Block printing with foraged fern fronds

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I recently participated in an art making activity where we went on a nature walk through an urban forest to gather textured materials and then used those foraged finds to create interesting patterns on fabric with fabric paint.

We gathered mostly leaves, but I gathered a few small twigs and woody material as well and wasn’t too sure what I’d use and cast aside until I sat down and considered my options.

The best “stamps” were the objects with a fair amount of texture and interesting geometry. We painted a thin layer of fabric paint onto the surface of each item and then carefully pressed the “stamp” down onto the fabric, covered it with a paper towel, and applied an even pressure over the area. Too much paint muddles the pattern and creates harsh lines and dark blotches. It was possible to reuse leaves and twigs several times before they started wearing down so it was easy to create a pattern over a small area with very little “stamp” material.

I didn’t want my old shirt to take on too much of a crafty look so I opted for the black paint and stuck with just the one color. I used small sections of laua’e fern (Microsorum scolopendria) to print out the general pattern, then filled in some of the negative space with a group of woody flower stalks. On the sleeves, I used the end of a kukui (Aleurites moluccana) leaf to create a different but complementary pattern. The pattern extends to the back of the sleeves as well, which I thought would be an interesting detail.

I wish I knew what brand the paint was. After it dried, I set the paint by ironing over it and then laundering. I wasn’t sure how I’d like the painted fabric because paint can make fabric stiff and uncomfortable, but because the layer of paint we used was so thin (and maybe because the paint is just good?) you can barely tell there is paint on the fabric at all. It isn’t noticeable when wearing.

A fun project for all ages!

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