It’s sometimes so confusing how all this comes together in Eco Printing and how many different ways that it can be combined. Whaaaat? Yes, I know; let me help you figure it out just a little more using carrier blankets in Eco Printing.
What is a Carrier Blanket?
Do you remember when you were trying to figure out what an iron blanket was!? Well, this is like that but it does not bring the iron this time; it brings another element to the mix. Most often it would bring a natural dye (maybe even another dye) or a tannin to the print fabric. This carrier piece of fabric is not meant to permanently hold whatever it’s adding, but to transfer it. I often like to use an old cotton flannel sheet as the carrier blankets since they are quite absorbent and have already lost their lint.
The carrier blanket should not be mordanted as this would make it ‘keep’ any dye to itself. These carrier blankets can be dipped or soaked in a natural dye and give quite a different effect than the use of the iron blanket.
Another way to use the carrier blanket is to soak it in some form of a tannin. The receptive print fabric would then be dipped/soaked in iron. This method was discovered accidentally by Irit Dulman when there was a confusion of solutions in her workshop. It’s great when accidents invent new things!
Things to note:
When switching the carrier and the iron application (as above) the leaves will be quite shadowed and silhouetted; any heavy tannin leaf specie will also print dark since the fabric is dipped in iron, which is different than the iron blanket.
Understanding ‘the where’ and ‘the why’ of effects will start to give you a bit more control of what you can expect. At least that’s what we hope…
Generally I tend to use the ‘sun side’ down so that details are lighter. But as you probably already know there are times when it just does what it wants.
This silk is dipped in an iron solution (somewhat weak) and then the cotton flannel carrier blanket was a quite concentrated logwood dye.
It’s always helpful to see the before and after, to see which sides of leaves were used. The sumac is a very reliable printer so it brought quite a bit of colour.
Imagine how a cochineal or madder blanket could add colour and design?! There’s really no limit, even mixing multiple kinds against each other, something a pre-dye could not do. It’s NOT following rules that gives new interesting results. Give it a go…
Sometimes dyes are deceiving though. When I see the used dye it looks like there is still a fair amount of colour left in it however it can be quite spent; as in the above print. The logwood carrier blanket did not transfer much to the silk at all, thankfully the maples ‘stepped up their game’! I’d say it was a happy accident.
Sometimes the carrier blanket will bring some texture; especially if it a highly iron-reactive one like Myrobalan.
Lovely Eco Print texture:
See how the texture shows through. Yes, some use disposable paper towels and get some interesting texture prints. As with any eco printing the amount of wetness plays key.
Just when you think you have it all figured out there’s more ways to switch it up. Such lovely details and less silhouette shapes in this Myrobalan blanket.
So when designing your desired outcome, there’s more choices. What kind of carrier blanket? What leaves AND what sides to use? I know what you are thinking; how strong to make the solution? Well, again that depends on many things; the absorbency of the blanket, the amount of fabric to print, the overall wetness, the dye type, and the strength of the iron. I tend to use some logical rationale and some luck.
If you are new to eco printing this method helps ensure some recognizable images since even leaves without much tannin can provide a silhouette design.
Will every print amaze you?! Probably not! You will probably learn something from each one though. It’s a fun journey and there’s the anticipation of magic that keeps us interested.
I hope you are not under snow, but maybe have a stockpile, and can give this a chance. Remember; it’s a journey, not a destination…