Plant Pounding for Shirt and Paper Designs

Use flowers and leafs from your garden and turn them into fun activity Clemson Extension Agent and Host of "Making It Grow" Amanda McNulty learns more about this fun activity from Allison Jones, Education Program Coordinator from the SC Botanical Garden. as she shows us how to “plant pound” for designs on shirts and paper.

Plant Pounding Art Materials: Cutting board or piece of plywood board hammer washi, masking, or painter’s tape scissors paper towels Flat, tender leaves or flowers Paper and/or Fabric (muslin or 100 percent cotton will work best) Iron Vinegar solution ( I used 1 part vinegar to 8 parts water) For items that will be washed you can use a pretreated fabric, designed for dying, to get the longest lasting results. For a less permanent result, you can also simply use an old or pre-washed cotton garment and set the pigments with a vinegar solution and/or heat, to extend the fade time. To help colors last as long as possible, the garment should be carefully handwashed with cold water and a small amount of gentle detergent.

Steps 1: Gather Plant Material Gather fresh leaves or flowers just before you plan to use them, to avoid them drying out. Be aware that some leaves or flowers don’t stain as well as others. If you have specific hues or shades in mind for your design, you may want to experiment with a practice piece first to see which plants will work best for your purposes. I have found that leaf prints last longer than flower prints.

Step 2: Set up Design Determine where your working surface will be- lap, table, floor? Place your cutting board or piece of wood down on your working surface, with a towel placed beneath it. This will help dampen noise and aid in keeping the board from “walking”. Now lay down the fabric or paper that you will be decorating on the cutting board. Arrange your leaves/flowers into the design you like. Generally, placing leaves or petals face down, flat on the fabric/paper produces the best results. Look for any long stems that may need trimming.

Step 3: Secure Design If you are working on fabric, use masking tape or painters’ tape to carefully adhere your design directly to the fabric. If working with paper, cut out small sections of paper towel to cover the leaf/flower and hold the paper towel edges in place with tape. Washi tape works best for this, as it can be removed easily from paper, but you can also use masking or painters’ tape, if done with care.

Step 4: Pound Design If working with a shirt, turn it inside out and lay flat with design side up. Insert a towel or paper towels to avoid bleeding onto the backside of the shirt. If working with a section of cloth, simply flip the piece over with the leaf side down. You can use a towel between the leaves and your cutting board, if you’d like to protect the cutting board. With paper, you are going to pound, with the leaf/paper towel side facing up. Begin pounding your first leaf or flower. Try to pound the edges first, working your way to the center of the leaf/flower. You will see pigment bleed through, and this will help you determine when you have pounded thoroughly enough. Continue this process until you have completed pounding the entire design.

Step 5: Reveal and Remove Debris Gently remove the tape and paper towel to reveal your results. You may find that some leaf/flower tissue is still stuck to the paper or fabric. If working with something that you’ll be washing regularly, you’ll gently scrape all of this away. If working with paper or fabric wall art, you can decide where you want to remove it or leave it to dry in place to achieve the desired result.

Step 6: Set the Pigments This section only applies to fabric projects and is optional. Plant pigment stains will fade over time. In an attempt to make them last longer, you can try one or both of the methods below. Use a hot iron to set the stains into the fabric. Note that this can sometimes slightly alter colors but remember that all of these colors will naturally change to more browned and faded versions of themselves over time. For non-wearable cloth art projects, you may choose to stop at this stop or skip this step altogether. For washable items, you may want to soak the piece in a vinegar and water solution for 15 minutes to an hour to help set the stains. This soak will likely change the definition and colors of your design, making some brighter and some more faded. Gently wring and hang to dry.