24 Oct Sun Printing: Team Up with Mother Nature for this Easy DIY
Just in time for the sunshine – here’s a brilliant way to take advantage of these sunny days. If you’re anything like me and find real struggle in sitting still, this sun printing DIY project will slow you right down. When you’re done, you’ll have a homemade eco bread bag to show for your afternoon in the garden.
Did you know: Keeping your bread in a cotton bread bag can actually keep it fresher for longer because the cotton is breathable while stopping the bread from drying out. Even more reason to go with natural fibre bread bags.
If you have little ones in the house, you can stick with the galactic theme and whip up an easy batch of Moon Sand to keep them stimulated while you team up with the for this easy DIY project.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SUN PRINTING?
Sun printing is the process of ‘exposing’ a pattern onto cloth by using a staining liquid and a catalyst. In this easy DIY I’m sun printing with plants, upcycled paintbrush packaging, instant coffee mix and soda ash (this natural crystalline salt is used to soften water and alkalise swimming pools).
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO SUN PRINT AN ECO-BREAD BAG:
- 4 Tbsp instant coffee powder (you can use your recycled grinds, just make sure the solution is strong)
- 3 tsp soda ash
- Cloth to print on*
- Spray bottle
- Sturdy flora from the garden (delicate fronds don’t work as well) or letter cutouts**
- Panel of glass or small stones
- Oven tray
*Different cloths to use:
Muslin cloth – If you want to make your own item. It’s a cotton fibre so it responds well to the soda ash activator and you can cut it to any size.
Hemp bags – for personalized food or gift bags. It’s a rougher fabric and creates a subtler, earthy contrast.
Cotton fresh bags – the white cotton is super effective for a strong contrast and also makes
for nice gift.
HOW TO PRINT WORDS AND PATTERNS:
- Add the soda ash to a tub of warm water (about 5 cups).
- Place the cloths you want to sun print onto in the soda ash solution. Use a paint brush or gloved hands to saturate them – not your naked hands – this solution is highly alkaline. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.
- While that’s soaking, mix your instant coffee in 2 cups of hot water and pour this into your spray bottle. Make sure it’s set to mist, not jet spray, or you’ll blast your leaves and letters right off.
- Prepare your plant matter, cut outs and oven trays.
- After 20 minutes, slip your gloves back on and retrieve your cloth from the soda ash solution.
- Wring them out and place them on the baking trays.
- Place the letters and some foliage onto your cloth.
- Spray from the top down with your diluted coffee mixture.
- Optional: If you’re just doing foliage, place a sheet of glass directly on top. This creates a very cool, high contrast speckled effect. Or place small stones on the leaves to keep them in place. This creates a more solid printing effect with higher contrast and clearer outlines.
- Leave in the midday sun for about 2 hours.
**Note on the letter cut-outs
I wanted to print the word ‘bread’ on my bags so I first tried it with paper cutouts. Unfortunately, the paper absorbs the coffee so the negative space below isn’t kept as free from the coffee stain. In this
sun printing project, an upcycled sheet of hard plastic (like what you would get from hardware or art paintbrush packaging) can be a real win. It won’t absorb the coffee stain, creates a strong print
outline, is heavier so they won’t blow away and can be re-used time and again. The cut off bits and letters can then go into an eco-brick of course!
The next step is CRUCIAL! Are the kids still fine with their moon sand or assortment of gemstones? Go pour yourself a glass of something refreshing, find the nearest recliner, couch or hammock and lie
there for as long as you can marveling at the sound of birds, the blue sky, the dappled light of summer tree canopies and cloud shapes. If you even look at your phone your craft project will flop.
You can have a look after an hour, minimum, but it’s best to leave until the cloth is bone dry to the touch.
To set the print, give it a few goes under a very hot iron.