in the section under the ‘Home’ menu. There’s even a post on the ‘Iron Blanket’ . This is a great art form, just beware that it’s sometimes not that easily controlled… but that’s also the magic that can happen! Enjoy!

  8. hola! gracias por compartir tus conocimientos! quisera saber si el myrobalan se puede sustituir por otro elemento porque no puedo conseguirlo en argentina….. y a la tela la sumergis en myrobalan ????? graciasss

    1. You can try other sources of tannins like other teas. I have read that green tea will work, but I suggest to try some tests first. Yes, I dipped the fabric in the tea. See also here There are also some other natural finds like pomegranate So many ways to be creative!

  9. Thanks for sharing your amazing experiences❤️
    I tried it today. It was magical, Thought the iron solution was too heavy and the darkness became out of cotrol😅

    1. You can try a dip in a diluted citric acid solution, that will lighten darks from iron as well as the stains under your nails… I would be careful, test a corner and watch carefully.

  10. Hi Barb
    Loving your posts, thank you so much. Could you explain what you mean by a Myrobalan ‘tea’? I have managed to find some powder, but not sure how to make the tea from that. Would really love to know your process, and quantities to use.
    Thanks so much in advance,

    1. It is just like making tea. It does not need to be boiling water but it dissolves better in hot water. It will be a bit gritty as it’s a powder but I find it does not matter. Once the fabric goes into the ‘tea’ it will take up the dye. It’s how most natural dyes are used.

      1. Thanks Barb. That sounds easy enough then 🙂 I’ve not used any powdered natural dyes – only the long way, by extracting from the actual plant matter.
        Will definitely give the Myrobalan a go!

  11. Barb- do you dye the cotton with Myrobalon , dry, then mordant with alum ? I have some, but didn’t know what to do with it. I’ve been working on silk, but would like to try cotton and linen

    1. Myrobalan can be used to dye and then use immediately before drying to eco print. I have also discovered that it can be used without a pre mordant like alum on cellulose fibre. I had great results combined with an iron blanket for the linen top As a way testing the longevity I throw some printed scraps in with the laundry repeatedly to see and the myrobalan/iron combo lasts well. It’s one of my favourite combos. Do scour well though.

      1. Of all the eco-dyeing websites, yours is the best!
        I have two questions:
        1-Will washing linen in the machine with Synthropol be sufficient to scour?
        2-Is there a reason WOF percentages are used rather that the proportion of a given product to an amount of water? The latter sounds so much easier, but maybe there’s a reason it doesn’t work?


        P.S. Myrobalan is easy to come by if you search for Harataki powder on Amazon.

        1. The linen I find is usually from some other use like a curtain etc. I like to use a very very hot water and washing soda with a bit of Dawn to scour. I leave it for as long as I can. I’m amazed at how yellow the water gets – so gratifying!

          The WOF is to ensure the content in the water is enough for the fibre. In my mind as an artist I tend to be a bit rebellious and not always get caught in weighing. I don’t mix paint by weighing either. Some like predictability…

          I find Myrobalan in ethnic shops under Harde Powder, locally!

  12. I enjoy your posts. Like you I don’t measure accurately and sometimes fly by the seat of my pants. Your information helps me to assimilate how all the variables work. Loved your statement,”the leaves go the work”. So true. Thanks

  13. Hello, you do the hot or cold dyebath when you use the Myrobalan?

    1. It can be both. If I just made it, then it may still be hot but cold will work as well since the dye left in the piece will get the heat from processing.

  14. Wow! I’ve a doubt. Im from India and literally myrobalan is in my home always!

    I’ve some rock pigments & plant pigments. If I make them paints, using some natural gums, can I use them to paint on a cotton cloth soaked & dryed in just myrobalan tea? Will it be wash-fast ? Or, any other processes needed ?

    1. Hmmm, that is quite interesting! I have not made fabric paint. I know that printing on cotton means it should be prepared by mordanting first. When you are not sure, do small test prints with what you have and also wash test and sun test.

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