How to Flower Pound on Fabric
Using flowers to color fibers has been done for thousands of years. Until the mid-1800's natural dyes were the only option available. These dyes are still used to a lesser extent today and come from all types and parts of plants. Flowers provide one of the main sources of pigment for many dyes and their vibrant hues can be used in many different ways.
One of the most interesting ways to use the pigment from flowers is a craft called Flower Pounding. It's a great way to preserve the colors of summer or a special bloom that means so much. The finished product can be used in quilts, made into a pillow or even framed and hung on the wall. You'll be delighted with the results when you learn how to flower pound on fabric.
Supplies You'll Need
- 1 yard of white or off-white 100% cotton fabric (Do not use synthetic fibers as they may not take the color)
- Washing Soda
- Clean Bucket
- Old wooden cutting board (or other firm portable surface)
- Ironing board
- Wax Paper
- Masking Tape
- Fine Tip Permanent Marking Pen or Fabric Pen
Preparing the Fabric
Before the flowers can be pounded onto the fabric, the fabric needs to be prepared. This will enable the natural dyes to adhere to the fabric permanently.
These directions and measurements are for 1 yard of fabric.
- Wash the fabric in your regular laundry detergent and 2 tablespoons of washing soda. *Washing soda can be found in most grocery stores in the laundry detergent section.
- Run the rinse cycle at least one more time to make sure the washing soda is completely rinsed out.
- In a bucket, dissolve 1/4 cup of alum in 2 cups of hot water. Soak the rinsed fabric in the solution for 2 hours. *Alum can be found in the spice or canning section of most grocery stores.
- At the end of the 2 hours, dissolve 1 tablespoon of washing soda in 1 cup of hot water and add this solution to the solution already in the bucket. Continue to soak the fabric at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Wring out the fabric completely and let it line dry. Do not rinse out.
- Once dry, press your fabric using an iron on the hottest setting with steam. It is now ready to use.
How to Flower Pound on Fabric
Once your fabric is ready the fun begins.
- Cover the top of the cutting board with wax paper using masking tape to make sure the paper doesn't slip when pounding. The wax paper keeps the dyes from staining the board.
- Cut a piece of the prepared fabric to your desired size.
- Place the fabric on top of the wax paper covered cutting board and tape it to the board, over the wax paper. Taping makes sure the fabric doesn't slip when pounding.
- Go out and pick flowers and leaves. *If you choose flowers that have higher centers like black-eyed susans or coneflowers, you'll need to cut the center so the flower lays flat. Don't use white flowers. They have no pigment and will not show up on the fabric.
- Lay the flowers face down on the fabric making sure they are flat as possible. You may have to take the flower apart and arrange the petals. Once you're happy with the design, tape down each flower as firmly as possible.
- Once it's completely taped, get out your hammer and start pounding away. It's best to do this step outside on the ground so that nothing gets broken. Make sure to pound evenly and don't pound too hard. Pull the tape up from time to time to see how it looks.
- Once you're finished, carefully remove the tape and crushed blooms and set the fabric out to dry.
- Once dry, scrape off any remaining flower pulp.
- Heat set the colors with an iron on the highest setting and no steam.
- If desired, use a fine tip permanent marker or fabric pen to outline the flowers for a little more definition.
Note that many flowers produce dramatically different colors once they have been pounded. Our burgundy and yellow coleus leaves produced navy blue and green and our lemon yellow moonbeam coreopsis turned a vibrant orange. Have fun and experiment with your flowers and leaves.
Care tips: Even though the fabric has been prepared and the design has been heat set, these pieces should not be washed. If absolutely necessary, they can be dry cleaned. In addition, don't set the pieces in direct sunlight. They will fade if not handled correctly.
Enjoying Your Work
Flower pounding is a fun and rewarding craft for all ages. Use your creations to make a wall quilt or throw pillow. Sew a crocheted ribbon around the border and you have a lovely table topper. The ideas are endless when you learn how to flower pound on fabric.
© 2012 Claudia Mitchell