How to eco-print a tee shirt – full details


Hello everyone I’m Aannsha Jones and today I’m going to show you how to eco- print an old tee-shirt. The tee-shirt is a cotton tee-shirt that I actually eco- printed about a year or two ago and you can still see some of the patterns from the previous leaves on the material, but it’s a little bit washed out now and I thought that it would be a good time to reprint it. So first of all I sprayed the cotton t-shirt with an old solution that I had made up – basically made with water, some alum and also washing soda in it. While I sprayed the tee-shirt I soaked the plant material in a solution of vinegar and water and it was fifty percent white vinegar and fifty percent water. Vinegar and water is important as it helps the plant materials to give up their natural dyes when they’re on the material and being steamed. Once I’d sprayed the material all the way, front and back, I then placed the leaves and the flowers in a pattern that I liked. So what you can see me doing here is taking out the leaves from the vinegar and water solution and then dipping them in a solution of iron and water. Now what I’ve used here to make the iron water is basically rusty nails and they’ve been sitting in that water, that had a little bit of vinegar, for quite a while and over time the nails have been given up the rust. Now you can also use ferrous sulfate (or iron sulfate) that comes in a powder and you can dissolve a small amount of that; say half teaspoon to a teaspoon in about two litres of water and that will give you a good solution. For mordanting, as with any parts of this process, I would encourage you to experiment with different strengths of solutions of your mordants, because each solution will give you a slightly different result. Bear in mind that ferrous sulfate (iron sulfate) is actually slightly toxic so you don’t want to eat anything while you’re working and always wash your hands afterwards. I usually wear disposable gloves, but this was an off-the-cuff project I decided just to do on the spur of the moment and I didn’t have any rubber gloves that I could use, so I had to just use my bare hands. So basically all I’m doing here is I’m taking the leaves out of the vinegar water and dipping them into the iron water solution and then placing them in a pattern that I like. You will probably notice that the rust settles to the bottom of the container, so every now and then just give it a stir with the leaves even, and that will ensure that you get good coverage on he leaves. Iron water helps to give a nice, darker, defined outline on the eco-printed material, so without using iron water you will get prints, but they won’t be quite as defined. It also helps the colour to be slightly darker, so if you’re looking for darker result then you’ll be using an iron mordant. There are lots of good references out there in terms of books and also websites and blogs that will give you information on the different mordants that you can use and also the different solutions, and also when to use them – because you can pre-mordant, which is basically what I did by spraying the t-shirt; and you can also mordant the leaves. And then I’m going to be using steam for this eco-printing process, but you can even use the actual dye pot as a mordanting material itself. So if you’ve got an aluminium or a copper pot, that will impart some of the mordanting properties from the metal that the pot is made from. I find it’s a really good habit to get into to note down in a dedicated notebook exactly what I am using and the process that I’m using for each project. So I’d encourage you to get a notebook and to write down (1) the details of the mordants that you use, (2) the materials that you’re working on, (3) the leaves that you using and (4) the amount of time you actually boil or steam the bundle. The plant material that I’m using today in this project is Eucalyptus and Tinkling Satin Ash, which does have a latin name which I can’t pronounce and I will put it down in the notes for you. I also used bottle brush leaves and flowers and you’ll see right at the end of the project, I even put a few rusty nails onto the outside of the bundle just to give a little bit of extra interest. When I’m happy with the last of the leaves I cover the whole tee-shirt with a resist and in this case I’m using an old plastic bag which you can see I’ve used before. Because it’s a recyclable plastic bag it’s actually taken up the dye of some of the leaves that I used in the previous project. Basically a resist is something that will prevent the printing of the dyes from the leaves going through onto other parts of the material. So if you want a nice clean single print, rather than a doubling print from where you’re folding it, then use a resist. When you fold the material over the resist try your best to keep the plant material in place and that way you will keep the design as close as possible to how you’ve laid it out. As you can see I’m adding extra leaves as I fold the material and this is giving leaf prints to the other side of the material. I also place some of the leaves right-way-up and some of them upside down because the different sides of the leaves themselves will give up a different amount of dye. It’s quite an amazing process actually! When I come to folding the bundle, you’ll notice that I keep it as tight as possible, because what you want to do is you want to keep the plant material as closely touching the material that you’re working on and that way you’ll get really crisp prints. I did try to roll the bundle on to a stick, which is often what I do because it really does give a nice tight impression between the leaves and the cotton. But this time the bundle was too thick, so I discarded the stick really quickly because I realized it wasn’t going to work and I just ended up tying it with twine. Because I chose at the last minute just to tie it with twine, I had to rethink how I was going to tie it and place the final leaves on the outside. So what I ended up doing was tying it and stuffing some of the leaves under the string. But that worked just as well. The important thing is is that you get really close contact between all materials that you’re working with and that way you’ll get a lovely clear print at the end of it. Once it’s tied tightly then all that’s left to do is to place it into the steam pot. Now I’ve got a large pot that I use only for dying, so there’s water boiling in the bottom and there’s a little sieve that I’ve tied, so that it’s suspended above the water and that’s what I place the bundle on to. And then I just cover it with the lid and I cover the lid with a tea towel to prevent the steam from coming out through the little holes in the lid. Then it’s just a case of leaving it for two hours. Eucalyptus leaves have got a fabulous amount of colour in them, but it takes a long time to give up that colour. And that’s it! At the end of this video you can see a couple of photographs that I’ve taken of the tee-shirt immediately after it’s been unbundled and I think you’ll agree with me that it’s looking really good. It’s a great result – I’m really pleased with it! So if you enjoyed this video – if you found it helpful – then please LIKE and please SUBSCRIBE (bell) because I will be putting more videos like this and other creative projects that I accomplished up for you to have a look at and to learn from, and to get ideas from. And if you have any comments at all – if you’ve got any thoughts about the project, or if you’ve done something similar and you achieved different results, or you’ve used different mordants – I’d love to hear from you. Please post them in the comments section below. But for now please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE. My name is Aannsha Jones and thank you for watching this project.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

