Friday, March 28, 2014

The making of gerbera prints

It started in December when I received these gorgeous gerberas from some dear friends. Ages before I had decided that whenever I receive flowers, I would use them to try some ecoprinting. This was prompted by the sense that my gardening capabilities are rather limited by my lack of energy, not to mention living in a unit.

I also really like the fact that people usually give you flowers to mark an occasion, and so any prints I make with gifted flowers also mark the occasion, and in a way that endures and can be extended in all sorts of ways.

I decided to try "cold bundling" as described in India Flint's beautiful book Eco Colour.

Silk and wool (animal fibres) will take colour more simply than plant fibres like cotton, so I began with some silk that I had bought cheaply on ebay. Strictly speaking, silk doesn't require mordanting (treatment with any chemicals to assist dyeing) but I had no idea whether gerberas were likely to be successful or not, so I decided to try to help things along.

After washing and rinsing the silk, I put it into a bucket with a solution of vinegar and some used, but clean alfoil for 48 hours. At this point the flowers had passed their prime and the petals were starting to fall, so I laid them on one half of the damp silk, as you see below.

Next I sprayed the back of the flowers with more vinegar so they were damp, and folded over the rest of the silk.

The final step was to roll the silk as tightly as possible around a piece of dowel. Close contact between the flowers and the fabric is essential for the colour to transfer, so I wrapped an old crepe bandage over the whole thing and secured it in place with rubber bands. Then I wrapped the whole thing in plastic to keep it moist for as long as possible and waited.

I wasn't sure whether mold would be a problem so I carefully checked things every couple of days. After 15 days I saw a few spots starting so I decided it was time to unwrap my bundle.
Above you can see the silk still on the dowel and below with the dowel removed.

And here is the whole piece of fabric, still wet, hanging out to dry.

There is of course a loss of colour when the fabric dries. Below is how it looks now.
I'm over the moon!

These are the flowers after they've been through this process.

India Flint says that there is usually still plenty of colour left in plant matter after cold dyeing, so I put them into a preserving jar with some filtered tap water and a piece of alfoil to try some solar dyeing.

More about that later.


  1. too good! I am dying (yes a cheap pun) to try my hand at some eco-dye work...... your gerberas are an inspiration!

  2. Thanks ronnie. Yes it is great fun, and for a city girl like myself, it's a lovely way to get in touch with your surroundings.I've also started playing with some of the leaves I have locally.

  3. That silk looks as if it's long enough for a neck wrap? Did anyone tell you this can become addictive!

    1. Yes! I should have been warned!!!

      It is a fair size - 830mm x 450mm. I'm still thinking about how I'll use it.

  4. This looks like a lot of fun Amanda! Thank you for the instructions...I really appreciate your teaching posts! I have never heard of Gerbera flowers. When I looked them up, I find they're a kind of daisy, related to sunflowers. I wonder if Zinnias would work as well as Gerveras.

    1. Hi Nancy! I'm glad you like the post. Gerberas have become very popular out here as cut flowers from the florist. When I was a kid, they were a bit of a "grandma's garden" flower, but I think they must have done some genetic work on them because the colours are much brighter now and the petals wider too. I think Zinnias would be a good option to try - let them get a bit wilted and just about to lose their petals, as the colour apparently comes out more easily than when they are fresh and healthy. Let me know if you give it a go!

  5. Amanda, they're great! It looks as if you had a lot of fun... with beautiful results. Can't wait to see what happens next! Sara xxx