Block printed tea towels

A few weeks ago, I came across some block printed tea towels for sale online.  They were $20 apiece.  And I am crafty.  So I thought to myself “Self, you could make these for way less than $20 apiece.”  And when I was in high school, printmaking classes were my favorite elective, so I have some experience, but it’s been a while!  So I went to Dick Blick (they didn’t sponsor me, but I wish they would….ahem!) and ordered all of the stuff I thought I’d need, and then eagerly awaited the arrival of my package.  When it came, I jumped in with both feet.  I drew out designs and carved several blocks.  When I had time, I went to the Costco business center and picked up a few dozen flour sack tea towels, and then did nothing for a little while. I’ll write a real post with better photos about the start-to-finish process at a later date, but I mostly just wanted to show you how the towels turned out!

The setup:

As a way to dust off my skills, I started off small with some gift tags and a 5 golden rings design that I’m using for labeling Christmas gifts.

Rolling and mixing the ink.  I went with a yellow-green-red combo for the artichokes.

Depending on how much ink is on the glass, how sticky it is, and how hard I press with the roller while I’m inking the block, I have some control over the darkness of the print and whether ink goes into the lines between flat areas.

This was a canvas bag that I did.  It is much more 3 dimensional than the tea towels, and it was the tail end of my green ink, so it ended up printing much lighter than I had desired.  The bags will take some additional practice.

I’m really happy with how the broccoli turned out.  I wasn’t expecting much from it when I carved, but I think it’s pretty neat.

This octopus proved to be a bit challenging.  I had to have a very light hand with the tentacles, as the “back sides” with the suckers had a tendency to get blacked out with too much ink.

My stand mixer print actually looks better than the photo (it was a weird perspective), but the block does need to get fine tuned a bit.  The ink was just too thick and ended up filling in all of the voids.  I am pleased with myself that I was able to get the color almost exactly what I wanted.  The mixer print that I ended up getting on a canvas bag actually turned out beautifully.

This one’s my favorite.  I love the happy llama. 🙂

Sock cat is more of a personal joke that I have with Craig, and I thought it would be a funny block.  It is.  I mean, it’s pretty creepy, but also pretty funny.

The beets were toughies.  They were the only thing that I printed with 2 different blocks.  I did an awful job of lining them up properly, but I think if I come up with some sort of index mark, I’ll be able to figure it out.  Also, I lost a lot of detail in the leaves, so that is going to take some fussing with in the future.

Here’s the brisling (sardine) print that I did.  Above you can see it on the tea towels, and below it is printed on the back of a piece of scrap paper.  There is a huge difference in the clarity of the lines between fabric and paper.  This was one of the few prints that I tried to work with a gradient. I wanted the belly of the sardine to be lighter than the top.  It kind of worked, but wasn’t as dramatic as I’d have liked.

Here some of the prints are drying.  Once they dried overnight, they were still a little tacky (the ink is oil-based, which makes it capable of handling a wash cycle, but it takes a long time to dry).  Based on the Speedball Ink’s recommendation, it doesn’t need to be heat set, but many fabric inks do, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.  The next morning, I hit each piece with an iron, and it did seem to help set them a bit. I’m excited to give these to my friends and family as Christmas presents!

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