45 thoughts on “How to eco-print a tee shirt – full details”

  1. Maribel Longueira says:

    podría escribirme que solución es la 2ª

  2. Maribel Longueira says:

    Seria de gran ayuda que pudiera poner unos subtítulos en las partes más concretas.
    Especialmente para los que no sabemos tanto inglés

  3. stuegor says:

    It look like you used just native plants, could you use flowers like roses to transfer the various colors.
    It was interesting to see the process.
    Thank you

  4. gabriela toloza says:

    por cuento tiempo lo dejaste al vapor ?

  5. art room says:

    thank you for giving a good explanation of the chemicals. very good tutorial

  6. yasemen soysal says:

    What a beneficial video for eco-print! I love your video. I was doing eco-print officially
    5 months and love this technique. I have been researching for a long time this technique and finally find my way. Your way is worth to try. I will try your vinegar water mordant and soaking leaves with iron. I tried once dry eucalyptus leaves soaking the iron water but my result didn't good. I will try with new collected leaves 🙂 You must share new videos about eco-print.

  7. chelsey makes says:

    subscribed! I just started eco-printing and I did my first eucalyptus print yesterday!! I used aluminum acetate mordanted cotton and placed eucalyptus leaves down and then sprinkled ground cochineal beetles over. I probably steamed for an hour and a half to two hours. and I love my results!! I wish the eucalyptus prints had been more orange but I'll try more steaming next time!! any tips to get that coveted orange? thanks so much!! I can't wait for more eco-printing videos 😍🌿

  8. Alivre Lima says:

    Hi, could I also boil the bundle in water instead of steaming?

  9. Courteney D. says:

    what is alum?

