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Okay, this post is a little delayed – but it’s never too late for the beauty that is screen printing with homemade, plant-based dyes. You might be a little skeptical – how can dye made from eucalyptus hold its own in a world of plastic-y, chemical-y vibrance? I mean, you’ll never get a fluorescent lime green from leaves and bark, but you’d be surprised by the variety of colors you can cull from good ol’ Mother Nature. The dye is legit too, it’s permanent and most don’t fade. And it doesn’t release toxic chemicals into the environment, of course!
A few weeks ago, us students of Community Garden Outreach spent our weekly class at St. Cyprian’s church for a dye-making, screen printing spree. Our fearless leader Melinda Stone commissioned a few experts to show us the ropes in making plant dye from locally-gleaned fig leaf, eucalyptus, apple leaf, fennel, and bunch more. We used these dyes to print a new seed packet design (designed by Lizzie) for the next round of seed collecting.
It’s really very simple – the process involves chopping and boiling your plant of choice (each has their own color – the results are often surprising!) in a large, stainless steel pot of water, straining the concoction, and throwing the liquid into a blender with a teaspoon of guar gum per cup of liquid. Easy!
Here’s some photos of our foray into plant dye and screen printing – we’re definitely gonna keep these skills on our radar. What plants should we try next? Any ideas for screen printing projects?
You can find out more about making your own plant dye from Bay Area-based Permacouture and Fibershed. But before you try this at home, make sure to read up on the process so you don’t accidentally turn your green dye black or print all your meticulous designs upside down. When you know your hollyhock from your foxglove, have at it!