So. I learned many things this weekend, but here is the summing up, so that in the future, others can learn from my mistakes.
1. Soft-soft, hard-hard. That is, soft blocks print better on soft materials and hard blocks print better on hard materials (rubber/cloth, wood/paper). Not that you can’t work around it, but it’s definitely easier.
2. Pad your surface. If you don’t, you’ll get uneven coverage on your print. This isn’t an issue when printing on paper, but fabric is a much more flexible material.
3. Pound the block. I tried printing straight and again got an uneven print. You’ll need to pound the back of the block, to make sure the middle hits the fabric. I recommend a mallet instead of your fist; you’ll hurt yourself if you use your fist for too long (though printers in India do it; I imagine they’ve long ago lost feeling in the side of their hands).
4. Don’t cut a square block. This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned. While seamless blocks that are in square or rectangle shapes work well for a small area on paper, when you get to the point where you’re printing more than half a yard, you’ll want to carve the block so that parts stick out past the edge. If not, when you get to the yard mark, unless you’re really good and the block is perfectly square, you’re going to get gaps and overlap, which show up really well on your finished piece. I thought that the textile I was looking at was printed with a square block, but I’m realizing that the medallions probably extended beyond the square, resulting in a block with four or six complete medallions instead of one complete one and several half ones. I’m not sure how the squiggly lines were made, but I have a feeling they might be wax-resist. Or maybe they’re on the block. In any case, I need to rethink this.
5. Wood works best. I have some already-carved wood blocks that I used to test with, and they print great. My linoleum block fills in with the sort of stamp pad I’m looking at creating, because the printing surface is not raised very far off the backing. The wood blocks do not fill as badly, as they have holes drilled into them. The holes soak up a little excess ink. If I had filled the holes with cotton, as you’re supposed to do, they would soak up even more.
6. Rubber brayers work with linoleum ink, but something softer is necessary with a thinner ink. Like a trim roller. I don’t know how this applies to liquid ink, but I plan on experimenting.
The one thing I have left to learn is how long I need to run things through the dryer on high heat to heat set the ink, because using an iron is Right Out. It’s 3 minutes per square, multiplied by 60 squares per yard, over four yards. I don’t have that much time or patience. I think enough time in a hot dryer should do the trick, but I don’t know for sure.