Blankets: A Helpful Tool in Ecoprint

If you are interested in eco print, I’m pretty sure you´ve heard the term “blanket”. Blankets are used in eco printing for two reasons but let me explain before how a bundle is made so as to understand where a “blanket” is placed.

A bundle is constructed by different layers:

  1. A barrier:   This is a piece of water proof material used to prevent that when rolling the bundle, the blanket touches the back part of the printed/target fabric. You only want the blanket to affect the front side of the fabric, not the back, because it will affect the areas where only plants are supposed to print.

  2. The fabric that you wish to print (the “target” piece). This can be a fabric of any kind. It can be wool, silk, cotton, linen, etc… Each kind of fabric requires a different preparation but we won’t get into this subject right now as this is another big subject by itself.
  3. Leaves or any other plant material
  4. A blanket

The role of blankets

As I already mentioned, the blankets have two different roles. 

One is to give weight on the leaves and help all the parts in the bundle to be flexible. The blanket is usually wet so it presses the leaves down onto the fabric and by doing this, a better contact between the leaves and the fabric is achieved. Also when we lay parts of plants that are not flat but more three dimensional, we see that this causes different pressures and different contact between the plants and the fabrics. Some bulky parts of plants create air pockets and the plants in these pockets will not make good contact with the fabric. The blanket gives an extra soft thickness in the bundle and helps all the plants  to get good contact with the fabric.

Another role of the blanket is to be a “carrier cloth”. Maybe you heard this term also and it means that we use a blanket to bring a substance like iron, tannin or dye to the bundle. You simply soak the blanket in the chosen substance and lay it on the leaves.

Iron Blanket

You can’t do eco print without iron. This is another very big subject which I will cover in another post but what is relevant to this subject is that one of the ways to bring iron to the bundle is to soak the blanket in iron water and to cover the fabrics and the plants that are laid on the bundle. The iron will react with the leaves and will create special effects. It usually will darken parts of the prints where the iron gets in contact with the tannin in the leaves.

Target Piece wool 

Iron Blanket Cotton jersey with ferrous sulfate (iron water)

Tannin Blanket

This kind of blanket is used to create a coloured background around the prints. Tannin is a substance that many plants have. You can read about tannins here: The Role of Tannin In Eco Printing 

Tannins give different colors like: shades of gray/purple, shades of olive green and different shades of browns. By soaking a blanket in tannin water and laying it on top of the leaves you can color the background. The tannin blanket will only touch the background of the prints, because the leaves will be blocking the interaction between blanket and target fabric.

Target Piece Linen 

Tannin Blanket Cotton jersey with Tanin from pomegranate (green) and black tea (brown)

Dye blanket

It works in the same way as a tannin blanket, but instead of tannins we can use dyes such as logwood, cochineal, weld, madder, etc… with this dye we can get brighter colors as backgrounds. Pink, yellow, purple, red, etc…

You can also blend different substances for more special effects like tannin and dye, dye and iron, etc… and use the blanket to bring this mix into the bundle.

Target Piece Linen and Cotton

Tannin Blanket Cotton jersey with Cochineal (pink) and Logwood (purple)

Water blanket

It sounds strange, but we can also soak a blanket only in water. Why would we do this? Just to give weight and flexibility to the bundle. We use it when we want to improve the contact between plants and fabric but keeping the natural white color of the fabric as a background for our prints.

Target Piece Bamboo, Linen and a blend of Linen and Silk

Water Blanket Cotton jersey 

What kind of materials can we use as blankets?

The blanket is another piece of fabric. Knitted fabrics like cotton jerseys work best because knitted fabrics usually absorb more liquid than woven fabrics. If you take two pieces of fabrics, one woven and the other one knitted and soak both of them in water you will see that the knitted one will be much  heavier when it is wet.

So when it comes to water blankets, knitted fabrics will give more weight to the leaves. For tannins and dyes blankets, with a knitted fabric you will be able to bring more of these substances to the bundle and this will determine the intensity of the background color.


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