This time of year our gardens are filled with beautiful flowers. Blossoms can be layered with paper and steamed to make lovely greeting cards, tags, wrapping paper and gift baskets. There are a number of different ways to eco-print paper and this is a description of a steaming method I use.
A variety of papers can be used as long as they’re not too glossy or fragile. Also good are tags, business cards (separate first), paper gift baskets, coffee filters. Presoak your paper so it’s thoroughly soaked through.
A pot can be converted into a steamer by inserting a bamboo steamer or you can use an electric roasting oven. A board on top of the bamboo steamer is optional but it does help to keep the papers flat. Whatever you use should be just for eco-dyeing and not for food. It’s usually best to do the steaming outside (or a well-ventilated place inside) as the smell from some plants can be strong. Pour in water part way up the inserted steamer and then take the steamer or board (if you use one) out of the pot.
If you want, lay a piece of saran wrap on top of the board or steamer. Lay out plant material over an area that’s the size of your paper and then use a spray bottle to spritz it with water.
Lay down a piece of paper on top of the flowers.
Cover it with plant material and then spritz it. Lay another piece of paper on top, plant material on top of it, spritz and continue building until you have all you want.
Put your pile of paper and plant material into the steamer. If you wish put a piece of saran and a board on top. Put rocks on top to press the paper and plant material down.
Once your pot is producing steam, allow the papers to steam for around 2 hours. Check periodically to make sure that there’s still water in the bottom and add some if necessary. After 2 hours turn the steamer off (without opening the lid so the heat and steam don’t escape) and allow it to sit for at least 3 or 4 hours. If the paper’s not too fragile you can leave it overnight. Then remove the paper.
Gently take the plant material off the paper and then rinse the paper in water in the sink to remove any small bits. Sturdy paper can be rinsed carefully under the tap. Handle the paper gently as it’s very fragile while wet.
Lay the paper flat on an old towel to dry. When it’s dry you can iron it if wished. However, don't iron it if you plan on stitching it as ironing can make the paper more brittle.