I’m delighted to introduce you to TinkerLab’s newest contributor, Noreen Greimann, who shares a beautiful article on how to sun print on fabric. I adore this project because it encourages us to spend time in nature and outside, and also uses materials that you probably already have access to.
Growing up, I often lost myself in the natural world spending hours in the garden, the fields and by the river. These special places with all their nooks and crannies became my main source of inspiration for playing, tinkering, writing and drawing.
This hasn’t changed. And now I get to share these moments with my children and watch with amazement how they weave their experiences in nature into their play and creative activities.
Today, I’m excited to show you how to take bits and pieces of nature to create gorgeous sun print fabric that you are going to want to make over and over again.
• 100% white cotton fabric
• acrylic craft paint or fabric paint (darker colors recommended)
• paint brushes
• water in a bowl or small bucket
• a flat surface outdoors to work on (e.g. driveway, old cutting board) – no wooden surface
• nature materials: petals, leaves, ferns, blades of grass, flat pebbles, etc.
- Make Paint. Dilute the paint with water at a 1:1 paint to water ratio. You want the paint to be thin enough to flow easily, but to still have enough pigment for bright colors.
- Wet the Fabric. Wet the fabric in a bowl of water and squeeze it out until it is no longer dripping. Lay it flat on a mat or other non-porous surface.
- Paint the fabric with a big paintbrush. When working with young children it is best to only use one or two colors at a time. Otherwise, the results will be rather muddy looking because little hands often can’t resist mixing all the colors together.
- Press the leaves and flowers. As soon as you are done painting, press the leaves and flowers top side down onto the painted fabric, making sure the edges of the leaves and flowers lie flat. The more contact with the fabric, the sharper the lines will be in the end.
- Place in the sun. Leave the fabric out in the sun for 1 to 2 hours. If it is really hot, it helps to mist the fabric during the first 30 minutes to an hour.
- Remove leaves. When the fabric is completely dry, peel off the leaves and flowers and watch the magical prints appear. Don’t the dandelion leaf prints look like fish?
- Set the paint. To set the paint, place the fabric in the dryer on high for 1 hour. I also recommend hand washing the first time as some of the paint may still wash out.
How to use sun print fabrics
The possibilities are truly endless.
- Start with a t-shirt or pillowcase and you will have a stunning project in 2 hours.
- Fabric pieces can be sewn into simple draw-string bags, which are perfect for holding gems, fairies, acorns, pebbles, seashells and other treasures. The fabrics also make lovely doll pillows and blankets.
- Or how about a large bag for carrying books to the library?
Ready to give this a try? I hope you will enjoy this project as much as we do.
Noreen Greimann is a Natural Childhood Advocate who helps parents create a magical childhood for their children through her unique method of combining storytelling with activities. She shares her work and inspires parents on her website Entangled Harmony.
Did your “paint” on something over the fabric? or is the fabric on a mat of somekind?
Yes, there are red and green mats underneath the fabric. They are actually cutting boards that I use a lot for painting and other art projects.
Hope this helps!
Is it possible to do this without a dryer?
Yes, it definitely works. We have done both. The heat from the dryer helps with setting the colors more. But it’s not that much different from a hot summer day. I would just recommend washing the items separately in case some of the color does come out.
Do I have to use flowers and leaves, or will any object that blocks light work?
I haven’t tried it with different objects yet but it should work. You want to make sure that the objects are laying flat on the fabric. Have fun experimenting!
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Hi, I tried this, and did not have much success. I used the acrylic paint, added water, etc. I left it outside for more than hours, w/o any sun exposure coming through. Really love the idea of this working, do you have any further tips?
Hi Lisa, I’m sorry to hear it’s not working. A few ideas for you: You could try leaving it longer. There are different formulas to acrylic paint and it’s possible that the paint you’re using isn’t compatible with this project and you could try it with fabric paint. – Rachelle
Hi i was wondering if sun printing will work with natural dyes from beetroot or turmeric? And what can we do to ensure some color fastness?
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Thanks for this terrific project! We made two flour-sack kitchen towels for Mother’s Day presents for the two Grandmas, and father-son T-shirts. They all turned out fantastic!
Am def going to try the Sun prints as soon as it warms up here.
Look forward to seeing your other ideas as well.
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