Block Printing, A First Attempt

Last Friday I came across this blog entry from the Linda Cote Studio.  As I read her step by step description of block printing I had two thoughts, the first was that “block printing was pretty cool”, and the second was “I wonder if it would work on fabric”. So later that afternoon I toddled down to the art store, bought the blocks and tools and thought I’d give it a try. Later that evening, after we put our children to bed, I started carving up the first block. My husband looks over at what I was doing and asked when I first thought about doing a block print, my answer was “About two o’clock this afternoon.”. This is how I tackle most projects.

Lino block coated with tumeric paste.

Lino block coated with turmeric paste.

Wet pieces of silk printed with tumeric.

Wet pieces of silk printed with turmeric.

I decided to do the first trial with turmeric. It was handy and cheap. It just took a little trial and error to get the paste to work and give a print. The wet prints looked great, but lacked a bit of contrast when washed and dried.


Turmeric printed on cotton.

turmeric on silk

Turmeric printed on silk.

I then decided to try printing over the turmeric print with madder. I will admit this was the first time ever working with madder, but I guess sometimes you have to just give things a shot.

tumeric madder prints

The first three prints from the left are on silk, with the last print on cotton. The third print has been stitched in naturally dyed threads. All the prints have been washed and dried.

Using block printing definitely opens up a whole new set of possibilities with natural dyeing. I think it works well combined with stitching, and would be a useful way to continue a theme through a series of projects.

Madder and turmeric print on silk, stiched with naturally dyed silk and cotton threads. The print measures 3" x 4.5".

Madder and turmeric print on silk, stitched with naturally dyed silk and cotton threads. The print measures 3″ x 4.5″.


11 thoughts on “Block Printing, A First Attempt

  1. Deb, I love this! This is creativity at its best: when you apply something you’ve seen to something you know with a little bit of “wing it” thrown in. The results are gorgeous!

    • I am really enjoying the look and process. I am prepping a big piece of cotton as we speak to try a bigger block printing project.

      • That is so awesome! And, funny, I’ve thought about using Turmeric as a “dry pigment” when making my own printmaking inks … now you are inspiring me!

      • What I ended up doing with the turmeric was I mixed it to a thick paste with cornstarch, let it dry on the block, then applied hot wet fabric to make the print. I have since discovered a thickener where some of the components are seaweed, so I may try that with turmeric as well. I used it with the madder prints.

  2. Great job! I’ve also tried block printing with natural dyes recently. I really wanted a black which was difficult to achieve without repeating the image a few times in the same spot. One thing I learned about thickeners is that the “seaweed” thickener, sodium algaenate doesn’t work well with natural dyes. It is great with synthetic dyes but doesn’t seem to blend well with the natural dyes. I researched and found that gum tragacanth is a great thickener for natural dyes.

    • Thanks for the info. I might aim to pick some up when we buzz through Vancouver at Easter. I thought the weird blending was because I had “help” (A.K.A. 4 children aged 2-10)!

    • I think I may already be addicted. The kids love it too. My 8 year old wants to take me to show and tell to show her class block printing! My husband says there is no higher compliment.

    • Thank you. The trial run I felt was enough of a success to go forward and start a piece 5 feet in length.It has been block printed, but I have yet to stitch it as the piece mentioned in the post “Beading Four at a Time” took priority. Thank you for checking out the blog.

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