hapa-zome, a pound at a time

Hapa-zome or ‘leaf-dyeing’ is a technique where the natural pigments of plant specimens are transferred onto fabric/paper creating varied designs. I’d seen this in Michel Garcia’s film where he demonstrates indigo pigment transfer from woad leaves onto fabric. When I saw that Deepa Natarajan of PlantsPeople was offering a masterclass on hapa-zome at West Coast Craft, I couldn’t resist.


Deepa briefly touched upon how India Flint discovered the technique, safe mordants that can be used to improve steadfastness etc. She also stated that the hapa-zome  is not a permanent printing method. The color fades over a couple of years and care needs to be taken to prevent too much exposure to sunlight. I guess one runs that risk with most natural dyes but with gorgeous results such these, who wouldn’t want to give it a shot?

The technique sounds simple – lay out the floral design on top of a cloth and fold the cloth so as to form a protective layer over the design (this results in a mirror image of the design on the cloth). And start pounding! Deepa suggested a firm, gentle pound with a slight press along the outline of the flower/leaf to get a good imprint. She also mentioned that tightly woven natural fabrics are best suited for this method and she’s had better results with silk.


                                                      Deepa shows how it’s done

Our silk fabric was not pre-mordanted and we had a choice of alum / tannin that was available in spray bottles. I sprayed some alum onto the cloth just before pounding with a small hammer. My intent was to test a few flowers flowers and create a splotched water colour effect! I  used petals rather complete flowers or leaves.

The dianthus which looks dark red, actually resulted in a dark grape colour and the cornflower yielded a light blue. Finally, I added a touch of yellow through marigold + pink through bougainvillea  et voila!!

I tried removing the petals as soon I finished pounding, which made smudge marks around the imprints. It’s better to let the plant matter that’s stuck on cloth remain as is, at least till the fabric is dry.

Now, I need to try this hapa-zome gift tag DIY.


                                                               photo courtesy : terrain


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