Resist Method of Eco Printing

Once you are an Eco printer you look at the garden in a different way. Oh my, what amazing shapes came sprouting up with all the rain we’ve had this year! Perfect for the Resist Method of Eco Printing… mind boggling.

The Amazing shapes:

I’ve always marvelled when the fiddleheads come up and unroll to produce such intricate foliage. I’ve tried to print with these before but they don’t carry much tannin to just print with some iron, too bad! But, as a resist the work great since they act as ‘blocks’ to stop all the fabric from changing colour; thus making the shapes.

But I had another idea; since I’ve discovered some amazing ways to use Myrobalan. This method will use the great details in a different way.

Myrobalan Linen & Iron:

I have found some nice medium weight linen which has a courser texture than my usual print fabric. I have been using the Aluminum Acetate lately to mordant my cellulose fibres but I was in one of those frenzies… I just like to through caution to wind sometimes and skipped the mordant stage this time. It will be interesting to see if there is any difference.

My tests with Myrobalan have shown how strong the attraction of the iron is to the Myrobalan, so let’s test how well they really do! I like to have a purpose for my printing so this was planned to become a garment; meaning that I needed a larger piece of fabric…arghhh. (Note the golden tone of the Myrobalan dyed linen)

It’s odd how the trees have been behaving lately, dropping many many maple keys! My ‘crazy artist brain’ doesn’t just see them as some seeds on the ground but shapes that look like ‘small birds flying’; how novel! Here’s to some haphazard placement of the ferns and thrown maple keys fresh from the morning doggie walk onto the damp freshly Myrobalan dyed Linen.

Go big or go home:

I’d say the hardest thing is working with such a large piece; about 2 yards and 36″ wide. To be able to roll it on something that long I used a flexible hose that allowed a steel rod (old curtain rod) inserted inside to keep it straight during bundling.

Since this method uses the contact of the previously Myrobalan dyed fabric to the Iron Blanket I also needed a large blanket or combination of smaller ones to cover. To prevent bleed-through I use a barrier (large piece of thin plastic drop sheet) on top.

To get the best clear prints be careful to not have the fabric and ‘blanket’ too wet. I hand wring them as much as I can. The usual tying is as tight as I can (I have a trick; ‘will post soon) again, so that the leaves are making good contact.

After the bundle is all tied the rod can then be pulled out and it can be forced to curve. I process my bundles in a small space so I needed to reduce the overall size and length.

Odd processing I know:

I know it’s a bit unconventional but I use a microwave to process as I find it has given me results as good as the hours of steaming I used to do. (You do however need to be cautious and aware). I wrap the bundle in wet wool blanket scraps to maintain a wet environment and encase it in plastic bags. I heat with small bursts of a minute or 2 and turn them. I don’t let them burst but they do reach close to boiling. Once hot I let it further process under a thick layering of blankets and it holds heat for hours. I can give it a few additional bursts or not. The length of insulation time does really aid in the whole process and save so much energy, not to mention I can go do other stuff!

Always the fun Part!

After a few hours of sitting (or even over night) comes the exciting reveal. How happy I was with the strong prints! I did use a pretty strong solution of the Myrobalan to dye the linen and a fairly strong iron solution. That’s how I roll…

Lovely Linen:

The heavy linen threads so show the texture nicely but also accept the dye details. I was amazed at how the prints did not get distorted with the bending of the bundle too! The ferns and keys don’t really bring any colour of their own, only acting as shape resists. That opens up so many possibilities of materials and matter!

I do sew a lot but tend to keep it really simple. I have some traced patterns and just adjust according to my mood/style. Since linen is quite stiff I used it on the bias to allow for stretch and better flow.

Wear it with Pride:

Notice the slightly darker line? The iron blanket pieces can show some difference in iron amounts, thus a darker line.

Look at the interesting designs made with the haphazard placement and the ‘birds’ playing in the sky! How amazing this Resist Method Eco Printing is! I love it and can’t wait to wear it!

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  1. Love your work Barb.
    I’m new to printing and have read so much that I’m totally confused now!! Thank you for sharing this process which I think I’ll have to try it. I don’t have any myrobalan but I guess I could use an alternative??

    1. When just starting out you can use a tea like a strong green tea. I find myrobalan at a local ethnic food store called harde powder. It is is used for digestion. There are really no rules and sometimes the happy accidents produce great results.

    1. I’m sorry but I work like an artist and just go by gut feeling. I know some use exact recipes but I tend not to, leaving the unexpected things that can happen… Those with exact recipes are usually selling a PDF.

  2. I’m new to eco-printing (I just learnt about it yesterday) and I’m awe-struck!
    I don’t understand how the off-white fabric became blue !
    Could u explain in simple terms?
    U pre-treated the fabric with myrobalan tea. What else did u do🤔

  3. I’m new to eco-printing. How did the off-white fabric turn blue ?
    Could u explain in simple terms?
    U pre-treated the fabric with myrobalan tea. What else did u do🤔

  4. Hi Barb! This is fabulous. Getting ready to try this as my first dying project, possibly using avocado instead of the myrobalan.

    Would you tell me a little more about your bundling process for this resist method? Looks like on the table the layers go, from the bottom up: Plastic sheet > target fabric > leaves > iron blanket > dowel, then wrap, tie, & microwave in a plastic bag? Am I missing anything? I’m wondering if there are any more layers that help the resist work properly. Thank you so much for this brilliant tutorial.

    1. The layers; tannin dyed fabric, leaves, iron blanket, barrier (I reuse plastic strips of drop sheets) and then thick dowel to rill on. See this post for the processing. Just remember; where the tannin and iron meet will give print, so you can also switch the iron and tannin. Don’t have it too wet either, wringed damp and super flat/tight bundled.

  5. You are brilliant and your works are amazing!! Thank you for so generously sharing all of your tips, tools, and techniques. I am so excited to try this! I used neem powder along with some rusty cans last night to just get a background color and I loved it. I had not heard of myrobalan so I’m going to pick some up and give it a whirl!! The plethora of info here in all the various techniques is mind-blowing! thank you 😊

    1. It is a fun art form! It’s best to experiment and see what you get as all the variables make for very individual results. Have fun!

  6. Hi!
    Just came across your post. Thank you!
    Is there another way of doing the resist method without rust or is the method the tannin and rust reaction?

    Thank you!

    1. Yes, it is a reaction between the 2 here. You can switch it up with other combos with other metal salts but this is one of my faves and quite reliable if leaves are less printable. Properly mordanted fabric can be dyed with natural dyes using plant materials as resist shapes. The tannins in leaves can also react with the iron as a mordant. This post does compare a few methods. Check the eco print category…