Hey creative mamas! Have you ever thought that it was possible to get your kids right into nature through a fun crafty activity? Eco print with natural dyes will do just that. It’s totally safe, totally organic and you don’t even need to be outside to do it. You can do it in your kitchen, or in your lounge or garage. It will get your kids excited about local flowers and leaves and will allow them to discover the wonderful natural environment around them.
Being in touch with the environment around us can have amazing therapeutic benefits. I know this first hand since I immigrated to New Zealand twenty-two years ago and felt totally disconnected with my new surroundings. It created a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty that made me feel alone and sad. I had to make a conscious effort of connecting with nature around me to start gaining a sense of belonging to my new place.
Eco print with natural dyes has been an important part of my slow craft practice over the years. It has allowed me to combine my love for textile crafts with the discovery of the flora around me. It has been an exciting journey and one that I have been sharing with my students and my own kids through tutorials and projects.
What is eco print?
Eco Print is the process of transferring the color of leaves and flowers onto a piece of fabric or paper. It’s part of the natural dyeing practices which are sustainable and eco-friendly for humans and for the environment. As a mom, Eco Printing has become a go-to activity during holiday times. We collect leaves and flowers, whatever is in season and we bring them home. Because you never know what you are going to get its quite an exciting activity for the kids. Everyone will get totally different results and most times very unexpected ones 🙂
There are a few ways in which you can eco print with natural dyes:
- On paper through a steaming or boiling method
- On fabric through a steaming or boiling method
- On fabric through bundling (called bundle dyeing)
- On fabric through leaf bashing called Hapa Zome
What are natural dyes?
Natural dyes are extracted from natural sources, such as plants, minerals, and insects. You can extract beautiful colors from leaves, flowers, bark, roots as well as rocks, insects, fruits and veggies.
What can be used as a natural dye?
- Flowers and leaves
- Avocado leaves for browns
- Cochineal bugs for pinks
- Madder root for reds
- Logwood for purples
- Eucalyptus for golds and mustard yellows
- Onion skins for bright yellows
- Dyers Chamomile for bright yellows
- Avocado skins and stones for soft pinks
- Acorns for browns and golds
Eco print with natural dyes for kids – Hapa Zome
As a mom, as an educator, and as a natural dyer I am forever looking for ways to get my kids involved in natural dyeing as a way to get them interested in nature. We do a lot of Solar Dyeing but it’s a very slow process since the dyeing happens through the heat produced by the sun. We also do a lot of Eco Printing through the steaming method but the kids can’t do the steaming by themselves.
So, I had to come up with a way to create a fun project for my kids that would grab their interest, be safe for little ones and would also teach them the beauty of the local environment around them. This is when I came across the Hapa – Zome Method.
What is Hapa – Zome?
Hapa – Zome means “leaf dye” in Japanese. It was named and made popular by an amazing natural dyer called India Flint. She discovered this method while she was in Japan and she had to quickly dye a floor cloth using plant materials as part of a floating stage.
This method of eco printing with natural dyes involves bashing or pounding flowers and leaves onto fabric. This is the simplest most amazing method of transferring color onto cloth. Unlike the other natural dyeing method, Hapa – Zome doesn’t require the fabric to be pre mordanted which makes it a great safe activity to do with kids. It also provides instant results which means that kids get instant gratification, and we know how important that is 😊
Super fun eco print with natural dyes project: Make a table mat
You can also go all out and make a picnic blanket or a table cloth. I always prefer to keep it simple when it comes to kids. It’s better to make ten table mats rather than one big piece of cloth and also more manageable!
Best fabrics to use for the table mat:
Hapa – Zome Tutorial – Table Mat
- Fabric (choose fabric type from the above list)
- Leaves and flowers
- Plastic sheet (same size as fabric piece)
- Cardboard (same size as your finished picnic table mat size)
Place your cardboard on your work surface
Place leaves and flowers on the cloth. Cover half of the cloth surface. Fold the other half on top of the flowers and leaves.
Place Plastic on top of folded fabric
Bash bash bash. Start by bashing the flowers and leaves with gentle pressure so that you don’t totally juice the flowers and leaves. I always get the kids to try different pressures in different pieces of fabric so that they experiment with what happens by themselves. This is the most fun stage at least in my experience!
The big reveal. Remove the top plastic sheet and unfold the fabric. You should have a mirrored image with wonderful unexpected shapes and colors 🙂
Will the print fade?
The print will fade over time. And even though some will consider this to be a negative I think it’s a lovely way to teach kids about seasons and nature. Nothing in nature is permanent and every season will bring new color and texture. A study of nature through eco print with natural dyes is the perfect way to get kids to observe what is happening around them.
Finishing the table mat
Allow the fabric to dry and steam press to fix the print.
Finishing the edges ideas:
- Zigzag with your sewing machine around all edges
- Hand sew a blanket stitch around the mat
- Hand sew a Whipstitch around the mat
- Carefully fray all four edges
Other eco print with natural dyes project ideas:
- Eco print on a white t-shirt and reprint once a season
- Eco print on an old tea towel and reprint once a season
- Eco print of cotton fabric scraps and make gift cards (glue the fabric to the card)
- Eco print on cotton fabric and make gift tags (glue the fabric to the tags)
If you want to learn more about creating color from leaves, flowers and food waste download the FREE Step by Step video tutorial: Solar Dyeing. It shows you the perfect creative craft escape for busy, stay at home moms. You’ll learn how to dye your own fabric naturally using an Eco dye Technique!