“Pressed for posterity, a symphony in sepia.”
I spent a lovely day with Annie at Dragonfly Studios in Skye during my honeymoon. As well as working on my spinning technique (which certainly needs a lot of work!) I also tried my hand at dyeing yarn using plants found on Annie’s croft as well as printing some really unusual leaf and flower paper.
Mr HoneyB had won a competition that Annie had been running, and she’d made him a beautiful notebook as a prize using some of her flower and leaf paper, and I was really intrigued to see how it was done!
First off we took a basket and picked a selection of leaves and flowers from around the croft. We then retired to the kitchen with a cuppa, spread out our goodies on the table and the fun began! As well as the foliage we’d collected, we had a pile of paper (all sorts of different thicknesses and quality, but roughly the same size) ready to hand.
The technique is basically to make a flower and leaf ‘sandwich’, so it’s simply a case of laying out the items on a sheet of paper in a way that appeals to you. There really is no exact science to this – you may decide to simply place one flower in the centre of the page, or you may prefer to cover the paper with a whole variety of bits and pieces – the choice is yours! Once you have your first piece of paper complete with flowers, place another piece of paper on top (trying not to move anything on the sheet underneath) and repeat the process. Continue in this way until you have around a dozen sheets completed, remembering to press them down after each sheet.
Once you have your paper and flower sandwich, the next step is to wrap it all up in some more paper (as if you were wrapping a present) then tie string around it to keep all the layers of your sandwich pressed together, and to stop any of the leaves escaping. Use plenty of string to do this as it’s important the papers are properly squished together during the printing process.
Next the paper sandwich is placed in a bath of plain water to which a good slosh (I did say this wasn’t an exact science didn’t I!) of white vinegar is added. Weigh the paper parcel down with some heavy stones, pop in a few old rusty bits and pieces (the rustier the better so raid the garage) and simmer for at least an hour and a quarter. We did this outside on a camping stove, but it would work just as well on the cooker indoors. After an hour and a quarter you can take the bath off the heat, then leave it overnight. The following day, remove the parcel, undo the string and carefully separate out the individual sheets of paper removing the wet leaves and flowers which can now be discarded, and leave the paper to dry on a flat surface.
Eh voila! You should have some beautifully patterned paper, with the imprints of your leaves and flowers. The amazing shades of yellows and browns you should get are the result of the vinegar acting with the rust. It’s worth experimenting with different foliage as some work much better than others. You’ll notice that some produce the most wonderful colours too and you might be lucky enough to get some blues and reds.
The only thing left is to decide what to do with your paper! As one of the main purposes of my ‘Fifty Two and Thrifty Two’ project was the opportunity to make things for myself for a change, I decided to turn one of the prints into a picture for the living room. It was simply a case of deciding which of the papers would fit best into the old frame I had.
Once I’d cut my chosen print to size and popped it in the frame, I realised there was quite a big scratch on the front of the frame (bottom right). As I didn’t have any others, I needed a Plan B. The lovely Mr HoneyB had written me a few different verses that I was going to include in the picture, but decided instead to put the shortest of the verses on the front of the frame to cover up the scratch. I really love the print and the colours are just gorgeous! I’m still not sure I’m happy with the verse being stuck on the front of the frame though, and I may yet need a Plan C. However, I think the best way to make my mind up is to keep the picture on the windowsill and live with it for a few weeks to see how it ‘settles in’.
In the meantime, I still have all the other prints too that I can use for future projects 🙂