DIY: Block Prints

By Sarah Fanguy - KEX Junior Project Manager

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Pillows are a great way to add color and pattern to a space, but sometimes it can be hard to find the perfect fit. I offer a solution that is both fun and budget friendly- just make it yourself! Block printing is an ancient art form that is essentially carving a stamp to create a print. It is a creatively challenging, yet simple process that produces beautiful, one of a kind designs. Not only are you able to customize completely based off of your own personal vision and space, but you will have created something unique and special of which you can be proud! 

*This same process can be applied to any decorative fabric including table runners, draperies, or upholstery.

STEP 1 : SUPPLIES

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The first step is to gather supplies. I chose to use the linocut method, but there are many substitutions that can achieve the same goal; wood blocks, rubber blocks, and even potato stamps are all valid methods. I also went with a premade pillowcase, but you can print directly onto fabric and use it to sew pillows or whatever your heart desires. 

*All supplies can be found at your local craft store or online.

-Pillow Form

-Premade Pillowcase

-Plastic Tray (for inking)

-Block Printing Carving Tool 

-Block Print Fabric Ink

-Brayer 

-Linoleum block

STEP 2 : DRAWING OUT THE DESIGN

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When sketching out designs be sure to consider how it will look when repeated. For example, I wanted my design to act as a vertical stripe, so I drew a leaf that would fit into one another from top to bottom. Also keep in mind the amount of space left on each edge of the block as that amount will be doubled when printing- the spacing is determined by the entire block, not just the design. The great part about block printing is that the design doesn’t need to be complex- the real magic comes from the variation and texture from the ink transfer.

STEP 3 : TRANSFERRING THE DESIGN

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If your design is drawn dark enough and you can see it from the back, you can flip it onto the block and trace it. This transfers the graphite to the block keeping you from having to redraw the design. 

STEP 4 : CARVING 

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It is extremely important to remember that it is the parts of the block that are UNCARVED that will be inked. This means that you will probably want to carve AROUND your design instead of carving it out. If I would have carved out the leaves of my design, they would have been left blank with an inked background. Don’t be afraid of imperfections- they actually add to the character and texture of the finished product. 

STEP 5 : INKING THE BLOCK

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This part is simple. Just spread the ink on the tray with the brayer then roll it onto the block. You don’t want too much ink, but a thick enough layer so that it becomes tacky. If you find spots receiving ink that you would like to remove, simply wash the block and carve them out.

STEP 6 : STAMPING

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After the stamp is inked (quickly before it dries) place it onto the fabric, being very careful not to smudge. Press and rub the back of the stamp without moving it, you can use your hand or a flat object. You may want to lift one end at a time without letting it slide to see how the ink is transferring and press harder on the missing areas. Continue to stamp the entire surface- if you are having trouble lining them up, make a small light mark with a pencil on each corner. Read the instructions on the ink- but the drying time is typically several days.

STEP 7 : SHOWING IT OFF

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Place your new one of a kind accent piece in your space and proudly accept all compliments. If you think people will be impressed by how great it looks, just wait until you tell them you made it yourself!

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