From bedsheets to Kimonos…

I’m a big fan of upcycling and ecoprinting with natural plant dyes and leaves so it was a small leap from seeing some quality cotton bed linen at the local thrift shop to turning it into an ecoprinted kimono.

After my first kimono I was hooked !

I’m sharing the simplest process I use here . If you’re interested in more detail and more advanced processes you can check out my Eco Printers Guide

The first step is to make sure the sheets are 100% cotton as polyester doesn’t take natural dyes.

Once you have your 100%cotton recycled sheet you’ll need to scour ( clean) it well so it will accept the plant dyes. Because the sheet has been laundered many times it only needs a simple hot water machine wash with a little soda ash and then hang it up to dry.

I like to cut out and print the individual pattern pieces then sew up the garment because I find it easier to bundle unsewn garments. It also makes it easier to place the leaves in a pleasing pattern. You will need a double or queen size sheet in a plain light colour such as white, cream or pale grey to make one kimono. It needs to be pale so the leaves will print well.

I cut out before scouring because I don’t want to risk getting the fabric dirty again before mordanting.

Once the kimono pieces are cut out and scoured I need to mordant the fabric so the plant dyes will attach to the fabric permanantly. It also helps to make the dyes more light and washfast so they are less likely to fade and wash out over time

I generally use Aluminium Acetate dissolved in a pot of hot water and soak the fabric for 24 hours. Then I rinse, spin dry to remove most of the moisture and get down to the fun of adding the leaves.

Not all leaves are equal when it comes to giving up dye so if you’re new to it try starting with reliable printing leaves like maples, eucalyptus, rose , sycamore, teak, sumac, black walnut and blackberry depending where you live and what your local leaves are.

I stretch the fabric out onto a flat table, smoothing out any wrinkles as I go , and then lay the leaves earth side down ( ie the underside of the leaf) onto the fabric to create whatever design I like. Earth side usually prints the best although eucalyptus prints well both sides.

Next I roll the fabric tightly onto a round dowel- it can be metal, pvc or wood. I try to keep the leaves in teh pattern I placed them as I roll. the roll is then tied tightly with string if I want string marks in the pattern or with an elastic bandage if I don’t want any string marks. Then into a steamer to steam for 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on the leaves I’m using- eucalyptus generally take longer steam times.

Once the fabric is unbundled and dried I can sew the pieces into the kimono.

So get yourself off to an op shop or textile recycling centre and search out those cotton sheets. You’ll help reduce landfill and give the fabric a second life as a simple, beautiful kimono jacket.


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