In Block Printing/Design/ Favorite Projects/ Portfolio

Adventures in Block Printing

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It’s no secret that I have an interest in fabric design. It’s something I’ve been studying and practicing in hope that one day I’ll have a pretty awesome portfolio to pitch. Though as much as I love digital design, I’ve had a real urge to step away from the computer lately. Not only to keep the tendinitis at bay, but also to create something a little more directly with my hands. I’m fascinated with some of the “old world” printing techniques still popular in India and Japan, so I decided to give block printing a shot.

I wanted to start with something small, so I bought the Speedball deluxe block printing kit for beginners and sketched out some ideas for a handmade Valentine. ‘Tis the season, after all.

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The kit comes with both a traditional hard linoleum block, as well as one “Speedy-Carve” rubber-y block. I tried to carve the hard block first and realized immediately that my wrists wouldn’t hold up trying to work in that material, so I switched to the Speedy Carve. Let me tell you, that floppy pink block is FANTASTIC. I was able to work for hours without any pain or discomfort, and all of my lines still looked sharp. I already bought more for future projects.

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My design was inspired by the 1948 Swedish greeting card I posted about last month and I’m super happy with the way it came out! I suppose my design was a bit ambitious for my first block print since high school (ten+ years ago), but I was pretty confident I could make it work, especially after watching a bunch of tutorials on YouTube and Vimeo. It’s funny how driving the lino cutter around the block reminded me so much of feeding fabric through my machine. It felt “right”.

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I found the process of carving the block extremely satisfying. Once I started, I couldn’t stop!! I completely lost track of time, but I know I spent a good few hours just gouging out little chunks of pink.

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I told myself I didn’t care if the block ended up being a complete failure because I was having so much fun with the process. It’s rare that I try something for the first time and feel an instant connection (usually I have to try something a few times before I can decide if I want to commit or give up and try something else – hence the reason I owned a guitar for about 3 months in high school, and why the running shoes I bought two summers ago still look brand new) but I definitely feel a connection with block printing. I’m hooked!

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If you follow me on instagram you already saw the “live feed” yesterday from start to finish, but I enjoyed making the prints so much I had to blog about it too. I’m so excited to try printing on fabrics next! The Speedball kits only include the water soluble paper inks, so now I’m researching good oil based fabric inks that I can still use in a non-industrial setting (aka my kitchen).

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I swear I type so much it feels like I forgot how to write. Oi. I need to work on my handwriting and my signature haha! Aside from me being overly critical of my work (I’m kind of notorious for that) I’m really, really pleased with how my Valentines turned out. I think the special friends and family in my life will enjoy getting them in the mail. …I’m definitely going to keep one for myself too πŸ˜‰

Have you ever tried block printing before? A lot of people mentioned they haven’t had any experience with it outside of grade/high school either, and if that’s the case I highly recommend trying it again! I was surprised how affordable it was to get started, and how addicting it is to plan and carve a design.

MUST BLOCK PRINT ALL THE THINGS!!!!

xo
Rochelle

p.s. If my prints have inspired you, you’ve got to check out Andrea Lauren’s print work. That woman is my new idol.

  • These are beautiful! I’d love to try carving one of those blocks. I did homemade letterpress invitations for my wedding, but I designed my block in InDesign and had it printed on a polymer plate. It would be so rewarding to cut the block by hand!

  • Lucy

    I have never thought of using this process before since I considered it only for scrapbooking. You just opened my eyes to possibilities, like on fabric! I’m a quilter but I love to sew garments as well as knit and crochet. There is just not enough hours in a day to do it all. I love this!

  • This is so beautiful and inspiring! I’ve been wanting to try for forever. Maybe now I will. πŸ™‚

  • The passionate paper crafter in me is dancing a happy jig right now! Gloriously lovely, and very (very!) sweet, design and creations using it, dear gal. I’m smitten!

    Happiest Valentine’s week wishes,
    β™₯ Jessica

  • Anna | Mormor hade stil

    Wow! It’s adorable!

  • This looks amazing! I’m signed up for a taster course next week to try screen printing. I was looking forward to it anyway but having seen this I am super excited!

  • Rochelle, these are so beautiful! Anyone would be lucky to receive one of these.

  • Samantha Nagtegaal

    Hello πŸ™‚ I just came across your gorgeous blog and had to comment on this stunning print. You obviously have a hidden talent you’ve just uncovered – your print is absolutely stunning, and the block looks really beautiful too. I did lino cutting at school (which looks like the same thing) and a lot of printmaking at uni, including some lino cuts, but more hard and soft ground etching and aquatints. (I did have to scratch my head then to remember what those methods were called; how long ago that feels!) I’m now going to nose through some more of your blog πŸ™‚

    X Sam

    http://www.wingsofgoose.blogspot.com

    • You’re so sweet, Sam! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such an encouraging comment πŸ™‚

  • Beautiful! I did some block printing when I was in school and I really liked it!

    • Thanks! Don’t you love it? I swear I want to turn the whole world on to block printing haha! So fun. I’m itching to start printing some fabric ASAP πŸ™‚

  • I’ve never tried block printing but I could see how the process of carving would be as therapeutic as sewing. Want to send me some snail mail with your designs? πŸ™‚

    • It’s definitely therapeutic! I’ll email you πŸ˜‰

  • Your block printing skills are amazing! I’m still in school, and I’m block printing dragonflies for my final piece at the moment. Instead of using the proper equipment I used a foam pizza base and a compass to etch out the design. It worked out pretty well! I’d like to do it properly at some point though.

