Donna’s Day: Hammer natural prints with garden leaves


By Donna Erickson

Signal Contributing Editor

Green leaves just don’t get the attention they deserve. Usually, we “ooh” and “aah” in the fall at the emerging splashy colors of crimson and golden leaves on trees and bushes. But there is infinite variety in the green and the gray of those leaves on trees, vegetable plants and bushes that continually grow, shade and add a natural umbrella in gardens and parks in the hottest of summer days.

Pick a handful of fresh leaves and sprouting greens from your trees, shrubs and vegetable garden, and look at them with your kids through a magnifying glass.

Observe their intricate patterns and delicate design, and then print them onto fabric with a zany technique using a hammer from the toolbox and your child’s muscle and energy.

First, collect the fresh green leaves. Ferns from an indoor floral bouquet also work well. Then, decide what you would like to print, such as a plain white or cream-colored cotton fabric T-shirt, an apron, potholder or library book bag. 

Cover a hard, flat surface such as a picnic table or wooden breadboard with plain paper bags. Set the fabric to be printed on top. If using a T-shirt or tote bag, place a sheet of wax paper or cardboard inside the shirt or bag.

Arrange a leaf or fern on the fabric (secure it in place with small pieces of masking tape, if you wish), and cover with a sheet of wax paper. Hammer over the wax-paper-covered leaf until its color has been absorbed into the fabric. It’s important that you hit every part of the leaf to release the natural pigments. Remove the leaf or fern and wax paper to reveal the natural image. Colors vary in intensity, so you may wish to test several varieties on a piece of scrap fabric first.

Repeat the process with additional leaves. Try it with a few flowers, too, and see how the beautiful colors from nature appear. Label each print with the name of the tree, plant or flower using a permanent marker.

Note he natural pigments may eventually fade. Wash fabric in cold water.

Extra idea ou also may use paper instead of fabric to create lovely stationery, gift tags or bookmarks.

Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

© 2020 Donna Erickson

Distributed by King Features Synd.

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