Eco Printing and Natural Dyeing – How I prepare my fabrics

20201110 130339 1 scaled

In this post I would like to share my “recipe” for preparing fabric for natural/pigment dyeing and eco printing with homemade soy milk!

I just LOVE eco printing! The magic when you unravel the bundle of carefully chosen fabric covered with beautiful leaves/flower/tree bark.. MAGIC! The results are never the same and a bit unpredictable. The process is slow, but so satisfying!

Most fabrics need to be treated with a mordant before using in eco printing or dyeing. This is to help the colors and prints to bond with the fabric and make it permanent. Not really a mordant, but more a binder, soy milk has been used for many many years in Japan to prepare fabrics. 

Making fresh soy milk is really easy. I especially like the fact that this method is all plant based, so no metal salts or toxic materials. Using dried beans is less wasteful and more earth-friendly in my opinion, you just need a cup of dried beans to “mordant” about 6-7 yards of fabric. Of course, you could also buy pre-made soy milk!

IMG 20200814 100141126 scaled
IMG 20200814 133700688 scaled

To make your own soy binder, you will need:

  • Dried soybeans (I love using local organic sourced beans)
  • Water
  • Large bowl
  • A mesh strainer
  • Fabric to strain the milk through, like cheese cloth
  • Blender
  • Large wooden spoon or stick


original 186e8aae 9aea 44cf 83da db5c1bb0dd87 20201114 103749 scaled
20201115 094431 scaled

Start by pouring about a cup of your soy beans in a bowl or container. Cover this with water, about two cups. I like to soak the beans overnight, about 12 hours. The beans will swell to double their size, so be sure to have enough water in your container.

Next, pour your beans in a blender with a few cups of water and blend for 1 or 2 minutes. In the meantime, place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and line the strainer with the cloth.

When done blending, pour the mixture in the cheese cloth. You want to catch all the liquid into the bowl, and the bean pulp in your cloth. I like to make a little pouch from the cloth and squeeze out all the liquid. 

20201115 100715 scaled
20201115 100841 scaled

At this point, put the pulp back into the blender with a few cups of water. The liquid from the bowl can be poured into a large bucket. Repeat the process of blending two more times. You can just compost the pulp after you’re done!

Combine all the soy milk in the bucket, and stir in more water. I just add enough water to cover my fabric. No big science here 🙂

Your soy milk binder is ready to use!

20201115 100500 scaled
20201115 100600 scaled

Dampen the fabric you want to mordant (I love using linen) and place it in the bucket with soy milk. Be careful to keep in submerged completely, otherwise you will get spots on your fabric. Don’t ask how I know..

Leave it in a cool place for at least 8 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Remove the fabric from the milk and wring out as much milk as possible to prevent striping on the fabric while it’s drying. I like to run my linen through a spin cycle in the washing machine. Hang your fabric to dry completely.

After drying, place the fabric back in your soy milk for a minute or two to give it a second coating. Wring out and dry as before. You can repeat this process for as many times as you like, I usually do two repeats.

Now for the hard part: leave you fabric to cure for a while before using.. I like to cure my linen for at least a week. The longer you leave it to cure, the better the soy binds to the fabric.

IMG 20200831 161549167 scaled

You could add tannins to your soy milk binder to get better results.

For this piece I boiled some oak gall nuts and added the liquid to the soy milk.

It created the beautiful purple background and outlines from the leaves when used with some iron water!

Good luck on creating your own homemade soy binder! If you have any questions, please contact me.

I also would love to see what you create using this recipe!

Dyeing green with reed plumes

natural dye yarn reed green

A couple of weeks ago I came across a blog post which described the dyeing of green on wool with the plumes of common reed! How surprised and excited I was, green is not an easy colour to get with natural dyes. You just overdye a yellow with blue or the other way around. So for me that meant an indigo dye pot combined with something like goldenrod or birch leaves.

So off we went looking for flowering reeds!

We take our two youngest boys (2 and almost 1 year old) everywhere we go. Especially now with covid-19 we take them outside for a long walk every day if we can. That means they often have to wait in the stroller for a while when we spot dye material or leaves for printing. They are getting used to it  🙂


The first location where I knew there was growing loads of reed was more in a sunny spot on the edge of a corn field. We went home with a big bag full of plumes and chopped it up for the dye pot. 

Apparently reed needs to be as fresh as possible for dyeing green. I was disappointed.. the dye liquid was a bright yellow colour after an hour of boiling the reed plumes. I put a skein in and it still turned out a beautiful soft yellow!

natural dye reed plumes yarn
natural dye reed plumes


We didn’t give up yet! There was another spot close to our home with reed growing in the shade. We collected some, boiled the plumes for an hour and hurray! A dark brown dye! The skein in this pot turned green fairly quickly. It really was magical!


I’m not sure why the first dye pot turned yellow. Perhaps the reed plumes need to be collected earlier in the season or it had to do something with the soil.

natural dye reed plumes
natural dye reed plumes
natural dye reed plumes

Soo happy with my yarn!! How beautiful is this shade of green! Hopefully we come across another patch of this wonderful plant, or we have to wait until next year.


A few skeins will be in our next shop update.


Pre-mordant your wool or yarn with 10% alum.

Place your chopped fresh reed plumes (only the flowering purple shoots) in a pot with enough water. You will need about equal amounts of plumes to wool. Boil for an hour until the water turns a dark colour, then strain of the liquid.

Let this cool down a bit and in the meantime soak your wool/yarn in water.

Place your wool/yarn in the dye pot and turn the heat back up. Simmer for an hour or until you’re satisfied with the colour! Let the fibres cool down in the dye pot. Rinse in water with a little vinegar.

I always let the skein dry and cure for a few days before washing it.

natural dye reed plumes