If you don’t have access to a screen printing studio, there are lots of ways to print your own fabric, and make custom printed fabric for fashion, interiors and accessories projects. Digital fabric printing can accurately print your photographs, paintings, drawings and CAD designs on fabric, and Print & Press, London’s digital fabric printing prices start from just £22 per metre.
Another alternative to screenprinting is lino printing, and the lovely Kati of This Time I Print has given us a how to guide for lino printing your own fabric.
My name’s Kati, and I’m based in Cologne, Germany, where I run Eine Liebhaberei, a small label for handprinted fabrics and accessories. I have been carving stamps and printing for years and I love to develop new stamps and patterns. I wanted to give you an insight into my creative process; how to make a stamp, what materials and tools I work with, and what you need to consider when fabric printing.
I carve my stamps with Factis Artis Stamp Block (blue version)*, because the material is easy to work and doesn’t crumble or break so fast. The choice of fabric ink depends on the fabric being used and the fineness of the stamp**. Not every stamp works on every material equally well, and the best way to find out is to experiment.
It is important that the ink is not too thin, otherwise it runs into the stamp and the print result can become ruined. The ink should also not be too firm, as otherwise it will not give enough color to the fabric. A creamy consistency is perfect to apply the ink with a foam roller onto the stamp.
For fabrics, I prefer natural fibres such as linen or cotton, without finishing or other pretreatments. It is always a good idea to wash your fabric before printing to make sure there isn’t a finish on it. For a good printing result the fabric shouldn’t be too smooth, and should be slightly structured.
- I start by drawing a design, and I trace the lines with a graphite pencil. Then I put the drawing face down on the stamp material, fix it with a tape and squeeze with a knife over the paper, so the drawing is transferred to the stamp material.
- Carve the outlines with a fine linocut tool (v-shaped blade), and after that the inner details. The background I carve with a coarser linocut tool (u-shaped blade).
Once the stamp is finished, I always do a test print. Often there are small parts I have forgotten to cut, so now is the time to make adjustments to the stamp and do a few tests.
When the print result of the stamp is as I had imagined, I apply the color on a flat plate, rolling the ink equally on the foam roller, and then I roll the foam roller lightly onto the stamp.
Then the actual printing process begins: I print on a table, which I’ve covered with two fabric layers, this soft underlay gives a beautiful print result. It is important to put the stamp at the desired location from the top, press it equally and then lift it straight up again. This prevents the print becoming blurred. Sometimes it is helpful to fix the fabric with masking tape on to the print table. Most ideas for patterns I develop during the printing process by experimenting.
For smaller print accidents or mistakes, I always have a glass of water ready, with a fresh brush or sponge and paper towels. Fresh, smaller stains can be removed easily with a damp paper and a sponge.
For stamps that I want to print a particular pattern with, I fix onto Plexiglas, which has the advantage that I can see through while printing for a perfect setup. For larger stamps I mostly attach onto a piece of wood, as this gives the stamp stability and it is easier to handle. