In Block Printing/Design/ Featured/ Portfolio

My First Block Printed Repeating Pattern

I’ve been dying to get back into block printing as it’s been quite awhile since my last project. I originally planned to do at least one block printed garment every month, starting in March, but I haven’t been making it a priority. Anyways, I’m back with some more block printing! I have to say, I’m unbelievably chuffed with how this came out. Yesterday evening was one of those situations where I picked up the block and said: I’m going to carve and print something RIGHT NOW or else I’ll keep putting it aside for “the weekend” and then another two months will fly by. Needless to say, I had no real plans for what I was doing. I grabbed the nearest writing utensil I could find and just started drawing shapes.


After I had some stuff drawn and carved on my block, I found the first decent sized chunk of solid colored fabric I had laying around to print on. I didn’t even bother ironing it because this was strictly supposed to be a “I just have to block print SOMETHING to get it out of my system” kind of project. Well, that was a mistake because it actually turned out pretty awesome!


The black Bic pen that happened to be the closest writing utensil I could find, also ended up being a mistake because the pen ink was coming off along with the white ink I started with. It all worked out in the end though because I like the contrast of the dark grey ink on the blue fabric better. I didn’t even bother washing the white ink off the plate, I just mixed some black ink in on top of it and kept going.


I’ve been studying a lot of 1950s Mid-Century Modern design books lately so I hope some of that influence rings through in this print. I chose a half-drop repeat layout (which was a popular design layout in the 50s as I’m learning) and roughly lined everything up.


I didn’t bother to go with the grain of my fabric since the point was just to simply print something for the joy of printing and not really make anything usable or “cool”. Well, I’m starting to find out that block prints never really look completely awful because the style of block printing is so primitive and simple looking in itself and that’s totally the point. No matter what you do, carving anything onto a block and printing it is bound to look pretty cool in my opinion.


So to summarize: I still LOVE block printing. I love it. I need to make an effort to do it more. I love everything about it. I love the process. I love the smell of the oil based ink and the sound it makes when you roll it out. I love learning about the history of block printing. I love the fact that I can design something without the use of the computer, and I love that it doesn’t take much to make something. I even love block printing when I make a lot of mistakes.


Note to Self: Bic pens are not the best tool for drawing on your block (really, I should have guessed that). Also, treat every project like it might be a success, that way you won’t end up with a print you really love that’s completely off grain on un-ironed fabric. BUT! All of that aside, this is still going to make one pretty cool throw pillow (or maybe a bag?), which I’ll be sure to share once my fabric cures 🙂

Sooooo yeah, add Block Printer to the list of things I want to be when I grow up…


  • I love this! Would this do very well for fabric that you plan to make clothes with?
    I always end up with so much plain solid color fabric and this would be a great way to mix it up

    • Thanks, Emily! In theory, yes it would be perfectly suitable for clothes. If you picked a sewing pattern that worked well with quilting cotton (or whatever fabric you decide to print on) and use the right amount of printing ink, there’s not much change in the surface of the fabric at all, especially after you wash it 🙂

      • That was my biggest concern with the change in texture/feel.
        Here I was wondering what to do because I acquired a huge bolt fabric that was all one color but mostly polyester. I’ve had people tell me that the Polyester wont take dye very well but maybe it might respond to printing.

  • I got the Speedball kit for Christmas! I have been dying to do this exact process! thanks for the interesting post!

  • jannapyj

    Your pattern just draws me in! I keep staring at it. I can’t decide if the circle bit looks more like a spider web or the end of a cut log. Doesn’t matter, I love it either way!!!


    • Thanks so much! Honestly I can’t decide what it is either lol! It’s just a squiggle? No I think it should be a cut log instead. That sounds nicer 😉

  • This is so fun!!!

  • Laura

    I also got some lino and tools for christmas, but I can’t find anything to draw a design on it that shows up! Bic ink just doesn’t seem to transfer to the lino (which is dark grey, just to make it even harder!) and standard pencil doesn’t show up. Is there anything you’d suggest using? Thanks!

    • Hmm, for the lino blocks I’m not entirely sure (I’ve been cutting the pink “speedy carve” blocks instead of traditional lino) but would a fine tipped permanent marker work? I think the reason my Bic pen didn’t work out so well is because the ink isn’t permanent. I used a pencil previously and it was fine, but I don’t think the pencil would be very helpful on a dark grey surface lol!

  • Jennifer Hill

    This is brilliant and definitely something I’ll be doing in the future!! Thanks for the inspiration Rochelle! Jen

  • Chi Chi K

    would a normal fabric paint from dollar store work just as find? or do you strongly suggest using brand like speedball? what do you think? after seeing what you just did, that made me want to start doing it too.. I was always wanted to try fabric paint, but always scare I might end up bleeding coloring all over my washing machine. any tips and tricks? love your post. .

