The lovely ladies running this blog suggested I’d write a tutorial of sorts, to keep with the handmade spirit. I thought about showing you how to sew something super easy for a while, but the truth is there already are tons of tutorials for tote bags and pillow covers on the internet, and most of them do a better job explaining things than I ever could. So instead I’m going to show you a neat printing technique that works really well on fabric! You can use it to make patches to decorate your clothes, or turn the fabric into a tote bag. Or a pillowcase. Endless possibilities!
The technique I’m showing you is called lino cut, and the good thing is you only need to buy about four things. Five if you don’t own any spare fabric. Most of it isn’t crazy expensive though! You’ll need a piece of linoleum, a set of carving knives (most art shops sell budget versions of these that are perfectly fine for lino, just don’t try woodblock carving with them), a brayer (again, small budget types are available! You don’t need a huge one for a project like this), printing ink (I have block printing ink especially for fabrics so I can wash my things on 40° regularly, but oil-based block printing ink works fine as well). You’ll also need paper, a pencil, pieces of fabric, a smooth piece of plastic or cardboard and a spoon.
First we need a design, of course! You can basically do whatever you want, but solid shapes work best for visual impact (and are far easier to cut). You can always use one of the finer knives to add texture. The most important thing to remember is that your final print is going to be a mirror image of what you carve, so make sure all text is mirrored!
Draw the design onto the linoleum using a pencil. Before you start carving it’s a good idea to test your knives in a spare piece of linoleum, just to get used to the feel. Remember: you can carve away, but you can’t add anything! So if you slip, a whole lot of work is ruined.
Use the fine v-point knife to carve around the outline and add texture (like the hairs in my bat drawing). Proceed with a larger knife to remove linoleum around the outline, and then use the largest knife to cut the rest away. Try to get the background as smooth as possible if you want it to be clean! I also cut the rest of the lino away because there’s nothing there and I don’t need the borders for accurate positioning (as you would when printing on paper with a press)
Now onto the easiest part! Squeeze a small amount of ink onto your smooth surface and spread it with the brayer. Once it’s spread evenly you can use the brayer to put a layer of ink on your lino block. Roll it in a few different directions, making sure the entire thing is evenly covered. The place a piece of fabric on top of the block and start rubbing it with the rounded part of a spoon. Small, circular motions work well, and make sure you get all the edges and points! The advantage of using fabric is that you can usually see the design through the back and easily spot missed parts. When you think you’re done, carefully remove the fabric and admire your genius.
It might take a few tries before you get the hang of exactly how much ink your block needs and how long or hard it needs to be rubbed. Once you get it though, you can create a whole load of patches to decorate all your favourite jean jackets…
- AnnekeRead Anneke Caramin’s introduction post here and all her other posts here.