I spent a good part of last saturday at a housewarming party for one of my closest friends. Since we were all on the topic of houses, I thought it fitting to gift her a set of “house” themed tea towels :)
I must say that these tea towels were much easier to make than I thought.
I had purchased a fabric block printing Darby Smart DIY set a while ago which came with ready made cotton tea towels, fabric paint, a speedball rubber stamp carving tool and a carving block. I had procrastinated for a long time because…I am not that good at drawing and was just a little afraid to start! I am still surprised that when I finally decided to give this a go, I went full steam into sewing the cloth and designing and carving my own stamps. And, by the time I was done with the 3 tea towels, I was officially addicted to fabric block printing and already have a few sketched ideas on what to do next :)
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do fabric block printing and for those who require more instruction, here’s a post on how to use a speedball linoleum cutter!
Carving Rubber Stamps
Instructions for carving rubber stamps:
1. Sketch your designs on paper, bearing in mind that details and sharp edges are harder to cut out. I previously wanted the windows in my houses to look like a grid but found it too difficult to carve those small little squares out.
2. On the rubber carving block, using a pencil, re-sketch your design on the carving block. If you’ve sketched more than 1 design on your carving block, use a pen knife or x-acto knife to cut out rectangular blocks such that each design is on one block, ensuring ample space on all sides of your design.
3. With a ballpoint pen, trace out the pencil marks. At this point, imagine how you want your stamp to look like. Specifically, imagine which spaces you would like the stamp to be blank (i.e. negative space) and which spaces you would like the stamp to print ink. In general, I find that stamps with little negative space (i.e. the first stamp from the left in the picture below) and a wider printing surface are more difficult to print evenly, while stamps with a somewhat equal area of negative space and printing surface looks the nicest and is easiest to print. On areas that you would like the stamp to print ink, color/ shade those areas. It’ll serve as a good guide as you carve out the negative space.
4. Using your carving tool, carve out the negative space i.e. spaces that you’ve not colored in. I use a speedball tool and I tend to use the deeper cutter (i.e. no. 3) to cut around the edges first, followed by using the wider or narrower cutter (i.e. no. 2, 3 or 4) to remove the negative space. Pay careful attention to the edges of the stamp – they tend to get ink on them easily – and carve them deeper.
Printing on Tea Towels
Supplies to hem tea towels:
– sewing machine with thread and a narrow hem foot (or hem manually)
– cloth (I used a 100% cotton cloth)
1. Cut the tea towels to size. I cut the tea towels 47cm by 67cm including a 1cm seam allowance all around.
2. Using the sewing machine and a hem foot, hem all 4 sides of the tea towel. Alternatively, fold the hems manually and sew a straight stitch through.
Supplies to block print on tea towels
– hemmed tea towels
– spare fabric (for testing)
– carved rubber stamps
– aluminimum foil (or any material that fabric paint won’t seep through)
– fabric paint
– rubber brayer (or anything round to spread the fabric ink)
– scrap paper
– tape (optional)
Instructions to block print on tea towels:
1. Lay the scrap paper on a flat surface to absorb residual paint from the fabric and lay your fabric on top, ensuring that your hems are on the right side up.
2. On aluminium foil, or any material that fabric paint won’t seep through, pour a generous amount of fabric paint. Using a soft rubber brayer or anything around your house, spread the fabric paint all over the aluminium foil.
3. If you intend to print your design straight, like how I did with the houses, use tape to create a straight line. This will help guide you when you’re stamping.
4. With your rubber stamp face side down, dab it on the foil of fabric paint. You can also use the soft rubber brayer to roll on your stamp but I find the best way to dab my stamp on the fabric paint and looking to ensure that there’s paint on the rubber stamp. If any paint falls on the edges of the rubber stamp, wipe it away with a cloth or tissue paper or it might get on the fabric.
5. Carefully turn your rubber stamp downwards, aim and stamp carefully. Lift up after 2-3 seconds or so. Don’t be too worried that your stamp doesn’t print perfectly every time – sometimes that’s what makes them handmade! But if you feel that there’s too little paint on the fabric, you can try stamping over it again, making sure that you’ve aligned the stamps
6. Put aside until dry. They dry pretty quickly but it’ll be safer to let it sit on its own for about 15 minutes.