make fern prints!

screen print with ferns! no ink needed, just a fern and its chlorophyll will do. i’m posting this now as we’re well into fall, and who knows what will happen weather-wise. i’d guess we have a few more weeks before snow flies, so do your fern prints soon!

before i jump you to the instructions, credit is due to author lynn brunelle, who’s book camp out!: the ultimate kids’ guide was featured on npr’s science friday on august 24. while lynne talked about fern printing as an activity for kids to do while camping, a light bulb went off in my head – why can’t us grown-ups do it to? we can screen print without the ink!

over labor day weekend, i bought some t-shirts at old navy and i printed shirts with friends. this weekend, i printed on white linen dish towels (4 for $8 at crate & barrel). you can also print on table runners, place mats, napkins, pillow cases, and more! if it’s fabric, you can print on it. white and light colors are best.

you’ll need:

- fabric to print on
- hammer (a hammer is best, rubber mallets just don’t cut it)
- old towel
- hard surface
- paper towel
- fresh fern leaf

and off you go!

  1. find a hard and stable surface, like a concrete driveway, sidewalk, or a large board placed on a table. lay the towel down first to protect both the surface you’ll be pounding on and the fabric. place the fabric on the towel. decide where you’d like your fern print to be on whatever you’re printing onto. note: if you are printing on a t-shirt, bag, or pillow case, cut up a paper grocery bag and place it insert it inside. otherwise, you will end up with a print on the front and the back.
    fern placement
  2. put a paper towel over the fern. grab your hammer, and pound away, firmly, and make sure the fern doesn’t move. you’ll see the chlorophyll appear on the paper towel while it’s also transferring onto your fabric.
    pounding the fern
    it’s ok to gently peel away the paper towel to make sure you’ve pounded the entire fern, but be careful not to move the fern.
  3. when you think you are done, carefully lift off the paper towel. there may be pieces of fern on your fabric – let those dry and lightly brush them off (otherwise you may smear the chlorophyll).
  4. set the print: you can either iron it, or toss your fabric into a dryer, set the temp on hot, tumble for about 10 minutes, and the “grass stain” should set! i also wash my fabric after the print has set, and then dry it again on high heat.

july 2008 update: janie of ragamuffins tried pounding flowers on water color paper. you’ve got to see the beautiful results!

12 responses to “make fern prints!”

  1. Shellyfish says:

    I’m totally bookmarking this!

  2. Sarah says:

    I just grabbed an old tee of Lola’s and gave this a try. I used a flat meat tenderizer. Also, instead of the dryer I used my iron to heat set the print. There are more fern prints in my future.

  3. Fern says:

    Thank you so much for cluing me in on this! I can see a lot of Fern prints in my future :D

  4. Pounded Flower Shirt « Three Sneaky Bugs says:

    [...] Jen’s fern printing tutorial and taking a cue from Spring Thinking I pounded out this shirt a couple weeks back. I had a bouquet [...]

  5. claire says:

    can you do this with any kind of leaves? – ps just found your blog via someone elses – fabulous.

  6. JuliaB says:

    WOW!! I am going to try this … the possibilities seem so endless!!

  7. Robyn says:

    Fascinating. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to try this. I found your post through Janie.

  8. karen says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing this. I was shopping for fern print pillows on the internet and found this. So much better than store bought! I can’t wait to try it!!
    also – your website is simply beautiful!

  9. Steffi says:

    You can also do this with flowers that have large petals like pansies!

  10. Hiskia says:

    Thanks for the idea, we had so much fun with this!! (also used your picture to share this idea on my blog, hope you don’t mind?)

  11. s stirling says:

    how long do you hammer? when i tried hammering a sword fern on paper it only transferred the stem, not the fronds…

  12. flyer printing in atlanta ga says:

    Thanks from Derrymore ;)