How to Make a Leaf Monoprint on Fabric

october snow
My view on October 30, 2011.

cate pratoFall is my favorite season, so I was more than a little vexed to have it cut short when 14 inches of snow were dumped on our region October 30.

Falling leaves are one thing. Falling tree limbs are another.

So, while there was still a little life left in the foliage, I decided to preserve some leaves to enjoy another day with a dyeing technique that is also a way of monoprinting on fabric.

I used the hapa-zome method of beating color into cloth using a pin oak leaf on cotton. Hapa-zome is literally "leaf-dye" in Japanese, according to India Flint, author of Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles.

It's one of the easiest ways to transfer the color and pattern of plant material onto fabric. And if you're mad at someone (I'm talking to you, Mother Nature), it's a great way to vent your frustrations.

Hapa-zome Technique by India Flint


  • Leaves
  • A small hammer or mallet
  • Some cloth of fairly dense weave (not too flimsy)
  • Thin cardboard or thick paper (such as cardstock)
leaf monoprint
Pin oak leaf and monoprint on fabric.

1. Place the paper or cardstock on your work surface (such as a sturdy bench or uncarpeted floor) and place your cloth on the paper.

2. Arrange your leaves on the fabric. You could make a discrete array of leaves, overlap them slightly, or chop and scatter them over the surface of the fabric.

3. Fold over the cloth and place another piece of paper on top of the cloth and apply the hammer. It can take a little practice to get the hammer strokes just right, so experiment.

4. Remove the plant material and let the cloth dry thoroughly. Then press with a steam iron or heat press to set the color. (Despite this, the color will probably fade over time. Consider it part of the natural process.)

Ever the mother of invention (because I am impatient), I used the bottom edge of a jar to make my hapa-zome prints. This resulted in my nature printing looking like it was made by a series of lines, and I quite like it.

Eco Colour is filled with techniques for using plant materials to print and dye with in every season. Along with ideas for how to use the resulting fabrics. India suggests, for example, that you use the hapa-zome method to decorate t-shirts.

My plan is to stitch around the leaves and turn the fabric into napkins for Thanksgiving. They will serve as a reminder that the seasons are fleeting and life is unpredictable, and we should be grateful for every moment.

P.S. What's your favorite natural item to print or dye with? Share in the comments section below.


Blog, Fabric Art, Printmaking


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