Eco printing

I started experimenting with eco printing around three years ago. I don’t really do neat look-a-like prints of leaves. I think they are so pretty and I would like to do that at some point. At the moment I work with limited Finnish dyeing plants and a very short nordic summer so I make do what I have. More research is needed! I also kind of like the more abstract way my prints look, they feel more like me. This post is a kind of summary of some things I tried over the years. I write this mostly for myself as its handy to have a diary to come back to when I have forgotten how I have done something. But if somebody else finds this useful how nice would that be!



  1. Mordant the fabric. (Here is my previous post on mordanting cotton and other cellulose fibers.)
  2. Lay fabric on an even surface.
  3. Fill a half of the fabric with plants etc.
  4. Fold the fabric in half
  5. Roll the fabric tightly around a wooden stick
  6. Twist strong yarn around the stick
  7. Steam the rolls in a pot with little bit of water on the bottom around two hours (or use double layer steam pot). I have used rocks on the bottom so the rolls don´t lie in the water. I also make a diy steamer with putting some foil on top of the lid.
  8. Open the rolls and remove the plants
  9. If needed wash the fabric, dry and iron.


You can use for example these things for dyeing (links to my previous posts):

Rusty items (nails, screws, pottle caps): Black or violet colour (The rust has natures own tannin that helps the colour to stick to the fabric.)

Rusty screws, black bean (that did not work in this) andmadder powder.

Onion skins: Strong yellow or orange

Onion skins and birch leaves

Red onion skins: brown or green.

Plants from the nature like birch leaves and lupin: yellow colours (I have listed a lot of plants from the Finnish nature that are good for dyeing on this blog).

Avokado skins (it did nothing), dandelion, birch leave, onion skins.

Turmeric:   bright yellow.

Surprise webcap: Orange/red colours. This mushroom is poisonous! Generally always remember to have separate utensils and pots for dyeing and cooking!

Surprice webcap (cortanarius semisanguineus) and onion skins

Madder Powder: red/pink or orange.

Pansy: violet or blue colour (The colour doesn’t last very long).

Above you can see my first ever experiments with eco printing, where I experimented with pansies and the colour did fade away quite quickly. Underneath birch leaves. Yellows are onion skins. I realized that it was better use quite a lot of plants to get the maximum colour.

Cochineal: dark aniline red.

I got to teach eco printing at a children’s summer cap in 2017 and they where so creative with it!

They really got some strong colour from the chochineal and the rusty screws!

Then we used the fabrics to sew pillows.

(I buy all the things I don’t collect myself from the Finnish Riihivilla online shop. Her blog also has so much good knowledge about natural dyeing both Finnish and in English)


Some natural dyes like berries and red cabbage are fugitive they fade over time, like the pansies I tried. Also natural dyes fade a bit in sunlight, that’s why you should never dry them in sunlight. Mordanting is important factor in fibres keeping the colours.

Of course time will have its effects as well. This is a bag I dyed back in 2017 when I was experimenting eco printing for this children’s summer cap and then there is the same bag 3 years later in 2020. You can see that the bag has faded a bit.

Eco printed bag made 2017.

Same bag 2020.

Natural dyeing and mordanting cotton fabric + avocado dye

It has been a while since I have written here! I have been using this blog a lot though as an notebook I go back to when I need to fresh my memory on some natural dyeing I have done. Just because I have not written here doesn’t mean I have not done any natural dyeing life just has been really busy. I have been active on my Instagram though @_theeasyblues_. Lately I have done more cellulose fabric dyeing and eco printing and I’m experimenting with some new things at the moment. I though it would be good to write them down here, so I can come back to them when I need to, and if someone else finds them useful even better.

I think mordanting fabrics and yarn before dyeing is important, so that the fiber will take the dye in better and that the colours will be brighter and last longer. Some colours are okay without mordanting but some really need that extra boost. I have done a post about how I mordant wool yarn with alum before, I will put a link here. I do the almost the same mordanting with alum to cotton, but because cotton is an cellulose fiber it will need some tannin to work better. There are many ways of mordanting cellulose fiber, what I use is tara powder which made from the seeds of a tara plant native to Peru and it has lots of tannin in it. I think some people use soymilk and iron also has natural tannin in it as well.

The following instructions to using tara powder are from Finnish Riihivilla online shop website where I buy my tara powder from.

200g of tara powder is enough to mordant 1kg of cellulose fiber fabric (cotton, hemp, linen) together with alum. I first mordant with tara powder and then with alum. Tara powder will give a small hint of beige to the fabric, but I have never found that to be a problem.

I dissolve the tara powder into 60°C water. I pre soak the fabric in water before adding them into the pot. Make sure there is enough water for the fabric to move around. I let the temperature rise to 90°C and then keep it there for an hour and let the fabric lie in the water until its cooled down, usually until the next day. I rinse the fabric carefully. After this I mordant with alum. Keep in mind that you need douple the amount of alum to cellulose fiber than wool (20g/100g of material). Its good to remember to weight the fabric dry before you soak it in water, I have done that mistake couple of times in the past. You can use the tara powder liquid for the second time and this time add only half of the amount of powder you used before.

And then on to dyeing! Dyeing cotton really doesn’t differ from dyeing wool much so all of the posts that I have done about dyeing wool yarn with different things will work fine. Lately I have been loving dyeing with avocado skins. I have used this very usefull post from Rebecca Desnos.  This post has really good tips on how to get really good pinks from avocado skins. She uses soy mordanting. I really need to read her book to learn more about that!

I have been very specific about cleaning the skins from the flesh really good to get bright colours. I also made the mistake of storing my avocado skins in a glass jar (they go moldy) so now I store them in a cardboard box. I also checked the ph levels in our tap water and made it more neutral with some baking soda. I have gotten nice pinks, but like always with natural dyeing you can never know exactly what you will get. Above I have two different pinks from two different times. I’m also writing about eco printing at the moment. Lets see if I can keep up this documenting thing!