Here is a blog post on how to eco print fabric using the microwave. Eco print simply means producing natural prints on fabrics. It uses flowers and leaves to produce prints using natural dyes and mordants. I started knowing about this craft sometime last year and over that period I just practice like mad. I just how it can produce the most amazing prints. While to be honest I am yet to be an expert but this blog logs my journey from being a novice to an expert (Hopefully one day!!).
So far I have produced decent size scarves sizes. Although this is a small production with the help of Adobe it can easily be turned into a much bigger repeat. As a result into wallpapers and dress fabric prints. My work is shown on Spoonflower. A great place to showcase your work and sell them.
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Using a microwave is a quick simple way to create eco prints on fabrics. The traditional way is using a steamer and boiling which is all well and good but it takes time and uses a bit of space. Now in the current times, huge gas or electric bills. The end results are nearly about the same. Microwave produces short high heat whereas steaming produces long wet heat (depending on how high the heat it is). For a successful eco print, all it needs is heat. Now I use the microwave for most of my eco-fabric prints.
How to eco print on fabric using microwave
So here is how to eco print as it would need preparation before it goes into the microwave. This is to eco print or to produce a print. I tend to choose natural dyes that are lasting and will not fade after a few washes. it is the same for flowers and leaves choose the ones that produce lasting print and contain lots of tannins. If the leaves don’t produce tannin soak the leaves in powdered gall nut solution. Not too much as it would not stick to the fabric.
When choosing the fabrics, I use habotai silk as it’s cheap to buy and great for experiments. Silk is a protein-based fabric and when it comes to contact with natural dyes it tends to produce vibrant colors. As much as I love to use completely plant fibers to eco print it is not easy to produce prints on these fibers as a beginner. Alternatively use silk noil which is basically silk waste more eco-friendly. Even with one gets away with using natural fibers one will almost certainly use some form of mordants. Mordants contain iron and other types of metal like alum and copper. It helps to bind the natural dye colors to the fabrics. Also one will need a stick and some barrier film (plastic bag or baking parchment I much prefer this as it’s microwave proof) to separate the prints. I tend to use an iron blanket but it is an individual preference. Any contact iron and tannin will give great results.
Update 4/2022 – In my initial experiments, I tend to use a lot of silk now I have moved on to cotton fabrics and found great success with them recently. More eco and vegan friendly and much cheaper to buy as well.
I use a wooden stick I got from my garden cut down so that it fits into the microwave. The diameter is about 2-4cm. I also use baking parchment as it is made to withstand high heat. I don’t tend to use plastics.
Bundling and using a microwave
Once the setup is ready then bundle and wrap these up tightly. It needs to be damp but not overly wet. With practice, one will be able the adjust the dampness correctly. Too dry it burns and leaves will dry out and not print. Too wet then the print might not stick to the fabric. And just pop it into the microwave for a few (3-5) minutes. How long exactly it depends on many factors. The fabric the thickness of the layers and how much fabric and iron blanket. A short burst of a few minutes takes it out then checks again. It is not easy to gauge but the thinner the printed fabric the less time it needs. Flowers tend to need less time than leaves.
Once the equipment is set up, to eco print away just bring it all out again. It is an art and knack to this craft. That is why there are so many eco-printing courses nowadays around. But I am self-taught as I don’t really have much time to do courses. I believe one learns at their own pace by experimenting. This creates one very own technique. It is art and design after all.
Thank you for reading and dropping by. Do have a look at my other fabric printing post using natural dyes like logwood and madder.
6 thoughts on “How to eco print on fabric using microwave”
Thank you for this. I thought that it would be possible. I use the microwave to steam silk scarves for a minute, using a dye, but wasn’t sure if the leaves would transfer to the silk in only a few minutes. I will give it a try.
You are welcome. All the best with your printing on silk scarves.
You mentioned using an iron blanket. What material should I use for the iron blanket
I use old fabrics or cut out old clothing made out of cotton jerseys or cotton flannel like t-shirts and pajamas. Do experiment with what works for you as most eco printers have their own ways on how much moisture they want in order to achieve clear prints.
I have had great success using the microwave but I use shorter times so that the bundle does not get too hot and excess liquid boil out. I pop it under some blankets to keep the heat for hours and may zap a bit again later. https://www.madebybarb.com/2018/11/12/alternate-eco-print-processing/
Great tips Barb, thank you. I will try it out one day.