  10. Atelie Trion says:

    Hi, this is really great video! Is it washable in washing machine
    in the end? Thank you 🙂

  11. elias el pro says:


  12. elias el pro says:


  13. Paul Henry says:

    Vinegar is NOT a mordant

  14. claudia J says:

    I wonder there will laundry and dye gonna fade? How I can stay dye on clothes when wash that dye won't fade? So what kind of plants? I am Deaf I read subtitles seemed not clear. Thank u

  15. sumao dutta says:

    Thank you so much Aannsha for taking up the time to actually explain the process and the ingredients in such details. I am planning to start doing some dyeing and this very insightful and practical. keep up the good work and the explanation is awesome.

  16. Colleen Clark says:

    very clear and consise video thank you

  17. Bixxy Nash says:

    Is there an alternative treatment on the clothes other than alum as I can't get that easily? Can the fabric be dry prior to laying on the leaves?

  18. bls924 says:

    Great video- I love this process, it's so creative! Thanks for generously sharing. The comment about using a copper pot is interesting. I am a jeweler and have plenty of scrap raw copper and some nickel around. What are your thoughts on using that in the pot to add additional mordants?

  19. Merlyn Luzon says:

    What is that rusty solution you use?

  20. endang pujia says:

    I like and interesting your tutorial video..what solution do you use to dip the leaves and flower s before you put on shirt

  21. endang pujia says:

    How treatment so that the printing durable after washed

  22. endang pujia says:

    You give me the great . useful , unique and interesting knowledge…i'm very like and i'm very interesting to practice it..simple… Nat Ural…happy to meet you.. thanks

  23. Patrice says:

    You could use an old cast iron pot of water for the rust water. Every old cast iron pot I've ever 'redone or cured was covered with rust 🙂

  24. jeep girl says:

    It just looks dirty

  25. andrea schuh says:

    Hola Aannsha!! muchas gracias por compartir esta información tan útil! Estoy haciendo ecoprint hace un tiempo, aplico los diseños a cuadernos artesanales. Quisiera pedirte si podrías indicarme por cuanto tiempo hay que remojar las hojas en agua y vinagre, antes de la solución de hierro. Quiero aprovechar el fin de semana para teñir!!!

  26. smile ever says:


  27. reefprayer resin says:


  28. Elisabet Osácar says:

    Por traducción

  29. Florence Pacaud says:

    vous avez trempé dans quoi

  30. rosilene carmo says:

    Obrigada,seu vídeo foi simples e esclarecedor!

  31. Shelby Bork says:

    looks like straight shit

  32. Mary Raab says:

    Would it be possible to use a steam iron and iron over the plant materials for this project?

  33. LibellulaGlass says:

    Thanks great easy to understand instructions

  34. Jerry Burger says:

    Why must it be an old tshirt?

  35. Alexis Colby says:

    The back of the eucalyptus leaves have more tannin and so they transfer better onto fabrics.

  36. Sheela Jena says:

    Thanks for making this video.I have some doubt about how long I have to soak the leaf in vinegar-water solution and the fabric or garment have to steam or boil.

  37. saroj kumari drawing classes says:

    Awesome big like friends

  38. Diana Liddelow says:

    Could you please say what type of Eucalyptus leaves you use to get red. I have tried at least 8 different eucalyptus trees in my garden and neighbourhood in Melbourne Australia. and I can't get a red colour. Feeling frustrated.

  39. Shrestha Halder says:

    lovely video indeed! hey, I had one question. what is the proportion of alum, soda and water that you said " some old solution?

  40. Lesona ONE says:

    You dont mention what do you do after steaming… you unfold it while still wet? or you dry it first?

  41. Erika Cronje says:

    Have you had success with other types of leaves?

  42. Azendia2 says:

    Thank you for the nice and informative video! Do you have any advice on what chemicals to use for doing this with petals rather than green leaves? How would you do it/have you tried it?

  43. Missy Craft says:

    What a great video thank you so much. Looks so beautiful

  44. Alan Cushing says:

    What if you want bright colors the same as fall leaves instead of dark impressions of shrubbery and green leaves. How would I make that happen? Thanks…

  45. Linda Brown says:

    Great info thank you. Please can you tell us more about the alum washing soda spray, quantities etc thank you 🙏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *