Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Eco Print on Watercolor Papers Summary

Good morning everyone, 
   I wanted to write up a summary of  how I printed my papers-a little more information in case any of you that want to try this

  First off one of the reasons I fell in love with natural dyeing and then also working with the procion dyes (from Dharma Trading) is the dye pot is always full of surprises and for me that is the fun of it. Of course I have had a couple total failures along the way, but through it all we gain knowledge. It took me several dye pots of goldenrod to finally achieve the gorgeous pure yellow-and it was learning not to listen to the books in this case but to pull out your cloth or yarn as soon as you see the color you want-if you don't you will lose it to browns.

 I also want to stress the importance of taking notes. I am really bad at this-I just want to have fun with this-I am retired after all ha ha
  In this case if I would have taken notes from my eco dyeing on fabrics-wools-cotton-silks-I would have seen that the iron water can really make some prints very very black. When I was reading online about the eco printing on papers everyone I read that was an artist was using iron water. So I am thinking along with the importance of mordanting your papers first, you also need to soak the leaves in a mordant type solution Mine was just way too strong as you will see in the photos. I still think the iron water really makes good prints though.
  I did find a note from two years ago when I was gathering things for eco printing is to soak whole soybeans over nite, and then grind them up fine with water and use that for a mordant on silks. Wondering if that would work for a mordant soak with leaves??  I will do more research on that.

   Also the yellows that came through on the blue rit dye papers and also on the first batch, came from the leaves that the alum mordant worked with-like on fabrics and yarn-the fixative. The mimosas here are still in bloom-they are loving these very hot humid days so their time for the yellow dye is now with the flowers still on the tree. The other pretty yellows came from the red bud and also the wisteria-which was an after thought to collect and printed beautifully and the mordant also brought out yellows in several other leaves. I was hoping for reds with the hopi amaranth leaves but also gave yellows-especially in the blue dye batch.

ok so here is what I did:

   Important note-I don't like to wear gloves, actually I despise them haha-but for this project especially working with the iron water use gloves!!  Also collect pots, pans, measuring cups and spoons etc for craft use ONLY-I can not stress this enough-once used for crafts especially dye projects do NOT use again for cooking for food-period.

    I made up about a half gallon of aluminum acetate (for cellulose fibers) into an oblong plastic container that I had in my craft stash. We have well water so this time I grabbed the distilled water. I also decided, since I had it in my dye stash, to also add tannin. These work well together on cellulose as a mordant.
   I am not that good at math the general % I read online was 15-20% weight of fabrics-papers for cellulose. Most artists stated that worked with alum -said the % was not as important for papers. I also found one that I had printed off before that used the aluminum sulphate (for animal fibers) used 1/3 cup in one gallon of water or 1 teaspoon into 1 cup of water-stir to dissolve not important to heat.               So that is the formula I used-easy no math  smiles
Note: when I added in the tannin it did not dissolve very well-so in my notes I wrote to dissolve that in warm water first before adding to the alum.

  Also I still recommend Not using the alum from the grocery store I personally do not think it is as good as buying the alums sold for dyers. I have seen the alum sulphate at Joann stores and online at Dharma Trading-my go to dye site. and setting up this link I am very happy as I see they are now selling the alum acetate-that makes me happy!

Mordanting The Papers---I hand dipped each piece of paper twice through til it was good and wet front and back and then just stacked them up-ready to assemble
   I had purchased several different papers a couple years ago by different weights of watercolor papers I also bought rice papers to try.  This pad I bought at a garage sale like for a quarter or something like that, had no weight marked on it but said it was heavy so decided to use for my first try. It worked very well.

Note: I am leaving the photos smaller as this will be heavy with photos-just click to enlarge them all to full size

When I added the tannin to the alum acetate it turned my water this color

My papers were still white though and since some of the tannin was not dissolved all the way I was careful not to pick up many loose particles but some of the papers did have some streaks

While doing this my leaves were soaking back in my utility sink in my iron water. I had not read anywhere what the color of this water was to look like. I had used all vinegar in this jar of rusty objects and it turned very brown and was foaming all of the time too which I was constantly skimming off-Next time I will make half vinegar and half water solution with my rusty objects. I will also make a couple days before I need it as my jar that was a couple years old had gone to mold. This batch was several weeks old but was really ready to use the next day

As I had mentioned I layered my papers-tile on the bottom then parchment paper-paper to be dyed-leaves-parchment paper-and continue on ending with another tile

I had gone into a bit of panic mode-the bull clips I had purchased for a smaller project did not fit-and even if they had fit would then make my package too wide for my steamer-don't know why I did not think of that.  I have a big cone of cotton string that is perfect for all sorts of projects like this but I couldn't locate it-now what to do?? as I don't use string all that much--then I remembered I had a bag of crochet threads that I use to knot quilts with-ok that will work. whew that was a save
   I was not strong enough to make things super tight but then I had planned on adding rocks on top any ways and I want the dye to come through too---so in the end it all worked out.

