Crazy Ladies 2016, Part I: Eco Printing

I lived in the Indianapolis area for a number of years—and the best thing about that experience was that I fell into a group of textile kindred spirits. We used to get together once a month for show-and-tell meetings, and occasionally for our very own DIY workshops, which usually involved some form of fabric dyeing or printing. (“Want to come over and try itajime?” “Sure! What’s Iwo Jima?” That sort of thing.) We were christened the Crazy Ladies by somebody’s husband, who could not believe the gales of hysterical laughter that emanate from all of our meetings, and it’s a title that we have whole-heartedly embraced.

We are down to four members now, one of the founders having passed away a couple of years ago, but we still get together once or twice a year, despite the fact that I have moved to New Mexico—and last weekend was The Weekend. We try to do a workshop when we meet up, and this time Jane brought Kathy Hays’s Eco printing video.  Eco printing is a method of using non-toxic ingredients (white vinegar and copper sulfate, a chemical used in organic farming) that react with the tannins that occur in some leaves and allow you to print very dimensional images of the leaves on silk or wool fabric. (If you are at all interested in this sort of thing, do yourself a favor and check out Kathy’s website. You’ll want to do it, too.)

In the spirit of experimentation, I tried using some leaves that didn’t work very well, so some of my projects left something to be desired. The photo shows the results that Angela got with eucalyptus leaves on silk chiffon.

And here’s the punchline. Whenever the Crazy Ladies visit, we drive up to Santa Fe to visit some of our favorite sources of textile inspiration. These include a terminally arty boutique called Origins, which sells the Real Deal when it comes to art clothes—we’re talking Carter Smith shibori silk dresses, Johnny Was out the yin-yang, garments imported from handcrafting co-ops from around the world, and more hand-painted silk than you can shake a stick at.

And they had some hand-painted silk tunics that used this same technique—only the artist (whose name I unfortunately forget) had printed eucalyptus leaves over beautifully dyed silk charmeuse.

I have a few silk scarf blanks floating around somewhere in my stash, and I’ll definitely be trying that. Stay tuned.

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