In Which Horse Shoes Are Mentioned

The other day I realized that the Pinterest algorithms had herded me into a backwater of predictability that was starting to annoy me on a deep existential level. I decided to throw some curve balls into their attempts to read my mind about what I wanted to see. I went on searches in areas never before explored and got some much needed fresh air into the system.

This morning, something showed up that I never even knew existed.

Eco Dying of paper and fabric.

I looked at a few dozen examples of the art and became …. just a little crazed.

I HAD to try this!  Like TODAY.

I went on YouTube to look for instructions. The stories I got were vague, imprecise, and contradictory on just how to produce these marvelous creations.

Now I think I know why.

After looking at 7 or 8 VERY sketchy tutorials, several of which included people saying things like… “I’ve never done this before.” “I don’t know how much of this stuff to put in the water.” “I boil them.” “I steamed them.” “I boiled them for an hour and a half.” I boiled them for four hours.” “Use vinegar.” “Use alum, but I don’t know how much.”……. I was about to pull my hair out, because I wanted to DO IT. No matter WHAT!

Now I know why people put those videos up with so little REAL information. Because practically no matter what they did that was anywhere in the ballpark of ¬†‘the technique’… they ended up with something that they just loved… and made them feel like a damn magician.

My inner Alchemist was running around the house with her hair on fire. I had to do something. And friends let me tell you, I was truly desperate, because I left the house to get supplies for this project at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on a blazing hot day. I NEVER do that unless it’s unavoidable.

I ran around town buying a container of alum and looking for a little metal rack at the second hand store. I went to my brother and asked him if he had any rusty nails [he concluded I had lost my mind immediately, not even knowing what I wanted them for. But to be fair, he has always thought I was out of my mind] and got permission from my mother to pick leaves from her Japanese maples. I stopped on the side of the road and picked some Queen Anne’s Lace and then charged around my yard snipping leaves off trees and picking flowers from the garden.

By the time I was ready to begin I was severely overheated and slightly deranged.

So here’s my slapdash directions… just like ALL the ones I watched on the intertubes:

Soak some pieces of watercolor paper in a pan with some alum dissolved in water.

Pick a bunch of greenery and flowers.

Make a stack of paper/plants/paper/plants until you run out of paper.

Find something to hold it all together. I used a cheap, disposable wire rack for barbecuing.

Smash the stack together and tie it all up with string as tight as you can manage. (Don’t get crazy)

Fill a pot [a dedicated dye pot you might find at a second hand store] half full with water. Pour your leftover soaking water in there [to save all the alum] and add the rest of the alum powder. (I used a whole container, 1.9 oz or 53 g.)

Put a handful of rusty nails in the pot. I also found two rusty horse shoes down by the barn. Put ’em in if you have ’em.

Put your wrapped up stack in the pot so it’s submerged in the water.

Put a rock on it to keep it under if you want. [I did.]

Simmer that for 2 hours.

TRY to think of something else while your experiment is cooking. (You won’t be able to, but try anyway.)

Take your stack out to the yard and sheet by sheet, confirm to yourself that you are a flippin’ genius and that Alchemy is REAL, and don’t let anyone tell you different….









This is what’s left over…. It looks like a pile of cooked spinach and smells sorta like it too….


Can you just dye?

(Oh, that is just so precious. You made a funny.)

Shut up, or I’ll turn you into a toad. I’m a freaking prestidigitator now!

What these photos don’t show, is that on the BACK of each and every one of these papers, is a whole ‘nother version of print from what was below it in the stack. They are just amazingly beautiful.

Now I admit. Part of my over the top excitement about this project is that my favorite thing on this planet are leaves. I just love them. I never get tired of their shapes and colors. EVER. So I realize that this may not seem quite so scintillating to some of you. But I’m practically insane with delight over how they turned out.

There are also techniques that use a copper pipe instead of the rusty horse shoes.

But that will have to wait for another day.

Because let me tell you my dear readers…. I have had just about as much fun as I can stand today….

I need a good lie down and a cold drink.

(And a skosh of humility, I trow.)

Not today dill weed, not today.


I HAVE a dill plant in the garden!!!! And basil, and morning glories, and CORN POLLEN!


I’m never going to get to sleep tonight….


lime wild









  1. Annemieke says:

    Beautiful. The sewer in me asks the question what would happen if you did that on fabric?

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