I have conquered Gaul

Well, no. I haven’t. I have done something monumental (for me) this weekend, though.

I block-printed 4 yards of fabric.

Allow me to say, though, for the record, that although I freaked out completely that the madder I ordered hit some snags in getting to me (btw – Griffin Dye Works is awesome, and the Georgia branch of the USPS sucks), I am glad it did not arrive until this morning. Along with printing a whole lot of fabric, I also learned that fabric printing is tricky business, and the thicker the substance you’re using, the easier the printing is. I still don’t know how to apply liquid pigment to the block without it bleeding, nor do I know how to process madder root, nor do I know how to use mordants properly, and many other things.

I do know, though, how to block print fabric.

Lea (still no blog) and Yul came over and I taught them to carve blocks. I taught them on Speed-Y carve blocks to start, which are fiddly and irritating if you’ve been doing this for a while, but are less likely to help you stab yourself with a carving tool. Yul listened to my preliminary instructions and then just went for it, which was great. He sort of freehanded his design (he used a compass) and then carved it almost before Lea had finished choosing a design. And it was excellent, and it prints pretty seamlessly:

yul's print by you.

(the little brown thing is a test I did using Dye-Na-Flow and a wooden Indian block, and the results on paper are much nicer than on fabric, by the by)

Lea chose a design and after a false start (did you know that Speed-Y cut blocks and carbon paper do  not mix? well, they do not) Lea carved her  block:

lea's block by you.

And then printed it. She was pretty pleased and I think that she’s going to be a whiz at this.

lea with her print by you.

(I didn’t realize she blinked until later; sorry, Lea)

While they were doing their thing, I tested my own block. The Dye-na-flow is really bleedy, and so I was glad I bought paints. I tested them:

test print by you.

This was a real challenge. The rubber brayer I have doesn’t roll through the pigment well, so Yul and I made a last-minute dash to Ace Hardware (I love you, Internets) for some foam paint trim rollers, which work much better. You can see the one I used in the upper right corner. I will have to see how a soaked pad works in the future; in the Indian block print videos, it looks as though the guy with the blocks is inking from a pad. I do not know, though. This will be researched and experimented on some more. Something else I learned is that I need a more heavily padded table. Originally I assumed this was to soak up excess dye. However, I found out that no padding = uneven image, so I put a stack of shop towels under the fabric as a temporary pad until I can put quilt batting under my canvas on my table.

print padding by you.

And then Lea experimented with Lino cut ink on fabric (which is lovely, but can never, ever be gotten wet):

lea's prints, on fabric by you.

Her prints are awesome.

Yul was gleeful, but Lea’s husband was not so sure.

yul and ahlric by you.

After they left, I printed FOUR YARDS of fabric, using a dead-blow mallet to pound the block so it would print evenly. Here’s the first yard:

block print, 1st yard by you.

(In the upper right corner, you can see a light spot, which is what happened when I didn’t pad under the fabric.)

I printed until 11pm, and then went to bed. My arm really hurts.

Now, before I heat-set the fabric, I get to  add in tiny little dots, by hand:

adding dots by you.

Wooo. But it will look awesome. I might heat-set it, and then add the dots later, and heat set them after that.

Today consisted of finishing a project for my mom, sitting around, and going to get pani puri with the  ChickenGoddess (did you know that if you suck the spicy pani up into your windpipe through the overexcitement of really tasty food, the burning on your tongue suddenly feels not so bad? Well, it’s true, and now I know that).

About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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8 Responses to I have conquered Gaul

  1. iaminchennai says:

    We didnt carve on wood in the class. But you can get the supplies (including blocks) in craft or printing supplies store. Do not use lino carving tools on wood though the vice-versa is allowed.

    Teak is only for seasoned carvers. Its a very hard wood and hardens with age. Teak blocks can be used for years and since it doesnt chip (ehich is important if you are carving against the grain) very intricate designs can be made on it.

    • HappyGoth says:

      I’ll have to try that! We’ve got a specialty woodworking store in Atlanta that sells all sorts of wood, and I’m going to try birch first (it is as easy to work with as linoleum, if you’ve had practice with linoleum first).

      That’s good to know about the teak. I’m probably going to work up to that; I’d ultimately like to have blocks I can use over and over, that won’t crumble the way the linoleum eventually will.


  2. iaminchennai says:

    Yes wool Blankets are the answer..
    The printing table we used in the class is make up of 2 layers of wollen sheet, a layer of plastic wrap and 2 layers of thick white cotton sheet…

    Printing on fabric needs more dye than paper as fabric absorbs more.

    when you want to print yardage using lino… then the lino block shouldnt be having edges that cut into the design ( i am not sure how to tell this though)

    A foam roller for inking and a hard rubber roller for the mallet part 🙂

    I am not sure if an inking surface works for the lino… it works with as wood in general has an absorbant surface so it sucks the dye… but lino tile doesnt suck the dye as much..
    But if you want to try an inking surface.. take a plastic tray a little larger than the lino tile and place a couple of layers of felt/lots of layers of muslin.. and slowly pour the dye until all the layers absorb the dye and still there is a bit excess for the lino to absorb… (you have to keep it wet as long as you work… once it gets dried you have to discard and start over..

    • HappyGoth says:

      Ah. You are a lifesaver. I had been wrestling with this, and with several different sorts of surfaces, and had come up empty-handed, so this is amazing information. Thanks!

      We did figure out the block issue; I’m not sure how that works with blocks that print large areas of color, but perhaps it doesn’t matter as much with a mordant. Maybe the dye sets evenly in that case.

      I’m planning on using wood as soon as I learn how. Did you use teak or some other wood? I have some teak blocks I bought at an antique fair, which work decently, but teak is hard to come by here (and equally difficult to carve, I’m told).

  3. Gabbiana says:

    The next time I am in Atlanta, I am so totally invading your house for art projects. I will bring beer, if you like.

  4. robbingpeter says:

    That is awesome woman. I am seriously impressed. One of the basic theories of printing that I was taught was that you always have to go from soft to hard or hard to soft. Trying to print hard on hard or soft on soft just doesn’t work well. That is why in offset litho you transfer from the hard plate to the soft impression blanket and back to the hard paper where with flexography you can go directly from squishy plate to hard paper.

    We have a large army issue wool blanket that might be a good backer, or any kind of fulled wool might work well to provide a more cushiony and receptive substrate (or a couple of shots of tequila – always makes substrates more receptive to your advances).

    But that is totally awesome. I want to learn next!

    • HappyGoth says:

      Army blankets! Woman, you’re brilliant. And the husband will not be upset to make a trek to the army surplus store.

      When would you like to learn? I can teach!

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