    • Block Printing is a form of relief printing that you can do with all kinds of carved objects and types of paints/inks (I’ve seen tutorials on how to block print with potatoes!). When you carve certain types of blocks they recommend block printing ink because it’s formulated for that specific medium (just like you use watercolor paints with watercolor paper and watercolor brushes because they’re meant to work well together). But! Yes, technically you can buy any kind of paint and make a block print. I can’t promise a fabric paint from the dollar store will print as nicely or be as permanent in the wash, but you could certainly do it. Different types of fabric inks might have different directions on how long they need to dry before they can be washed, or if they need to be “set” with heat before they can get wet. If you follow the directions I’m sure you’ll be just fine, though 🙂 When in doubt, I always wash fabrics that might bleed with some old towels or bed sheets just to be safe 😉

      • Chi Chi K

        Thanks for your reply, it really helpped a lots, I’m going to listen to you and use fabric paint for good project and cheap ones for try out or 1 time use only project. thanks a ton, hope you have a good day. make more awesome fabric and design. i will keep following.

  • A bit late to this post, but I absolutely love your block printing adventures. I really like the movement and playfulness of the curves in this block – what an awesome, spontaneous success!

  • Beautiful! I love your drawing style and the intricate yet stylized aspect of the feathers.

    • Thank you! I’m really happy with how to feathers came out, if I do say so myself 🙂

  • Beautiful design and colour choices. That deep, captivating, stormy sky shade of blue is seriously lovely.

    ♥ Jessica

  • Abigail

    LOVE! This looks terrific, such a fun mid-century vibe.

  • Krystle Snook

    Great look! I love the color contrasts you have and the black on blue is very 50s. If you do do something with the fabric I’d terribly love to see it!

  • Doreen Zwemer

    Rochelle this is just beautiful. Nicely done 🙂

  • Wow – amazing!! But it does look like a ton of work. So cool to make a garment out of your own printed fabric though – well done!

    • Thanks! I only printed a small piece this time, but it actually went way faster than I thought. I think next time I’ll try cutting out some fabric for a skirt or something, then printing directly on the pre-cut pieces. That way I’m not doing any extra work I don’t have to do lol

  • I love this, especially the dark grey/blue one. What a great design. Sometimes the best things come from just playing around, not expecting much from it. Printmaking is so much fun, I keep meaning to drag out all my screenprinting and lino cutting supplies. I should take a leaf out of your book and just do SOMETHING.

    • Thanks, Jo! I tried screen printing a long time ago and I really enjoyed it. I don’t have the set-up to do the light sensitive screen emulsion stuff at home though. I know there are other ways to cut screens, but I’m really enjoying block printing right now because it doesn’t take much to get started. You should definitely drag out the supplies and give it a go! It’s so much fun 🙂

  • So bold and fantastic. Are you going to use the block and print a larger length of fabric?

    • Thanks! I’m not sure if I will try a larger area with this same block, but I definitely want to try printing enough for a garment soon! I might carve a similar design on a larger block to cover more surface area 😉

  • Shannon Phillips

    I love the black on blue. I need to do more block printing, I have all the stuff but the thought of printing a couple of yards is intimidating! The feathers are beautiful-I will definitely have to take a look at that book too!

    • I’m a little intimidated by printing full yardage, too! Though honestly the little piece I did print went way faster than I thought. I think an easier work around would be to cut out the pieces for a garment and then print directly onto the pre-cut fabric that way. Seems more efficient if you weren’t worried about print matching along any seams. I think I’ll do that next time 🙂

  • I would totally make a skirt from this fantastic fabric! I love it! Aren’t the blocks the nicest things to use? I love how they smell and feel like the pink erasers we used to use in grade school.

    • Thanks Sarah! Have you been doing any block printing lately? I thought I remember you saying you had wanted to get back into it… Or had gotten into it recently? Now I can’t remember!

      • I’m still living vicariously through your printing 🙂

  • Oh that is soooo neat! Love the feather print. I’ve always wanted to try printing my own fabric. It’s very attractive to think you can come up with your own designs as well as find what you actually want! It can be very difficult to find the right print sometimes! Especially when I’m sewing for my husband or boys.

    • Thanks! I find printing your own fabric a highly rewarding thing to do, even when the result is totally crooked lol! It’s just plain fun, and it feels really good to see how much handmade actually goes into the process.

  • picpic

    Oh my goodness! I got a lino cutting kit for Christmas and I’ve been dying to do some fabric with it but I couldn’t find any resource that told me what inks to use for fabric. Does the normal printing ink give the best finish?

    • I really love the new Speedball block printing inks for fabric. They’re oil based but you don’t have to heat set them. They can just air dry over the course of a few days and remain permanent. Plus, you can clean up with just soap and water instead of harsh solvents which is perfect for a beginner, like me, who’s working out of the kitchen! I bought a little starter kit of basic colors from Jerry’s Artarama online and I’m really happy with them 🙂

      • picpic

        Thank you for your advice, definitely going to pick some up for an experiment

  • sallieforrer

    This is super awesome! The result is really wonderful. And I want to say that Bic pens aren’t all bad – if I remember correctly it’s what we used in school – but I think there might be some kind of solvent to clean the block before you print? I can’t really remember… acetone maybe? It’s been a long time since I did a linocut! Anyway! Fantastic, and I’m glad to see you’re keeping at it. Do you think you’ll make something with this fabric? I can’t wait to see!

    • Thank you! And Bic pens are actually my favorite ones to write with so I know they not alllllll bad 😉 I printed such a small piece that I think I’ll only have enough to make a throw pillow or a tote bag, but I’ll definitely make something!!