How to Block Print Fabrics: Tips on Cushion Printing and Tea Towel Printing

by Wendy Croxford

in Tips & Ideas

23 Nov 2015  | 2 Comments

Whether you’re an artist, a craft lover or simply looking for a creative way to spend a Sunday afternoon, block printing on fabric to create cushion covers or tea towels is easy and quick, and delivers beautiful results. Using non-toxic, water-based inks, you can transform your old cushions into works of art, or start afresh with new cushion covers for a stunning updated look.

Printing Cushions

You can create some beautiful hand-printed cushions using block printing like these.

Here are some tips to get you started on DIY fabric printing.

Your tool kit

First up, you’ll need to create a printing block.  There are rubber blocks (Ezy Carve is one brand available), linoleum blocks and wood blocks. Some people even use vegetables (such as a potato or a turnip) to carve out their design! You can buy the blocks from craft stores, online or simply make your own block with a piece of wood. You’ll also need a pencil, carving tool, a palette or a piece of cardboard and a sponge roller to transfer the ink.

Block Printing
Ezy Carve blocks are easy to use when carving out your block print design.

Choosing a water-based, non toxic screen printing ink is the perfect option for Permaset eco-friendly, water-based inks, as it’s easy to clean up, non-toxic for you to use, and great for the environment. Most fabrics are fine to print on, however unbleached cottons and linens are some of the best choices for cushion covers and for printing tea towels.  Blank tea towels can be purchased online or from your local fabric or craft store.

The printing block

This is where you can get really creative and design patterns for your textile print. You can either carve patterns, shapes or words into the printing block, or use a hot glue gun to secure objects such as buttons onto it in order to make your design.

If you’re gluing objects to the block, mark out the pattern to ensure you achieve the desired look before starting to glue. For carving, draw your design on the block. Keep in mind that the uncarved areas will be the ones printing onto the fabric, and that you’ll be carving backwards in the case of words or objects that need to face in a certain direction.

The printing process

One you’ve carved or glued objects on to your block, it’s a good idea to do a test on a piece of paper before you transfer your art to the material. Place some ink on your palette or cardboard, ensuring that the surface is flat, and roll it until the ink is evenly spread on the foam roller. Roll the ink over your printing block and turn it quickly down onto the paper. When you’re happy with the result, you’re ready to print your cushion cover or tea towel.

Mandragora Prints

Lovely block printed tea towel by Mandragora Prints using Permaset water-based inks.

Place a towel on a flat surface first, to ensure your fabric won’t slip while you’re creating your art, then place your cushion cover (or tea towel) over it. Carefully consider where you want to start and end your pattern and what direction you want it to follow.

Cover your block in ink with your foam roller, turn it over and push it down firmly onto your fabric. Once you do this, make sure you don’t move it around, to avoid a messy print. Lift it up to reveal your print and repeat until you’ve completed your design. If you decide to create an overlapping pattern, make sure the ink has dried before you commence with the next layer. You can use a second colour, however make sure your first colour is dry first, particularly if you are overlapping your design.

As you go, you’ll begin to develop an idea of how much ink is best to enhance your design.

Repeat Patterns of tea towels

An example of a block printed repeat pattern by Octopus Ink Clothing, Alaska.

Curing Your Print

If using Permaset eco-friendly, water-based inks, you will need to cure your block printed design by ironing over it.  To do this, grab some brown paper or baking paper, put that over your design, set your iron to Medium, and iron over your design for 1 minute. Then take a little break to let the print cool for a moment, and continue to iron it for another minute.

This setting or curing of the ink, will mean that you can wash the cushion cover or tea towel without the colours running.

Leave your fabric to cool and dry and step back to admire your very own block printed creation!



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