The day I tried block printing

The day I tried block printing

Y’all remember Jen Hewett, who created those amazing limited-edition project bags for the webshop. Well, a few months ago — knowing how much I regret not being able to take any of her Bay Area classes — she told me she was launching an online course on block printing, Design, Carve, Print, and asked if I’d like a pass. Hello! Yes. So on a cold weekend in mid-February, I set aside time to watch the tutorials. It’s interesting the way she’s set it up — it’s a sequence of short videos and written tutorials posted to her website (password protected) that take you through the process step by step. So, for instance, she’ll talk about how to draw your pattern and transfer it to your block, then gives you an hour or something to go do that, then the next video goes up showing you how to start carving the block, and so on over the course of two days. OR, you can just watch it all on your own schedule after the fact.

I’m a painfully methodical person, which makes me sort of pants at classroom situations. I’m nearly incapable of diving right into a process without planning (or designing) what my outcome is going to be. So this was perfect for me — instead of doing each step along the way, I just watched and thought about what I would want to make. And I also followed along on Instagram as the other students posted their incredible works-in-progress throughout the weekend. (Check out the #designcarveprint hashtag — it’s awesome.) The thing is, I’m not really much of a pattern person, so it was a challenge to figure out something me to do with this process. I spent time asking myself what I like (other than stripes) and looking back through the blog archives and my Pinterest boards to see what kinds of patterned things have caught my attention in the past. Turns out my favorite thing, when it comes to pattern, is traditional quilt motifs. And one of my very favorites is the old interlocking crosses pattern.

So in the end, I didn’t do any carving! Rebekka and I got together one day at her house to print. She dove right in and printed yardage of a sort of abstract stripe she carved, while I simply cut my block into a cross. I’ve got a cache of these plain burlap-ish pillow covers from Ikea that I bought specifically because they looked like blank canvases to me — I could imagine embroidering, printing, dyeing them all sorts of ways. And so one of them became my canvas for the block printing foray. After cutting the block into my cross shape, I traced around it crudely on the pillow cover with one of those blue seamstress pencils that are supposed to fade or wash out. And then I thumbprinted which ones I wanted to be white or black, with the bulk left unprinted. I wanted it to be a little bit abstracted, unregimented and imperfect, and wound up loving the blue lines peeking out here and there, so I’ve never washed it — and maybe never will!

The whole thing makes me wish I were more of a pattern person because block printing is good times. There’s likely more of it in my future — I just need to figure out what. If you’re interested, the next session of Jen’s Design, Carve, Print class starts in mid-May. Or if you’re in the Bay Area, check her schedule for upcoming live workshops.

Thanks for teaching me some new tricks, Jen!

9 thoughts on “The day I tried block printing

  1. So dumb question of the day. What is your block made of? And what kind of paint is involved? It looks like a lot of fun. I tend to over think projects.

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  2. I love block printing! I started doing block printing with my children when they were young. We use speedy cut which is super easy to carve and block print on card stock. Now you have me thinking about printing on fabric.

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    • I’d done a little bit of it as a kid, too — can remember the feel of carving the block. And did potato prints and whatnot. But not sure I’d ever printed on fabric before. It’s fun!

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  3. This would be an easy way to make a groovy floorcloth if you happened upon a cheap canvas remnant. Then a simple poly spray varnish and viola!

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  4. Pingback: New Favorites: from Olga’s “Capsule” collection | Fringe Association

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