About a year ago I was all fired up to do some printing, so I bought a piece of linoleum, cutting tools, a roller and some ink. Other projects took precedence & general ‘stuff’ got in the way and the fire turned to ash… and the piece of lino eyed me accusingly every time I opened the cupboard in which it was stored.  Then Jesse published this fantastic tutorial for block printing fabric (part 1, part 2 & part 3), which rekindled the fire… it’s still taken me months and months but I’ve finally got around to cutting that lino and trying my hand at a bit of fabric printing.

One of my initial hurdles was my inability to draw a design I felt would be simple enough for a first attempt at cutting and printing with lino (e.g. these were initially drawn with block printing in mind! Too much for me but it’s obviously possible if you have the skills!). After a bit of sketchbook doodling I arrived at a design I thought I could handle for this first attempt. 

sketchbook doodles

 

l: transferring the design to the lino before cutting
r: the cut lino block (I think this is some kind of ‘easy cut’ lino – it’s a bit too ‘spongy’ for my liking and next time I’ll try a ‘denser’/firmer type of lino)

 

… and the printing process (‘action shots’ courtesy of the narcoagent – ta!)

(I used a white chalk pencil to lightly mark up the block’s positioning as my water soluble fabric marker didn’t show up on the black fabric and I don’t have nifty ‘tailor’s chalk’. The vertical columns were drawn before starting the process, horizontal rows were indicated with two small ‘registration marks’ drawn at the top of the block after each printing. The chalk pencil washes out easily after printing is complete and the ink has been heat set)

 

Three things I’ve learnt from this first attempt at block printing fabric:

1. It’s TIME-CONSUMING!

2. There’s no need to grip the roller’s handle with blister inducing pressure when printing each impression (but the resulting blisters are kind of satisfying!).

3. No matter how steady your hand or clean and tidy your working practices/environment every impression of the block will be subtly different. It’s this built-in, and unavoidable, imperfection (a kind of wabi-sabi-ness) that endears me to the process.

 

Here is the completed fabric (each dot was printed individually – I tried to position the dots in roughly the same places but this part of the process was just ‘eye-balled’ and not ‘measured’ in any way… so the dots have a very, um, ‘organic’ quality!):

I’ve called the design ‘Verdigris’ for the colours, and for the way my very unscientific mind imagines verdigris spreads out & ‘blossoms’ to colonise the weathered surfaces of copper, brass and bronze.