Mark-Making with the Iron Blanket


I’ve just discovered the iron blanket


It’s a piece of cloth you simmer in a solution of water and ferrous sulphate for about an hour or so and you use it as the outermost layer of an eco print (or botanical pressure print, if you like). It helps transfer the colour from the plant matter you’re using, onto the fabric or paper you are printing onto. In the process, the print also prints like in these photos, onto the blanket. I found the technique on Facebook’s Eco-Dyeing, Creating Learning group, which I just joined.


I wrapped this iron blanket round several layers of silk habotai, organza and muslin into which I bundled plant matter from my garden and local woods and also, some leaves from three different types of Eucalyptus leaves. The euc is thanks to my two local florists. In this photo, the earthy red circle in the middle is a print from a green euc leaf.


The cloth was still wet and crinkled when I took these photos.


Here’s one with some of the plant matter still attached after steaming then undoing the bundles. It’s a piece of fern leaf, from the garden.


Here’s another.

And another

And another.

And yet another. The cloth is an offcut from an Ikea curtain that was too long. It's heavy-duty 100% cotton.

And yet another. The cloth is an offcut from an Ikea curtain that was too long. It’s heavy-duty 100% cotton.

About AnnIsikArts

Artist/Writer/Chess Enthusiast/Musician (Singer)/Gardener
This entry was posted in Art, Eco/Natural Dyeing and Printing, Printmaking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Mark-Making with the Iron Blanket

  1. Charisse Coleman says:

    P.S. My latest happy experiments have been accelerating the rusting/oxidizing of steel cans & then wrapping my leaves/blossoms & watercolor paper around them & simmering in water with a dash of vinegar. Loving the smoky charcoals & dark outlining of the leaves I’m getting. The sets of parallel lines from the ridges in the cans makes a great geometric graphic element to the prints, as well.


  2. Charisse Coleman says:

    Hello, Annie! I have just begun to experiment with iron blankets — I print on paper, not fabric, but have soaked cotton cloth as well as lighter wt (than the 140 lb watercolor papers I print on) papers & have had fun results with both. Thanks for the idea of actually simmering the iron blanket in the ferrous solution – can’t wait to try that! Which raised the question for me: do you scour your cotton before turning it into an iron blanket? Thanks! from Durham, NC


    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Hi Charisse. Thanks for writing. I haven’t scoured cloth before making the ‘iron blanket’ because I like to work on top of any ‘history’ the cloth might already possess- including human sweat, I suppose, in the case of some very old pillowcases! I’ve had poor results with some new fabrics however – including an arm sling which I was given after I fell down a cliff and badly smashed my shoulder! (Fossil hunting). I suspect the sling fabric was treated with something and will scour it before using it again. I recently came across an artist eco printing on paper who mordants the paper by dipping it only, rather than soaking it for hours, into whatever mordant she is using – she mentions iron, copper and alum. I’ve soaked papers overnight in very strong ferrous sulphate solution and even included leaves/plant matter, which ‘ghosted’ in some cases onto the paper. It’s all great fun, with deeper than surface significance, of course, which I like. I can’t find your web site online. I’d like to see some of your work. 🙂


      • Charisse Coleman says:

        Hi Annie! Sorry to be so slow to reply – been a nutty week. So sorry about your fall while fossil hunting! Hope that was awhile ago & you’re all mended & pain-free. Mordanting…ah the endless explorations in mordanting! I’ve use aluminum-potassium-sulfate — bought it 1st & instead of aluminum acetate bc it was cheaper, and I wasn’t sure how far into all this I was going to go. (All the way seems to be the answer…) Now knowing that acetate is better on cellulose and aps better on protein, & given I’m nearly out of aps, I’ll likely spring for acetate next. I DO love the copper sulfate — if only bc it’s such a fabulous, bottom-of-the-pool, Floridian turquoise, it’s worth keeping around in a jar in the studio! But I like what it does with the prints, as well.

        I would love to show you some of my work — I don’t yet have a website. Can we connect via email or Messenger? I can send you a few photos, if you like.

        I am enjoying your blog!
        all best wishes, and keep creating!
        Durham, NC


    • AnnIsikArts says:

      From what you write, Charisse, you seem to have the technical aspects of eco printing well in hand. I look forward to seeing how these translate into what you want to say, artistically. There’s a good number of encouraging Facebook botanical printing groups where you could post the results of your experiments. Are you a member of any of these? Let me know if so and I’ll look you up. Good luck in your work. Ann


  3. Marinda says:

    Hi annie im not sure how to use the cloth.
    Does it go on top of the leaves ? Dont i use clingwrap first? Isnt the purpose of the clingwrap to keep the leaves in place as well.
    Can i use the iron cloth for the outside lyer?
    Iow. First the cloth , then the silk scarf , then my leaves and on top the clingwrap? Fold etc ..
    What will the outcome be?
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • AnnIsikArts says:

      I got the technique from a video course I bought from Kathy Hays. Just google ‘Kathy Hays Designs’ and you’ll find a link to her web site. You’ll appreciate that it wouldn’t be ethical for me to disclose the technique. I recommend the course and it’s modestly priced. There’s also a WordPress site ‘Flextiles’ you might be interested in. Happy Eco-printing!


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