Happy Happy Friday, all! As mentioned in this post recently, I've been super into hand blocked textiles lately, and really wanted to make my own pillows in this style. More specifically, I wanted to make something similar to these Peter Dunham paisley pillows for my bedroom, except, you know, without the absurd $325 per pillow pricetag ;)
Fortunately, I was delighted to find that this project was super easy + inexpensive, expecially since I already had most of the materials on hand, that were leftover from an art class in college; I really only needed to purchase the fabric/pillow covers and the fabric paint. If you don't have any block printing materials, though, this is what you'll need:
- Image of what you want to carve/print
- Tracing Paper & Pencils (a soft pencil, like a 2B or 4B, works best)
- Speedball Linoleum Cutter Tools
- Speedball Linoleum Carving Block
- Speedball Rubber Brayer
- Inking plate (or any non-porous flat surface, like the glass from a picture frame)
- Solid Fabric Pillow Covers or fabric, prewashed (cotton, or similar fabric is best)
- Fabric Paint (I mixed this Black & this White to make a dark gray)
- Sheet of cardboard (to place under fabric so it doesn't bleed through)
*SOME NOTES ON THE SUPPLIES: everything that I linked to above is exactly what I used, or what I would recommend using. For my carving block, I used this rubber quick carve block because that's what I already had on hand, but the material has started to crumble slightly after washing it a few times, making the stamp less crisp. This speedy carve rubber block material is supposed to be more durable than the older version that I used, but ultimately the linoleum will be the most durable. Also, regarding the pillow covers - I chose to go with these $7 ones from IKEA in white, and they worked great. But if you sew, you could easily stamp fabric and sew the pillows yourself :)
Anyway, on to the process! Once you decide what design you want to carve, it's a matter of either freehand drawing it directly onto the carving block, or tracing & transferring it onto the carving block. For mine, I knew I wanted a paisley design, and since they are pretty ornate, I decided to trace mine. I just google image searched "paisley block print", found one that I liked, and printed it at the size I wanted my stamp to be.
To transfer this image onto your carving block, you must trace it first. Place a piece of trace paper over your image, taking care to tape down the edges so that it doesn't move around, and trace carefully with a dark 2B pencil. Feel free to make changes to the design, too!
Once the design is completely traced, place the penciled side of the trace paper face down on the carving block. Again with your pencil, trace over the design once more, making sure that the trace paper does not move on the carving block at all. Once you've traced over your design, carefully lift the trace paper up, and a mirror image of your design should be clearly transferred onto the carving block. Since the design on your block is a mirror image of the original design, once you stamp it face down, it will actually appear exactly as the original image.
Once the design is traced and/or drawn onto the carving block, carefully start carving out your design with the cutting tools, always carving away from your hands and/or yourself. If you're working on an ornate design, I recommend using the smallest, v-shaped blade for the more detailed areas. Continue carving out the design, adjusting your blade size based on how detailed/ornate the design is.
Once the main design is carved out, you will want to carve away the blank, surrounding space with a larger blade, so that there is no border included around your design. Since I was using a softer rubber material, I was able to completely cut away the excess surrounding rubber, but you can't really do that with the harder lino material, so take care to completely carve around your design.
When your design is completely carved, it's time to start printing onto your fabric! First though, I would recommend doing some test prints on scrap paper or scrap fabric to get the hang of the stamp placement, how much paint/ink to use, and to make sure the stamp looks how you want it to. To ink your block, squeeze a decent amount of fabric paint on the inking plate (or sheet of glass/plastic), and roll your brayer over the paint. You want the brayer to be uniformly coated with a layer of paint (not too little, not too much), then roll the brayer over your carved block surface. Again, you want your block to be uniformly coated with a thin layer of paint, so that only the raised, uncarved, portion of the block is coated. Press the block face down on your testing surface, taking care to apply uniform pressure on the whole surface, so that the whole image is stamped. Lift the block, and see how it looks, paying attention to whether or not there was enough paint, if you applied enough pressure, if the image is clear, etc. Continue doing test prints until you're happy with the results.
To start printing on your fabric, place the sheet up cardboard inside your pillow cover (or underneath your fabric, if you're planning on sewing your own pillows). Ink your block with the brayer, and start stamping in your desired pattern, re-inking after each stamp. With my paisley design, I sort of visually planned out ahead of time the general placement + spacing that I wanted, and then pretty much winged it when I started stamping. If you want to be a bit more precise, you can always measure out and mark with a fabric pen where you want to place your stamps.
When you're finished stamping, lay the fabric flat to dry, and follow the fabric paint care instructions. Once the fabric paint is completely dry, add a pillow insert (I always recommend a down insert, slightly bigger than your pillow cover), and enjoy!
Here's how mine turned out:
As you can see, I chose to use dark gray fabric paint for my block prints so that they'd coordinate with my dark gray headboard.
Overall, I'm really happy with how the pillows turned out, and how well they work with the rest of the room. They add just enough pattern, while still keeping the space neutral + soothing, which was the goal. Next up is adding some art over the bed, which I plan to do soon!
Have a wonderful weekend!