I was out of town last week, one of my husband's birthday gifts to me being a ticket to New York. I had a great week, on lots of different levels, which I'll share as the week progresses. But for now, I'll get back to the blog post I had planned to publish last week.
I like to celebrate the seasons as much as possible, turning the natural materials just outside my door into art supplies. I also like to make temporary decor for my home, pieces that can be put away after the season just as I do with holiday decorations. It keeps things fresh, and even if I bring it back the following year, I find that I can use it in a new way or mix it with whatever new finds I've incorporated into my basic decor.
Spring and summer are all about botanicals for me. I can't get enough of the bounty that grows in garden beds and pots, spills from trees and bushes, or comes up between the cracks in the bricks along the courtyard. Even weeds get an opportunity to be turned into something useful. This year, I gathered up a sampling of plants and pressed them in a flower press for a couple of days. When they were sufficiently pressed (and dry enough), I arranged them on a piece of fabric and used Inkodye to create a sun-printed botanical fabric that I turned into a temporary pillow sleeve for a basic accent pillow. Easy peasy, as my son would say.
Here's how I made it:
Collected plant specimens
Flower press or heavy books
Natural fiber fabric (I prefer cotton or linen)
Rotary cutter and cutting mat
Inkodye (I mixed red and blue for this project)
Small dish for Inkodye
Sturdy surface (I like to use a piece of scrap plywood)
Laundry soap or Inkowash
Iron and ironing board
Fusible hemming tape
Step 1: Collect and press botanicals
For the most part, I find that it's easier to handle plants on a dry day, when the leaf edges are crisper. But if you happen to be gathering on a damp day, just blot them with a paper towel before pressing them and have fine tip tweezers on hand so that you can arrange as desired, separating fronds and stems, etc. I arrange mine in a flower press I've had for decades, but you can also place them between the pages of books weighted down with something heavy, such as a brick.
If flower and plant pressing is something you see yourself doing more of, invest in a press. It makes it easy to do a bunch at once. You can generally find them in abundance on Etsy and Amazon. If you'd like a more sophisticated version, I like this one from Terrain.
Step 2: Cut fabric to size and create a basic arrangement
You'll need to cut a piece of light colored natural fiber fabric to the desired length and width, leaving enough extra fabric in the length to accomodate a folded edge for the seam (I used a fine weave linen in a flax color, wanting to see how Inkodye worked over something other than white fabric). Also, I prefer to cut my fabric a little wider than necessary, then go back and trim the edges with a rotary cutter after the fabric has dried. This gives me more control over fraying the edges, which naturally occurs when you rinse the fabric anyway.
Once your fabric is cut, wrap it around the pillow you want to cover and create a basic arrangement with your pressed botanicals, ensuring you have enough to cover the front of the pillow. I don't get too strict with my arrangement, knowing I'll probably make changes in the moment, but if you create an arrangement you're particularly enamored with, shoot a photo to guide you when it's time to lay it out before printing.
Steps 3-5: Coat the fabric with Inkodye, arrange botanicals over the treated fabric, then print.
Once your Inkodye is well mixed, lay your fabric out on a sturdy surface (cover with a garbage bag or plastic if it's not a surface you want to get Inkodye on!) in a darkened room and coat the fabric with an even layer of Inkodye. You don't want pools of excess dye anywhere.
When the fabric is completely coated, work quickly and arrange the pressed botanicals over the middle of the fabric (which will become the front of the pillow) - you will want to start exposing your Inkodye treated fabric while it's still damp.
Bring your botanical covered fabric outside to a sunny spot and let it develop for about 5 minutes (it can take more or less time, depending on time of day and quality of light). When it's developed to the desired intensity, take the fabric back inside and remove the botanicals (in a darkened room since the fabric under the botanicals is still treated with Inkodye and therefore, still sensitive to light).
Step 6: Wash and dry your print
Immediately wash excess dye from the fabric, either by handwashing in very hot water or running it through 2 cycles in the washing machine (on hot). I'm too impatient to wait for 2 machine cycles, so I handwashed mine in the sink with a couple of capfuls of Inkowash. The important thing is to make sure that all of the excess dye has been washed out of the fabric. After washing you can soak it in clear water. If the water stays clear, then you know you're done. If not, keep washing (scrubbing it under running water is the fastest way to get the dye out).
Hang to air dry or you can use a hot iron to speed up the drying process.
Step 7: Create a frayed edge
If you haven't trimmed your fabric to size before dyeing, go back and trim with a rotary blade. Then pull out a few threads on either side of the fabric to create a frayed edge. If you cut the fabric to size before you dyed, then your fabric will likely already have a frayed edge, albeit messy. If that's the case, go back and cut loose threads and clean up the frayed edges as much as possible.
Step 8: Create a finished back seam
Wrap the length of fabric around the pillow you're covering, with the finished edge covering the raw edge of the fabric; remove the paper from the hemming tape. With the hemming tape layered between the finished edge and the fabric below it, iron the fabrics together to fuse (I do this while it's on the pillow, so that I can make sure the finished sleeve is tight enough.) When you're finished, your pillow will look like this on the back side.
I suggest mixing tiny amounts of Inkodye and printing small scraps of fabric to test the shades beforehand. I only loosely took my own advice and I wish I'd waited until the last sample was fully developed before I made my final decision. I was looking for a red violet color, more red than violet. What I discovered was that a tiny amount of blue went a long way! If I do yet another version of this project, I'll test a little more extensively. But I admit, I was impatient to just get on with it!
The shade at top left was created using half blue, half red. The shade at top right was 9 capfuls of red, 4 capfuls of blue. The shade pictured in the title image (bottom color) consists of 11 capfuls of red Inkodye and 2 capfuls of blue Inkodye. To get a truly reddish violet, I should have reduced the blue to a capful, possibly even less.