Most information I read simmered for 90 minutes to a couple of hours. I ended up simmering the first batch over 2 hours as I could not get it to stay at a simmer. Learned afterwards that one of the rocks was too tall so did not have a tight fit with the lid. The second batch I simmered for 90 minutes.

Excitement-the reveal-I was really anxious too

The photos I revealed yesterday were with the papers still very wet-so of course like when cloth or yarn are first revealed the colors are more vibrant-This morning I am still very pleased. and liking my first batch more now that they are dried-although the backgrounds to me seem more "messy"  Which during that first batch of the layering process I had noticed that my gloves were adding that iron water from the leaves to the papers.

Another thought. I need to listen to my muse more-do you get little thoughts that pop into your mind and if you don't listen-well you should have? that happens to me allot. Anyways natural dyes can be fussy like I mentioned with the goldenrod. The pomagranate rind said to simmer for 30 minutes for yellows and if iron is present it would make greens.  My muse said you should wait til the last 30 minutes to add this-not in the beginning. Perhaps I would have gotten the pretty dye backgrounds like with the blue rit dye did.
Another thought. The first batch I used 12" tiles that I just bought.The second batch I used two 12" tiles that we had here and both were broken on one edge. One tile just a little missing, the other tile a big rounded corner was missing-perhaps that helped to get more dye into the papers.

Also the first batch had four rocks total on top in the dye bath-I think that was too heavy also for the dye to get in-and the second batch I just put two rocks in  
   So a couple variables here. 

Late yesterday I was excited to share my results with you-If you missed the posts click here for the first reveal  and click here for the second reveal

  I took photos of all the papers for my records but wanted to share some of them with you after they were dry-as there is a big difference usually

click photos to enlarge full size

Papers from first batch

Papers from second batch

Bonus papers from second batch-the parchment papers


  1. So much helpful information Kathy! Thank you - I will mark this post to come back later ! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us! Hugs Susi

  2. Another informative post. I am in awe of your work creating these papers.
    You should write a booklet on the subject, I think many folk would be interested in the processes you use.
    Yvonne xx

    1. Hi thanks for the complement this was my first attempt with paper-so still more to learn

  3. I am in awe of your process. I never use the process you used and have never soaked my leaves. This may have made a huge difference. I also know you are supposed to soak the papers in a solution, but I didn't the one time I made mine. Certainly nothing like your process or outcomes. You have done a very comprehensive analysis, so I was in awe.

    Deli paper is the greaseless paper sandwich shops often wrap their sandwiches in. It is very durable, stands up to grease, heat, water, and abuse. It is difficult to tear, but easy to stamp. You can also use it in place of the heat and paint resistant mat like I use on my work table. It is a bit thinner than my parchment paper. It is not anything like waxed paper, which might leak wax into the water or onto the papers.

  4. Wow, an incredibly involved process, Kathy! I still see nothing but beautiful results. Your dedication to doing this correctly for the results you desire has gone a long way. I will leave comment space for others who really know all about what you have shared. Me? I only have one question. Do I get at least 3 credits for taking this course? Haha

  5. PS...I especially like your surprise images on parchment. They have an other-worldly kind of quality, especially the first one that has a critter-like image. Loving those surprises!

  6. Wow, I am so impressed with your beautiful papers! I love them all! I just can't get enough of these, so I'm going back to take another look! Wow, again!

  7. Wow, how amazing are those papers! I love the texture and colours of your leaf designs and it was such an interesting process 😁. The results are so beautiful, I'm in awe of your paper making skills and it looks like you had lots of fun too! Have a great day! J 😊 x

    1. Thank you Jo, this was fun next up it my own papers

  8. Thank you for showing your process. The papers turned out amazing. I’m not good about making notes along the way or taking photographs.

  9. Ok you answered my questions. This is a really
    Cool technique. I love the results. 😀 hugs erika

    1. Thank you so much Erika, and for checking out all of the dye posts. this was fun and always exciting to see how they turn out-always a surprise


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