Printing and painting my way into 2013

Wow, I've really slipped in the ol' posting department lately. Not a great way to start a new year. A whole month has gone by! Well, I can partly blame Christmas, partly blame having been sick with this month's very popular bronchial bug (cough hack), and partly blame the fact that I have been busy in the basement.

Although I had been hankering to get on with some more garment work, I got pleasantly distracted by a Christmas present - tools for making printing blocks. So I've been carving soft and lino block stamps, setting up a printing space in the basement and generally making a nice mess.

Getting Set Up:

Setting up the printing space was no big deal. Essentially you need a sturdy table covered with some sort of padding (to make it easier to print on fabric) and plastic. I used a couple of towels for the padding and a vinyl Dollarama table cloth, duct taped tightly around my trusty folding table. $2 for these supplies seemed like the right price.

Luckily we have a kitchenette in the basement, so I was able to put this table right up close to the sink and on the vinyl floor. Easy clean up!

I was only working on small pieces (vs. yardage) so the laundry rack was perfect for hanging the stuff to dry. And yes, I did remember to clean it off before using it for laundry again!


For printing/painting I use 2 kinds of products:

ColourVie products from Gunnel Hag. The ColourVie system is really great - transparent, non-toxic, mixable, colourfast and flexible. I use it thinned with table salt (weird but true) for washes of colour and as is for painting and printing. The pigments are intense and can be used for dyeing more than just fabric, i.e. my fingers. I truly recommend the products and also any course that Gunnel teaches! You can check out her blog here:

Tulip Soft Fabric Paints (intensely pigmented, opaque acrylics that stay soft on fabric). These you can get at most craft stores.

Fabric wise, I just grabbed a selection of items from the stash - plain cotton of various weights, some linen and some cotton jersey. Generally I found that the linen performed best for printing, a heavier, smooth finished twill for mono printing, plain white cotton for Colourvie painting and the jersey for stamping.

Carving stamps:

It"s been a while (OK decades, but who's counting) since I made any printing blocks. To say my skills were rusty is an understatement. So the first few stamps were wash outs. This undertaking was also a sobering reminder of my general lack of drawing skills.

However, once I got into the swing of it, and got myself a sturdy bench hook (an edged wooden board for safer cutting) I was OK. All in all, I think I may never go back to lino. The soft carving blocks (like large erasers) are a dream to use in comparison.

I tended to remove too much material in my first couple of attempts, so I learned to ink and check the stamps as I went along. An ink pad shows clearly where the background is still too high and makes it simple to see where to trim further.


Of all the things I made over the 3 days I was mucking about, my favourite are mono prints that look like roses. These were made with the Tulip paints and the pictures really don't do them any justice. The colour is intense and luminous in real life, with a subtle pearl sheen in some areas. They are also much more dimensional than the pictures capture, and are 6-8 inches in diameter. Here are a couple of detail shots and small images of what the whole flower looks like (sort of looks like).

There were also a bunch of non-rose mono prints too, such as the one at left that is going to look great stitched onto the front of a black T shirt.

What am I going to do with these? They could be used as appliques on clothing (think pockets) or bags or made into pouches. I'm considering doing some stitching and/or beading on them too. Check back in a few weeks to see what they've turned into.


Having gotten really into the intense colour and coverage of the mono printing, the whole block printing thing started to lose it's appeal until I combined the two. Even then, I found myself going back into the stamped areas with more ink on a small brush to intensify them. Likely I would have been happier with the results of silkscreening (another skill acquired long ago) rather than block printing, but that is a whole different set of supplies and equipment - a road I'm not going down at this time.

These images show mono prints stamped with hand carved blocks. The orange ones will be used at patches on an infinity scarf (next post!). They are about 6 inches in diameter and again, the photos don't show the vibrancy and luminosity of the prints.

ColourVie painting and stamping:

Once I get rolling with this stuff, I can't stop. I love the way you can work and rework the materials. Paint onto the fabric. Stamp into the paint. Scrap some off. Put more on. Etc., etc.  I've made dozens of small blocks like these. Likely they'll be pieced together for something. Seeing as I have never quilted, and have never really wanted to quilt, I'm not sure what the final application will be.

Phew!  That was fun. But enough is enough. Time to clean up and start making something with all these interesting bits and pieces.

Happy New Year everyone!


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