Team Farr is back from visiting my in-laws in California, and I’m glad to jump back into things showing you how to block print fabric.
The thing is, making your own fabric is a pretty simple process. You don’t even have to print yards and yards of fabric (more on that down below!) to make something cool from your own DIY fabric. So I’m finishing up this block printing introduction showing you how to set up a simple station and get going with block printing some fabric you’re going to love.
How to block print fabric: what you need
How to block print fabric: make your own DIY fabric
1. Set up your block printing work station
You don’t need a lot of space to print on fabric by hand. A small table or a counter is good. I often use the top of my deep freezer in my garage, but use what you have!
Whatever surface you are using for block printing, cover it with a layer of thick quilt batting. I have a chunk of Dacron which is a REALLY thick upholstery batting, but a high loft poly batting will work well too.
The idea is that a padded surface is going to help you get the best impressions from your rubber blocks. If I remember right, in Jen Hewett’s book, she stops right there, printing on fabric right on top of the batting. I like to cover the batting with either a vinyl tablecloth or an old cotton flannel sheet. That way I can keep reusing the piece of batting. Experiment and see what you like!
2. Decide on a fabric repeat
What the heck is a fabric repeat? It’s how the design is organized on a chunk of fabric. If you look closely at any piece of fabric, you can see a place where a pattern starts over again. This can be really small on a calico floral or really huge like on Marimekko fabrics.
There’s lots of different ways to orient a fabric repeat. Repeats can be vertical, diagonal, horizontal, all over, continuous (This is an excellent primer on the topic).
With block printing, I tend to keep repeats really simple. The reality is that every impression of a block print requires muscle work from you. The more complicated and dense your repeat, the harder you will have to work. So keep it simple! I’m planning on going more into detail about repeats in another post. For now, just eyeball it!
In this video, I do walk you through the entire rubber block printing process. Catch where I make a really easy repeat jig from cardboard at 3’39’.
You can also freehand this, or use a ruler like I did on this block printed Catalina dress. Let’s go on mixing up ink.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.