How to upcycle old clothes with eco printing

Hi Creative Mamas! Welcome to another great post about DIY fashion and upcycling. In this article I want to share with you how to eco print old clothes using natural materials and plant dyes.

Using eco printing techniques to transform and upcycle old clothes is really easy and quick! I am on a mission to foster a more sustainable fashion industry that can create beautiful fashion items at affordable prices.

These are great ideas to upcycle old clothing without using a sewing machine.

a collection of garments which have been eco printed in different ways, socks and t- shirts

The good thing is that if we learn natural dyeing, tie dyeing, eco printing, stamping or felting, to name a few fabric crafts, we can start recreating our wardrobes in a sustainable way that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Fast fashion is cheap, is low quality and it’s forever changing. My hope is that we can create a sustainable fashion model that is also affordable, it has a lot of quality and can bring us a lot of joy!

I want to show you different ways in which I have re created my wardrobe by using eco printing as a vehicle to transform old items (or new boring ones).

This process has been so much fun and has brought me a lot of joy. Each garment is unique and I have worn them many times since upcycling them! I feel like I have created a wardrobe which is truly my own style!

a pair of eco printed socks using birch leaves, pansies and marigold flowers

This article is relevant for both old garments and new garments as long as they natural fibers such as cellulose fibers (cotton fabric and linen fabric) or protein fibers (silk fabric or wool fabric).

Best plants for eco printing

Download your FREE List of the best 30 plants to eco print by completing the form below!

How to eco print cotton socks

You can eco print socks in a variety of ways and with lots of different fresh leaves and flowers. The photos below shows some socks that were printed by using birch leaves, marigold and pansies flowers.

I made these prints in a way that creates very defined results with clear space in between the prints.

several eco printed socks using birch leaves, pansies and marigold flowers

You can also add some extra color and effects to old socks by immersing part of them into a dye bath rather than steaming them separately.

The photo below shows a sock that was partly immersed in a eucalyptus dye bath for 40 minutes during the steaming process. (You can use a variety of natural dyes).

a sock which was eco printed by using oak leaves, birch leaves and gumtree leaves and then immersed inside a dye bath

How to eco print a silk top

I love upcycling old silk tops because I really like working with silk. I am always on the lookout for these types of tops every time I go into thrift stores.

The photos below shows 2 different tops which were eco printed with coreopsis flowers and birch leaves (first top), and oak leaves which were dipped in iron (second top).

a silk top which was eco printed using coreopsis flowers and birch leaves
a silk top which was eco printed using coreopsis flowers and birch leaves

I have used this top below so many times since I printed it. I keep getting compliments on it!

a silk top which was eco printed using coreopsis flowers and birch leaves and then placed inside an iron bath

How to eco print a cotton shirt

This is a cotton top which I bought 15 years ago. I used it so much and it was starting to show it’s age. So I decided to upcycle it in a fun way to match my socks!

I eco printed it using onion skins and blue pansies and an iron modifier bath. I was super happy with the results and it gave this old shirt a new life!

a cotton shirt which was eco printed and upcycled using onion skins

How to upcycle old t-shirts

The following garments are different creative ways in which you can use eco printing techniques to upcycle different types of cotton t-shirts. I used various eco printing mordants to create different effects as well as different colors.

The photo below shows a top which has a silk front and it is made out of organic cotton. It was nice to play with a garment that had silk and cotton because it printed so differently.

Using different fabrics is a great way to enhance your eco printing efforts because the prints will be inherently different without much effort on your part.

a cotton and silk top which was upcycled by eco printing marigold flowers

I used marigold entire flowers as well as petals to create very clear and defined prints.

a cotton and silk top which was upcycled by eco printing marigold flowers

The t-shirt below was printed by using a tannin mordant bath and an iron blanket technique. I used gumtree leaves, coreopsis flowers and silver dollar leaves.

a cotton t shirt upcycled by eco printing leaves and mordanting in a  tannin solution and using an iron bath
a cotton t shirt upcycled by eco printing leaves and mordanting in a  tannin solution and using an iron blanket


The t-shirt below was eco printed by using a combination of eco printing and natural dyeing techniques.

a cotton t shirt upcycled by eco printing with natural dyes such as cochineal

The great thing is that you can use a variety of different natural dyes in combination with eco printing to create unique clothing pieces.

For this t- shirt I used cochineal dye.

a cotton t shirt upcycled by eco printing with natural dyes such as cochineal

The cotton t-shirt below was eco printed using eucalyptus leaves and maple leaves. These leaves were completely dried and I re hydrated them just before using them.

a cotton t shirt which was eco printed using dried eucalyptus leaves

You can see the lovely marks that they produced. Both leaves are high in tannin content so they are great to dry and use at a later date.

a cotton t shirt which was eco printed using dried eucalyptus leaves

How to eco print with a dye blanket

I love using blankets in eco printing and I totally love using color dye blankets. The photo below shows a pink tote bag which was made out of silk that I eco printed using a cochineal blanket.

Eco printing with blankets is a great way to create positive and negative color shapes when you are using plant material which doesn’t have good dyeing properties.

It’s also its a great way to experiment with a traditional natural dyeing method using different natural dyes such as onion skins, cochineal, avocado dye and black walnut.

You can create your own upcycled sustainable fabrics by printing on old bedding and linen.

eco printed tote bags using a cochineal dye blanket

How to upcycle a cotton shopping bag

Eco printing on cotton shopping bags is super satisfying. Below you can see how I upcycled one of these cotton tote bags by printing with oak tree leaves, hibiscus and marigold petals.

eco printed cotton tote bag

I hope you have enjoyed these upcyling ideas using eco prints and playing around with different plant materials and techniques.

If you want to dive deeper into the world of eco printing check out The Eco Printing on Fabric Course!

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