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The Art of Hand Block Printing!

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

I love hand block fabric! I have tried to do it many times, and it is a wonderful art form I have yet to master. The fabric I buy is from India who use delicately carved wooden blocks to stain and color the fabrics. I love that each yard of fabric is not quite perfect. It just shows that it is handcrafted. I always feel the slight variations and imperfections shows the beauty of the art...just like life. “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…..Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist” Stephen Hawking :)

This ancient art form and has been practiced for more than two thousand years. Originating in China, where it remained the most common printing method in East Asia for books and images until the 1800s.

Basic Materials for Hand Block Printing

  • block printing carving block

  • fabric block printing ink OR water soluble printing ink for paper

  • acrylic sheet, glass (or similar)

  • Fabric or Paper

How to Block Print Fabric

Ink your block.

If you are block printing on fabric, you’ll want to use a block printing ink that is safe to use on fabrics. It will say it’s for fabric use right on the tube, like this one. Also, another option is using an ink pad that can be used on fabrics, like this one. Using ink pads for block printing are best for small blocks (2-3 inches in size). If you’re using larger blocks, you’ll probably want to go the traditional route of inking.

If you’re using the more traditional method for inking, squeeze out a thin line of ink (whether its fabric ink or regular printing ink for paper) toward the top of the acrylic sheet (or glass) palette.

Then use the soft rubber roller to bring the ink down. Rolling the ink out a bit on the surface of your palette before rolling it over your stamp in thin layers until the raised design is fully covered. Make sure the linoleum block isn’t over inked or you could lose some of the fine details of your design when printing.

Print block design onto fabric (or paper).

Next, no matter how you’ve inked you block, flip the block over. Then press the inked design face down firmly and evenly onto fabric or paper. Then, pull the stamp away from the fabric, straight up if you can.

If you’re using printing ink, let the surface air dry for 24 hours before using (this will set the ink). Or according to instructions on the ink tube - some inks require more time to cure. If you’re using a fabric ink pad, wait for the pattern to air dry, then heat set the ink (with an iron) to ensure the ink is permanent.

Happy Block Printing! Let me know how it goes!!

Order your hand blocked napkins from Chicky Moo today!

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