Hapa Zome or hot mess?

Followers on IG may have seen my hapa zome printing experiment and several of you asked for more detail.E91E8FDB-DF75-4C8F-8413-4819B01751C3

Hapa Zome is derived from the Japanese art of beating up leaves with hammers, where natural pigments are pounded into fabric. India Flint has a couple of pages dedicated to this in her book “Eco Colour” and I thought I would try it. I scoured my cloth by simmering it for a while in a soda ash and water solution. I was appalled at how much dirt came out. Look, let me show you! Keep in mind that all this fabric has already been laundered in the washing machine with detergent. Horrifying!


Moving on. I then mordanted the fabric in a soy milk solution, which I made by soaking soy beans in water overnight and then blitzing them and adding more water. I simmered the fabric in this solution and then let it sit for a few hours before hanging out to line dry.

Preparation done, I then gathered a few blossoms and leaves, laid them on one half of this linen square and folded the fabric over. I used red geranium flower, a geranium leaf and a sourgrass leaf.  I then had a lovely time hammering and watched with delight as an image bled through.


Opening up the fabric and that plant material is well shmooshed into the fabric.6817DDAD-F80E-42B0-9ADC-F963F50E4939

I brushed off the leaves and dried it off and posted it on IG. I was asked about washing it. Oh yes, much anxiety there!


I added a native wisteria stem and then attempted to set the dye with a dry iron and waited a couple of days before gently immersing in cold water. Yep, hot mess!


More research was needed!

I had recently found “Harvesting color” by Rebecca Burgess in an op shop (I swear I didn’t steal it from a library!) and noted that there was a description of plant pounding.


Rebecca suggests folding the plants into the fabric and then spraying the dry cloth with a soda ash mixture prior to pounding. What did I have to lose? I made a solution of 1tsp soda ash to 250mls of water, put it in a spray bottle, and sprayed my folded fabric. This time I added some red poinsettia leaves, a rather sad looking fresh coreopsis flower (also known as tickseed, and a little more native wisteria.


I folded the cloth over and sprayed and gasped. I could not believe my eyes! The red geranium went blue. Turquoise? Cerulean? Whatever. I was thrilled!


I used a rubber hammer and pounded away. The poinsettia did nothing so I discarded it, but added another geranium flower, a mint leaf, another native wisteria stem, and a sourgrass leaf (see the featured image). Another bit of spraying and pounding and voila!


Please note that the towel underneath will get stained. Don’t use a good one. I’m glad I used a white one as I was able to appreciate the beauty of the colours.


I hung the square on the line to dry and was saddened to see the colours faded considerably.


Although this is not as vibrant as the wet version, I can see that it has promise. I am testing the various flowers and leaves that are around at this time of the year. The red geraniums are outstanding, as are the leaves. The sourgrass leaves work really well and I’m sure the flowers will be excellent once they appear. The mint leaf just went to water, so no point in using that, and the native wisteria shows promise. I tried a pink frangipani leaf and it went to a mauve blob and I don’t think it’s worth pursuing.

I am considering this to be a work in progress and I shall be adding to it as I find flowers. I think I shall persist with the soda ash solution, but meanwhile the reading continues! I shall be back with a progress report.



25 thoughts on “Hapa Zome or hot mess?

  1. Following with interest. My friend does this on paper, but never thought of fabric!! Thanks for doing all the “leg work” to figure this out. I will ask my friend if she has any information that might help!

  2. I was just looking at a similar technique on Facebook. I should have tagged you on it as I thought of you when I watched it. It looks like a fascinating process … one that I just might be tempted to do. I think I will keep reading your blog first to learn as much as I can about the process! 🙂

  3. Too bad that these lovely colours faded away! There must be a way to save them and I’m confident you will find it. I have heard about eco-dyeing classes here in Montréal and I would be curious now to learn more about it.

  4. I’ve only ever dyed with plants – not pounded, though I love your geranium results. I was looking to see if I could find a fixative in the book “Weaving” by Shirley Held. It is ancient but has a very good section in the back with tables of plants, mordants etc. It suggests tin as a mordant for geraniums ( though that is dyeing) and says you can top mordant after dyeing to retain colour. It also says to dry away from strong light or heat. There’s a lot more detail which might be useful, I don’t know. Their scouring mixture includes alum too. Hope some of this is useful as it would be wonderful if you could retain the glorious colours. s.trish

    1. Thank you so much Trish! I did dry in the shade. My scouring mixture is soda ash, but perhaps I can top mordant. I am about to do a week long residential course and I’m hoping the teacher can shed light on it.

      1. That sounds ideal. Best of luck with your experiments. I look forward to hearing more. 😀

  5. I tried beating colour into fabric and it was blobby rather than distinct but I liked it anyway.
    One thing I have learned is to store any dyeing unwashed for a week or two – the colour faded less.

  6. I tried something similar with some friends awhile back, and just found the results when I was cleaning out my sewing room yesterday–must do something with them. I am forwarding this to my pals, because you got better colors than we did by using a hammer.

Leave a Reply