    • Thank you so much, Lauren! I bet your dragonfly print looks beautiful πŸ™‚

  • When I cover classes in the art room I see the kids doing that and it looks so cool! It looks really good Rochelle! If I was one of your close friends/family members, I’d be impressed when one came in the mail!

  • jannapyj

    Wow! Your first block and you shot for the moon, and totally nailed it! I haven’t tried carving blocks, but my sister does. Maybe I’ll bug her to let me give it a go. I’m like you and prefer to test things out until I know if I’m really going to enjoy it.

    I do a lot of designs on fabric with paint. I wonder how well the stamps would work with fabric paint? I use acrylic paint with a fabric medium added.

    JJ
    http://www.dressupnotdown.blogspot.com

    • Thank you! They make fabric specific inks for block printing. I just bought a few Speedball brand ones to try. I did notice the water based block printing inks I tried first dried SUPER quickly and left my prints a bit crumbly looking. The oil based inks work much better, especially with the pink rubber-y blocks, in my experience so far πŸ™‚

  • Elisabeth McClure

    Ahh! I did some in college (which was…10+ years ago!! LOL) and I still have the rubber blocks I carved but I should pull them out again. It really is fun and relaxing as I recall. I am impressed with your first effort!

    • Thanks! You should definitely give it another try. It’s so much fun πŸ™‚

  • That looks so fun!

    • You should seriously try it! I think you’d love it. A Simpsons block print would probably turn out pretty awesome πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

      • The gears are turning now! πŸ™‚

  • I already saw a bunch of this on Instagram, but I wanted to say it again – these prints are AMAZING! I’m so happy that this is something that you connected with, and I’m really excited to see more. (And those final paper prints are gorgeous – you have nothing to be hard on yourself about, in my opinion!)

    • Thank you so much! You’re so sweet πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  • Kim Covell-Campbell

    Pretty!!!!

  • Very beautiful! I’ve tried block printing before, but I used this awful hard grey stuff which was a real pain to carve. I really want to try again with the pink block now!

    • Thank you! You should definitely try again with the pink block. It changes everything! πŸ™‚

  • This is so cool- I am inspired!

  • How beautiful! I remember doing this in high school too. I really enjoyed it then. Some printed tea towels would look really cool with this print.

    • Oooo yes! Tea Towels! My mom actually said the same thing. An excellent idea πŸ˜‰

    • Angie

      That is an amazing idea! I may have to try this again… It never occurred to me that this high school skill would work on fabric too.

  • Laney

    The prints came out beautifully! I actually have some old wooden print blocks I was thinking of using to print on fabric and wrapping paper – thanks for the inspiration! If you still want to try and use the regular linoleum block included in the kit you can actually soften it up by microwaving it for a few seconds – you’d have to repeat that process as you go, but it may make it usable for you.

    • Thanks! and you’re welcome πŸ˜‰ Great tip about heating the block. I’m looking on a forum now and apparently a hair dryer works well too!

  • We did this my senior year of high school in art class. I chose the Andy Warhol picture of Marilyn Monroe and I really wish I still had it.

    • I bet that looked beautiful as a print! Maybe you could make another one? πŸ˜‰

  • By the way, I should warn you that even carving blocks in a softer material can be very straining. I usually work with something not as hard as the conventional lino, but still hard enough to be able to go through a press, and I really try to not do it for too long at a time as it is very hard on my hands, neck and shoulders.

  • Speedball makes a block printing ink especially for fabrics, which works really well. You need to let it dry at room temperature for about a week and then it can be washed on 40Β°Celcius. I’ve been using it for a while to print fabric patches and other things.

    • I’m looking at the inks on their website now. I’m definitely going to try some πŸ™‚

  • I remember block printing well and how much I enjoyed it! Speedball makes silk screening inks which are ideal for fabrics. I think they’ll be fine for block printing, too. Your print is so beautiful and the recipients are very lucky to be getting them!

    • You should try it again, Sarah! I’m sure you’d still enjoy it πŸ™‚

  • Hannah StrΓΆm

    For more swedish inspiration, google “kurbits” πŸ™‚

    • !!!!! Thank you so much! I would have never known what that style of design is called, though I’ve seen it a lot. It’s so beautiful!

  • So happy for you. The design is lovely! I think you have potential as a fabric designer!

  • Oh, WOW, I wanna try this!!!!!

    • You’d totally love it!!! You should definitely give it a try.

  • Donna

    Count me as inspired!!

  • Lisette

    I loved doing it in high school art! Yours came out much better than any of mine though. One of my good friends actually became a block printing artist. I have some of her prints that I need to hang up!
    You should try Jacquard textile dyes. That’s what we use in pretty much every costume shop I’ve worked in. I think Martha Stewart did an article on this too a while back, I don’t remember what she used but here’s the link: http://www.marthastewart.com/906821/block-printing/@center/276982/craft-tools-and-projects#904331

    • Thanks for the link, and I’m searching for Jacquard brand inks now. I can totally see how one would want to become a block printing artist. So much fun!

      πŸ™‚