The block printing mania continues! In my last post I reviewed six carving blocks and I gave you my humble opinion regarding the pros and cons of each. In the course of this block carving odyssey, I tried out a linoleum block, which I hated. The carving was really difficult and the print (as you can see) was pretty bad.
I was making this pillow case for my lovely niece Breanna who loves owls…and since I ran out of pillow cases and I couldn’t order more (because they’re on back order at Dharma Trading), I decided to try to salvage this one. My first step was to insert a piece of clear vinyl between my fabric (to prevent any bleed through). Then I set about to cover the whole thing with black ink.
I initially tried to put the ink on with a little roller, but that didn’t work very well. I needed to roll over the same spots repeatedly and I seemed to be using a ton of ink. So, I grabbed one of my daubers (bottom left corner below) and I gave that a go. This worked much better!
When I was finished, I set my pillow case outside to dry in the sun. Here it is, the color isn’t completely solid but I’m okay with that.
Now it’s time to carve! After a little poking around on my niece’s Pinterest boards 🙂 I noticed that she has a thing for lotus flowers so I decided to incorporate them into my design.
But I digress…before the designing and carving bit you will need to work out the size of your carving block. In this case, since my pillow cover is 16 x 16 inches I decided to make my block 4 x 4 inches (using my favorite Soft-Kut blocks) so that I can get a nice pattern going. I first discovered the pattern making technique that I will be using when I saw Julie Balzer’s amazing pins on Pinterest. However, I soon realized that making patterns by assembling small pieces to form a whole goes WAY back to ancient times…like Mesopotamian mosaics and tile work. Not to mention quilt making which dates to ancient Egypt.
Now that you have your block cut and ready to go you will need to draw a grid – actually this isn’t mandatory but it will help you immensely when you’re drawing your design. Mind you, this is coming from someone who is all too happy to freehand something! However, soon after diving into this technique I realized that precision is super important when you’re trying to create a repeating pattern.
Now it’s time for the fun part! I found a picture of a lotus flower that I used as a starting point…the rest I made up.
Next, simply carve out all of your lines with your smallest carving tool. This will give you a little “moat” that will help you to stay in the lines when you begin to remove more material.
Now you need to think about your positive and negative space or what you want to print and what you want to remain the background color. Grab a larger tool and begin carving the block to create your “negative”space (the color of your fabric).
Pretty, right?! Next you will need to do a test print on paper with a regular ink pad. This is a super important step, so don’t skip it! This print will allow you to see your lines much more clearly and it will enable you to determine where you need to do a bit more carving. I always discover areas that need more carving when I do this…and I’m always excited to get an idea of how my design is coming together. 🙂
After carving a bit more out here and there, this is my block.
Next you will need to find the center of your fabric. I typically fold my fabric in half in both directions and I press it with an iron to get my center. However, since I already had my vinyl in place and since my fabric is black, it seemed easier to just mark off the center using a ruler and some white chalk.
Alright so now for the printing part…I’m using Super Opaque White Ink by Versatex. I put the ink onto a piece of plexi that I picked up at Home Depot (you can use glass or any other hard, flat surface) and I rolled it out with my brayer. Please note that this ink is quite thick and the open time is short so it’s best to work quickly.
Next, I rolled my ink onto my block with my brayer as smoothly and evenly as possible.
I then lined up the top left corner of my block with the center of my pillow case and I carefully laid my inked block down. Be sure to press smoothly and evenly on the back side of your block. I have found that my fingers work just fine but some people use rollers or burnishers to get firmer pressure on their blocks. You can lift up a corner and take a peek at your print to make sure that your ink is transferring well. If it’s not, simply place it back down and apply more pressure.
When I got about seven blocks in, I started to notice a decline in my print quality. I think that the ink was starting to dry on the block so I cleaned it off before continuing.
Once you have finished printing let your piece dry completely and heat set it for 1-3 minutes with an iron.
Here it is, what do you think? I like the white on black combo and I think that the design is cool but for a minute the lotus flowers looked like pot leaves…yikes! PLEASE tell me that I’m imagining things because that is NOT what I was going for!!!