First, you need your tools. You can find them at your local Michael’s Craft Store or Amazon. I use Speedy-Carve for the block, which is a soft pencil-eraser like rubber that is easy (and uhh speedy) to carve. I’ve tried linoleum, which is probably better for paper prints. It’s a bit harder to cut through. For simple things, Speedy-Carve is perfect.
You’ll also need the carving tool and a roller to transfer the ink. I recommend this kit, which is very inexpensive if you intend to do this more than once.
You’ll also need ink! I’ve used the cheap acrylic craft paints you can buy at any craft store and they work fine. They dry fast though, so water it down a bit and work quickly. You might have to clean your block routinely as it may gunk up with dried paint. I prefer water-based textile screen printing ink. It doesn’t dry quickly, and has a nice thin consistency. You can buy a set of different colored inks or single containers. I like Versatex and Speedball. Both are permanent and set by heat.
Now grab a pencil and start drawing right on your Speedy-Carve. Anything you want. Keep in mind where you will be carving later. The uncarved areas will be the ones printing onto the fabric. Also, you need to carve your image backwards so that it prints correctly.
Once you’re done drawing, start carving! Notice how the word “hope” is backwards.
As for fabric, anything will do! I normally use solids but my favorite is unbleached 100% cotton drill fabric. It’s with the utility fabrics at Joann Fabrics and is made in the US. I really like the natural look of it. It’s all personal preference.
Once your block is carved, you are ready to test it. You can test on paper if you don’t want to mess up any fabric. Plop out about a tablespoon of ink onto something flat and roll it. Go back and forth until the ink is even on your roller. Then roll it right onto your block. You may glue your Speedy-Carve to a piece of wood for easier handling, but it’s really not necessary.
Printing on fabric
Flip it over and push it down onto your fabric firmly. Be sure not to move it around! Lift up and check out your print. Transfer more ink to your block and repeat, repeat, repeat. You’ll start to get a good feel for how much ink to apply to get the best print.
Make sure the ink is completely dry, then you’ll need to press with a hot iron. I strongly suggest using a pressing pad. I’ve scorched a lot of fabric setting the ink. With a high heat setting, press without steam in small circles across the ink. Then when you’ve finished, go over it again. Keep the iron moving so you don’t burn it.
You’re done! Now cut it all up (I know, it’s hard) and sew some fabulous creative things. Keep in mind, your prints will always have a distressed look. They will never be “perfect”. Which is part of the charm of blockprinting.
A few others: