PART 1: Low Tech – Print it Yourself
Have you been searching for ways to make your me-mades just that bit more special and unique?
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have seen my recent forays into fabric printing. It started with one-day course exploring methods that can be recreated at home such as block printing and was closely followed by a traditional hands-on screen-printing course at the end of last year, which I absolutely loved. The act of making is always an important part of any creative process for me, so mixing paints and getting my hands dirty was all part of the appeal. Some of the screen printing I did on this course even made it into sample garments for my new book!
If you’re anything like me, you might be ridiculously fussy about printed fabric and find it hard to source prints that you really love. For a control-freak like me, printing my own is the perfect solution.
If you sew a lot for others, using a customised fabric in a special gift is a really nice personal touch for the recipient. You can use a design or motif that has a special meaning to the recipient or that they’re particularly fond of. I’m sure we all know someone who goes ga-ga over anything with a cat print on it!!
It’s also the perfect way to print your own fabric labels for your me-mades. Ideal for that little finishing touch for your own makes or gifts, or to add a professional finish to your makes if you’ve ever sold anything at craft fairs, shows or local markets.
Techniques for printing at home
Here are some easy fabric printing techniques that can easily be tried at home:
Stencilling using freezer paper can create really crisp edges to your print and give a level of finish almost comparable to screenprinting for simple shapes. It’s cheap and easy to use, but its only drawback is that your prepared stencil will only completely stick properly to your fabric once (twice if you’re really lucky!) Fancy having a go? Have a look at my step-by-step tutorial which includes a free downloadable template to recreate this print.
Block printing can give a lovely organic feel to a print, depending how accurately you carve / cut your block and apply your paint. You can get started really easily and cheaply at home with shapes cut from craft foam mounted onto card. That’s how I created these prints.
You can also create your block from polystyrene sheets, or using lino cutting and rubber carving techniques, I’ve even found make-up sponges work well as impromptu printing blocks! This method lends itself much better to all-over patterns and multiple prints that stencilling with freezer paper, just as long as you look after your original block.
Monoprinting is a really low-tech method that can produce lovely painterly effects. Fabric paint is applied to a flat surface like a sheet of plastic, Perspex or glass. The marks made by your choice of applicator (paintbrush, sponge, etc) will be transferred onto your fabric. The fabric is placed on top of the painted surface, you can also place stencils or objects in between the fabric and painted surface to leave behind empty negative spaces.
Screen printing with paper stencils is an easy way to screen print without the need to have a design permanently fixed to the screen. Simply arrange paper stencils or even objects on your fabric, then pull the screen printing ink through the screen and you have an instant design.
Traditional screen printing where your design is fixed onto the screen can still be done at home if you have space and don’t want to use a large screen. You can use a paint-on “filler” to create your design on the screen, or some print companies will create your customised screen for you if you send your design (www.handprinted.co.uk offer this service).
Then there’s also Thermofax printing which is like screen printing using mini screens.
How to start
Creativebug has some great introductory classes on how to start printing your own fabric.
If block printing is what you fancy, US textile artist Jen Hewett specialises in block printing and regularly runs a popular online class called Design, Carve, Print.
If you like a good book to get you started and full of inspiration, here are some that I’ve found useful and been inspired by:
- Screenprinting by Jane Sampson (this is who taught me how to print on my course at Inkspot Press last year)
- Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens by Lena Corwin
- Art Cloth: A Guide to Surface Design for Fabric by Jane Dunnewold
- Screen Printing at Home: Print your own fabric to make simple sewn projects by Karen Lewis
- Fabric Printing at Home: Quick and Easy Fabric Design Using Fresh Produce and Found Objects – Includes Print Blocks, Textures, Stencils, Resists, and More by Julie B. Booth
Make a Pinterest board of ideas like this one of mine, have a look at designs on wrapping paper, wallpaper and greetings cards as starting points, then start creating your own simple designs. Nature can often be the most inspiring, have a go at creating some simple leaf and flower shapes just to get you started.