Oh Eucalyptus!

Such a mystery! This amazing plant can create some colour magic but Oh Eucalyptus, why do you tease so! Has it been teasing you too? Eco printing eucalyptus is my fun adventure…

types of euca

All kinds of Euca:

I know… You have wondered if I was still alive! Yes, for sure. I have just been dealing with testing what I already have in the house since shopping is out of the question nowadays. I have very carefully saved and stored any and all eucalyptus that I can find. Do I know the exact name of each specie?! No, there are hundreds!

Getting it in Canada is a challenge. It has been more common lately in wedding arrangements as well so I have also ‘begged’ some brides! (with promise of printed keepsakes) I even bought some live plants that would just not thrive no matter what I did for them!

And thank you! A lovely lady in Australia also ‘snuck’ some through the mail to me! Thank you! Anyways, I am determined! I am not going to let it beat me down.

tools of eco printing

Keep & Rehydrate

Eucalyptus does not need any special storage, just save as is to dry for later use. Once you are eco printing eucalyptus give it a good soak. Some warm or hot water will speed the process. Some eco printers soak for days prior to printing. I only soaked in hot water for about 30 minutes. The fragrance comes right out away…

soaking eucalyptus

Eco printing eucalyptus is so mysterious! I have always stared at the euca trying to decipher which one will print red or orange. Is there a way to tell? That seems to be the question. There are some species from the florist with seed pods that also print.

closeup of multiple species

These are some of the collection that I have. I often see that the rounder leaves do print quite red. Another thing to keep in mind is that eucalyptus loves to print on protein fibre; like wool or silk.

eucalyptus leaves in place

On protein fibres you do not necessarily need a mordant when using eucalyptus other than a bit of iron. I like defined prints so I tend to overuse iron. In this case I dipped this wool into a weak iron solution and I used a weak iron blanket that was used before.

print reveal

Woohoo! I did get some good colour from the large long leaves that came from Australia! A girl from Canada can envy!

sneak peek of print

However, even though the iron blanket was washed, it did sadly transfer some dark stains to the wool. Correction, any print can be quite beautiful & acceptable as it is design! It all depends what you are striving for. Sometimes very clean and precise is boring, like a predictable fabric print.

arrangement of eucalyptus leaves

Do not despair!

There is some hints of colour here! Yay! I’m not giving up! Sometimes we need to put it away for a bit and look at it with ‘new eyes’ after a while!

leaves are arranged on wool

Every fabric is different:

Even though it is wool or silk the characteristics of the fibres will make a difference. Some are very fine and close and some are more lofty and fuzzy. Each will affect the outcome. It’s like hair; we all have it but it’s so different on each of us.

wool printed with eucalyptus

This is a up-cycled virgin wool blanket from many years ago. They print well but there are things to keep in mind due to the nature of the weave. The wetness of the fabric will also translate into how distinctly the print shows.

mirror image of printed eucalyptus leaves

Mirror mirror!

It took me a while to clue in! Every time I’d see amazing printed euca it would be mirrored! Yes, it does act differently than other leaves and will print from both sides; how novel! It gives a lot of options for placement & design. It also means less leaves are needed. Just wait and see what these prints will become!

temperature gun at 184 degrees

Unconventional me:

Yup, I use the microwave to supply my heat. I do not use any metal, have a dedicated unit but I am somewhat limited in respect to size.

I believe that euca likes a long use of pretty high heat, some printers stating as much as 5 hours of simmering or steam! I bring up to desired temperature and then insulate under thick blankets where they hold the heat well until another short ‘zap’. An oven works similarly, turning on the element when the temperature goes down. I aim for just under 200 degrees fahrenheit.

I would say that my prints had plenty of time to release their colour, almost 5 hours of zap&insulate.

closeup of silk print

Habotai silk is always a good accepter of prints as shown here. The dullness of colour however is from the use of iron I believe. The silk was dipped in what I felt was a weak iron solution. I am an artist, not scientist so I tend to not measure…

leaves being removed

…but wow! I am so happy to see these colours! The large round leaves seem to be the specie that is performing for me! Many factors will affect the print colour other than specie; like time of year and location. So how do you know?! Test! and take notes to try to repeat…

silk scarf with euca prints

No, there are not heart shaped leaves, but you can cut the leaves! Have fun and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

pretty prints on wool

Even when they are not all red or orange, there are some wonderful tones that can come from eucalyptus! The added details from the seed pods compliment nicely.

dark prints on wool

Here’s a tip:

Since I tend to get a bit heavy on the use of iron, did you know that you can lighten your prints if they are too dark from the iron? Do you get really ugly dark stained fingers from the iron? A solution of citric acid (teaspoon per bucket or so) will lighten your prints. Do be cautious and watch carefully as you do not want it to get too light. You can dig your stained fingers into a half of a lemon… clean and bright fingers! You’re welcome!

lightened wool more bright

Note how this print did get quite a bit richer in colour since some of the dark has disappeared.

I am I there yet?! Not quite, but that keeps me interested! Is there a perfect answer/recipe? Probably not, as nature always has something up it’s sleeve. Enjoy your prints and enjoy nature.

Check out what these prints ended up becoming! I am so happy that I can spread some ‘Love’…

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  1. Hello Barb,
    I wanted to write back and thank you for answering my question about how or if you ‘fix’ your eco prints. I mistakingly trashed my email and lost your response. I have yet to wash out the prints I have done and I assume that your use of Dawn means you are hand-washing as opposed to machine. In talking to a few other people I was introduced to Synthrapol, which is ‘detergent’ used by dyers as a pre and post wash. I noticed that it is ph neutral, which was a concern of yours. Given that some of my fabrics were rust printed first, or I had used rust water as a mordant in one case, I am planning to do a salt-water rinse first and then go on to the Dawn. In reading some of the previous posts on this installment about the joy of eucalyptus, I too, live in the cold north where Eucalyptus does not grow, That being said, I have been able to purchase the wonder plant from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods stores. Your posts continue to amaze me and I hope we can stay in touch.
    Best, Joyce

    1. The idea is that if all the prep work is done the prints should not wash out. Granted some of the ‘extra’ will but the reactions of tannins/iron/mordant will help. Synthrapol is a good way to wash but I can’t get that readily so I use the dawn. The washing machine is fine, especially if it’s clothing that will be going in. I find I like to know and see that I’ve done a good job as my front loader is sometimes fussy.I bought live euca plants and could not keep them happy no matter what!I still do not know what killed them unless they are meant to be pretty disposable. It’s all a learning experience where you notice something for next time! No guarantees!