Monday, February 26, 2024

Eco-Dyeing: A Lake Merritt Quilt

Lake Merritt Eco-dyed Quilt

When in doubt or the the throws of depression: eco-dye! This project, a hand-stitched, eco-dyed quilt, involved days of foraging along the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. The fabric is flour-sack Lito linen towels that I order in bulk from Amazon for both the quality and affordability. The leaves include eucalyptus, Japanese Maple, and rose.


Leaf journal

But first, a word about tools and techniques. I have been using a blank journal — one of many given to me over the years by people who felt the need to proffer a gift but had no idea what to give. I am sure that you, too, have one lying around the house unused. This one has the advantage of a strong elastic cord attached to the journal that keeps it firmly closed when not in use. As I was starting this project I noticed just how unlovely the commercially-designed cover of the journal was. I used Modgepodge, a brown paper bag, and gold paint to transform the unlovely object. It turns out that if you generously slather on the Modgepodge, you can decoupage a leaf collage onto the surface that will endure rough handling.

Journal innards

By keeping a leaf journal, you are able to forage at random all year long, press the leaves, and tap this rich resource whenever the mood for eco-dyeing strikes you.

Now back to the quilt:

The quilt is comprised of two layers of linen. While the top layer features eco-dyed panels, the flip side employs a variety of patterns using bits of raw turmeric root tied or stitched into the cloth, boiled, and removed.

Turmeric panels

In the past I have used long rows of vertical stitching to hold the two sides of a quilt like this together. This time I experimented with stitching around some of the eco-dyed leaves on the top side of the quilt, which produces stitched ghost outlines of leaves on the turmeric-dyed side.

Stitched leaf silhouette

Look closely to see stitched border on leaves

Making a quilt like this — from the ambling walks to forage for leaves to the slow, mesmerizing practice of hand-stitching — is one of the best ways I know to tune in to the universe and be here now.


  1. What a lovely post. Keeping a leaf journal is such a wonderful idea. Do I understand correctly that you can use the dried leaves just as well as fresh leaves in the eco-dyeing process?

    1. Thanks Barbara. Yes, dried leaves work. The only issue is when/if they become too crumbly or brittle.


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