One can never have too many pillows, am I right?
Rachel LaBarre is a textile master. Her shop is filled to the brim with beautiful block stamped textiles like tea towels, table runners, napkins, and wall hangings. Rachel was so kind to allow us into her studio to give us a look into her block printing process. She’s sharing with you some tips and tricks into creating your very own block stamped pillow cases!
I have Katie from A Dutch Life to thank for connecting me with Rachel. Katie just recently open her well-curated online shop. There you’ll find a beautiful selection of home goods and art pieces. One of those pieces happens to be a custom designed tea towel made by Rachel herself! Be sure to wander on over to her shop to grab one of Rachel’s pieces for your own home. And while you wait for your items to arrive in your mailbox, why not try your hand at this fabric block printing tutorial?
tools & supplies
1. Linoleum block or Rubber block
2. Brayer (rolling tool)
3. Carving Tools
4. Fabric block printing ink
Additional tools not shown in above image:
5. Wax Paper (used as a surface to mix ink)
6. Blank pillow case
step 1: gather inspiration
Before you crack open your new art supplies (as tempting as it may be), I encourage you to gather some inspiration for your block design. When I asked Rachel where she gains the most inspiration, her immediate response was the library. Yes, the good old fashioned library. Rachel recommends checking out a book on African textiles (or Indian, or Asian, or wherever inspires you) cracking it open, and soaking in all the inspiration those pages have to offer. What colours speak to you? Are you more drawn to sharp geometric shapes or detailed and feminine lines? Do bright colours brighten your mood, or are you more inspired by natural and muted tones? Those are all some questions you can ask yourself to help decide on a direction you want to take.
step 2: make a game plan
Once you’ve nailed down your pattern, use a marker to draw your design on the rubber block.
step 3: carve out your pattern
- Be sure to cut away what you don’t want to be stamped, leaving the pattern you want printed raised.
- Watch your fingers! Keep your hands behind the blade to avoid cuts. Those blades are sharp!
- Embrace your mistakes! Things may not go as planned (actually, when do things ever go as planned?). But that’s okay! Don’t get frustrated if you accidentally cut away something you didn’t mean to. You can either modify your design or simply start with a fresh block.
step 4: mix your colours
When it comes to mixing paint, you have two choices. You can either 1. Find a colour pre-made that you love, or 2. Mix your own custom colour.
We did both. We decided to stamp two pillows (why? because two pillows are better than one). First, we used a simple white ink that was already made to stamp onto our light grey case. Then, for our white case, we wanted the ink to match the colour of the grey pillow, so Rachel mixed together white and black until the perfect shade of grey was achieved.
Either method is fine, but if you are particular about the shade of colour you’re wanting, mixing would be best for you. You can apply the basic rules of colour theory to achieve the right colour.
step 5: map out your pattern
Planning and visualizing is important for successful block stamping. We encourage you to map out how you will be stamping your pattern.
- How many actual stamp impressions will you be doing? Do 3 rows of stamps fit perfectly on the pillow, or do you need to centre the pattern?
- Are you going to stick to a strict pattern where corners will need to be perfectly lined up? Or is your design more random and spaced out?
- Also, don’t forget to place something (plastic, cardboard, etc) inside your pillow to protect the ink from seeping through to the back.
step 6: start stamping!
First, roll your brayer (roller) through your paint to coat it evenly. Then, roll the paint straight onto your rubber block. Be sure that everything you want printed is covered well with ink!
Now for the most satisfying part. Carefully hover your block over your fabric and press firmly. You can use your hands or a clean roller to make sure that every part of the pattern is firmly touching the fabric.
Then, carefully lift up your roller to reveal your freshly stamped fabric! Repeat until your whole pillow is covered.
step 7: wait to dry
As tempting as it is to fill your new beautiful case with a pillow and cuddle up to it while reading a book, unfortunately you have to wait 2-3 days for your paint to fully dry. Fabric printing ink is very thick and tacky once it starts to dry. Keep an eye on it and carefully check every once in a while if the paint has dried.
Once you know the ink has fully dried (no longer tacky), turn the pillow case inside out and, using your iron on low heat, carefully press and iron the pattern to set the ink.
step 8: enjoy your new pillow!
I hope your stamp carving is a success! Trust me, once you get the hang of it, you won’t be able to stop stamping everything in sight.
If you have any questions or comments about this tutorial, please reach out to either Rachel or I on our Instagram (@rachellabarre @meaganfloris) or Facebook (Rachel or Meagan) and we’ll be happy to help.