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  • Tataki Zome: How to use flowers to create gorgeous T-shirts

Tataki Zome: How to use flowers to create gorgeous T-shirts

If you have a love of nature and revel in having something unique, eco-friendly and personal, then a Tataki Zome is perfect for you.

What is Tataki Zome?

Tataki Zome comes from the Japanese 'Hammering-Dye' and is a technique of dyeing fabrics by hammering flower heads and leaves (which possess natural dyes), against fabric, to produce detailed prints. I discovered it as part of my contribution to our #30DaysWild Challenge. I thought it would be a great way for the whole team to get closer to nature and experience how other cultures around the world interact with the natural world.

It is credited to the prominent artist and expert in natural dyes, India Flint, who has been experimenting with how to get dyes out of plants for many years. According to her, the technique has probably been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. She called the technique Hapa Zome (Leaf-dye) because of the leaves she used in her work. Tataki Zome is a surprisingly simple way of creating stunning designs on fabric without the need for artificial or industrially created dyes. When done well, you are able to see clearly the shape and details of the plant you are using.

Taking part in Tataki Zome gives you an idea of how people lived and created clothing they loved many years before mass-produced apparel became the norm. If you have a love of nature and revel in having something unique, eco-friendly and personal, then a Tataki Zome print is perfect for you.

What you will need

To get started and create your own Tataki Zome, you will need:

    • A surface that can take a hammering - we used wide logs, but you could also layer cardboard, as this will absorb some of the impact.
    • A plain white T-shirt, cloth (or whatever it is you want to dye!)
    • A collection of different flowers and leaves to use - having a quality set of snips will make your flower collection and deadheading much easier.* 
    • A hammer to beat the flowers against the fabric. You need to hit hard, so our kindling sledgehammer is a good option

  • Kitchen roll to cover the flowers.

*If you are collecting flowers and leaves from the wild, make sure to be responsible and only pick safe flowers from areas where the species is abundant. Even better, pick already fallen leaves and flowers from the ground! Alternatively, reduce wastage from your local florist by getting bouquets past their best.

The Method

  1. Lay your white fabric flat over the beating surface, making sure there are no crinkles. You could slide in some cardboard to help it stay flat. Using a natural surface will cause other patterns to emerge on your fabric, like the concentric circles of a log.

  2. Arrange fresh flowers in a pattern on top of your fabric, we found darker colours like purple and leaf green were the easiest to transfer, with lighter colours not showing up quite as well.⁠

  3. Cover your flowers with the kitchen roll, this will help hold your flowers in place when you hit them.⁠ We also tried using cardboard, however we found it absorbed too much impact from the hammer strikes, making it less suitable.

  4. With your hammer, repeatedly hit the flowers hard until you can see dye forming on the kitchen roll. ⁠You will need to hit the flowers as hard as you can whilst remaining safe - watch out for those thumbs!

  5. Gently lift off the kitchen roll and brush away any residue flowers and leaves to reveal your completely unique Tataki Zome design.

  6. Once you have finished, examine your new print, which flowers worked well, which would you change next time? With endless options for customisation and design, you will quickly be able to produce more and more intricate prints.

  7. To keep the dye for longer, iron your fabric to help seal the colours.⁠ Avoid washing in the washing machine, instead wash your new T-shirt by hand in a weak washing solution.

Tataki Zome is a great activity to try out with kids, who will love the idea of creating their own clothes. Just make sure that they are supervised at all times and take over for the hammering, especially for young children who might not be strong enough to transfer the dye.

How the Worm team did

The Worm that Turned Summer party was the perfect opportunity to teach the other members of the team how to do Tataki Zome. There there was much discussion about what word to use to describe the actual process, whether we adapt the Japanese word or drop it entirely for 'Flower Pounding' because of what a tongue twister the original Japanese can be (although I was surprised to know I wasn't the only Japanese speaker in the team, with developer Warren also knowing a little!). In the end it was decided that we would be Tataki Zoming. Afterwards, some of the team took their designs even further by using a pen to sketch outlines and shapes to give their designs more definition.

The results were great, I loved how enthusiastic everyone was, it really showed what a great activity Tataki Zome can be, regardless of artistic experience! Each design was completely unique to the individual, I've chosen three that I particularly liked to share with you so you can see what is possible:

The Worm that Turned's Tatami Zome T-shirts

Some fun facts about Tataki Zome and Flower Printing

  • One of the largest⁠ pieces of Tataki Zome art was created in 2006, India Flint created a 6m by 6m square print of a forest floor for a production of Wanderlust.
  • Instead of art, flower printing was originally used in Ancient Greece by pharmacologists in their medical works.
  • A Leonardo Da Vinci manuscript contains a print of a sage leaf, including instructions for how to do it.
  • Tataki Zome is not just for flowers and leaves, you can also use berries, moss or even some bark!
  • Tataki Zome is part of Japan's rich cultural heritage, it reflects the country's emphasis on craftsmanship, attention to detail, and reverence for nature.

If you decide to take part in the art of Tataki Zome, we would love to see the gorgeous designs you come up with! Please send pictures to us via our Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or email them to customerservices@worm.co.uk!


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