Recently Kathryn and myself had the absolute pleasure of visiting a primary school to run an educational program for a day with the Foundation (prep) students.
The school has a Japanese language focus and so we included in our presentation some Japanese concepts of Zero Waste and Eco-Printing.
Students then had the opportunity to make a Takaki Zome (or botanically printed) library bag.
There was a lot of prep work for the activity, but on the day it ran smoothly and the kids had an amazing and very engaged time.
We have been researching different eco-printing and natural dying methods for our own products. You may not yet know that all of the beautiful colours in The Keeper range are naturally dyed using plant extracts not chemical dyes. We also use henna to print our bread and mushroom bags and more recently have explored printing with petals for our lunch bags.
For this activity we wanted to stick to traditional Japanese methods that were also easy for younger children to do. Many eco printing methods require steaming or heat which is not practical on a large scale. There was also the mordant to consider. Many eco-dying techniques use 'safe' but not food grade mordants. A mordant is what helps the colours bind to the fabric. With our henna printing we don't need to use one as the wax finish helps to set the colours.
So we researched Japanese methods and found that soy milk had been traditionally used as a mordant in ancient Japan.
Strictly speaking soy milk is not a mordant, but a binder. The protein in the milk binds to the fibres in fabric and enhances the colour uptake. It does not form any chemical bond between the fibre and the dyestuff, but it does help them be more colourfast like a mordant would.
We made our own soy milk from organic soya beans and our Nut Milk bags then we soaked our Muslin Bags in our home made soy for a day and dried and cured them for a month.
WOW that was some effort just to get the bags ready!
For the activity we also needed to gather fresh flowers, leaves and other botanicals.
We were blown away by the generosity of a local 'Buy Nothing' group who allowed us to come into their gardens and gather what we needed for the day. We ended up with an amazing variety and volume of flower and leaves for the children to use. In the spirit of Mottainai (zero waste) the teachers kept the leftover flowers to use for craft activities when the day was done. So sweet.