Nature Printing on Fabric – Capturing a Bit of Summer

I love summer.  Not the heat, not the humid days, but the plants…I do love all the flowers, leaves, ferns and hostas everywhere.     When I was little, I used to press flowers and leaves in a flower press to preserve them.  Now, I use fabric and paint to hold onto a bit of summer’s greenery a bit longer. Nature printing is a great way to add plant imagery or just organic texture to a project. It is like doing leaf rubbings on fabric, only more delicate and detailed.  Wondering what you could do with this lovely fabric?  Check out my Here is how you do it:

Supplies

  • Fabric – I used quilting weight Kona cotton.
  • Fabric paint  or acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium – I used Setacolor’s Pebeo transparent paint.  I love the consistency of this paint, but it smells a lot more than Jacquard, so I usually only use it outside.
  • Brayer and tray (optional – probably best for lightly applying paint to add faint texture to fabric)
  • Sponge pouncers (my favorite paint applying tool for this technique)
  • Paintbrush (optional – but helpful for getting paint in small crevices of flowers)
  • Sheets of newspaper or newsprint
  • A clean work surface – I used a big sheet of cardboard on a table outside.
  • plants —  see below for tips in picking plants

Location

Anywhere you have room to spread out for a bit.  I love doing this outside.  It is the perfect summer afternoon outdoor project – easy to do without access to sinks, extra drying space or lots supplies

Time

You could do this from start to finish in less than an hour.  Though, part of the fun is spending time collecting plants, laying out designs and experimenting …and that could take all day! 🙂

Skills

Low – once the paint is properly applied, the plants do most of the work for you

Process

  1. Set out your supplies:  Pour some paint onto a tray and lay out your fabric on a flat surface.  Keep a trash can or bucket near by to collect paper and paint covered plants.
  2. Use a brayer, brush or pouncer to apply the paint to your leaf or flower.  I prefer to use a pouncer.  I find that I get the most uniform paint coverage this way.  One thing to watch for – don’t leave any globs of paint or thick areas on the leaf or flower.  You only want enough paint to just cover it.  Too much and you will end of with paint blobs on your fabric instead of delicate prints. A brayer would probably work best with very flat leaves – a good way to cover the plant in paint if you only want to leave a faint impression – maybe for background texture?
  3. Immediately, lay the painted plant, paint-side down on your fabric.  You want to do this before the paint starts to dry.  Be careful not to move it around once you have placed it.  That will only end in smears.
  4. Cover the plant with a sheet of newspaper and press the plant into the fabric through the newspaper.  This lets you rub the paint impression into the fabric without smearing paint everywhere.
  5. Remove the newspaper and the plant. Toss the paper, unless you think you can use it again without getting paint everywhere.  Better to be safe than sorry.  The plant can probably take another round or two of printing if you want.
  6. Repeat until satisfied or out of fabric.
  7. Let everything dry and then heat-set if necessary.

Tips:  It is very easy to get over enthusiastic with this technique.  In making these samples, I found myself wanting to add more and more.  But with something as detailed and delicate as plant printing, more sometimes just looks messier, not better. (See below)  Of course, overlaying printing would make a good background or textural fabric in some instances.

When picking out out your plants, the most important thing is to pick something with a flat side for printing.  While seed pods and sticks looks textural, often they don’t translate well onto fabric.  Same thing with structural flowers like roses.  I found that printing works best with flat flowers  – daisies – or flowers than can be easily pressed and still look lacy or delicate, like part of a hydrangea.

So there you go….a fun summer fabric printing technique.  I hope you get a chance to try it out!

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