Eco Printing and Natural Dyeing – How I prepare my fabrics

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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!

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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


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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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!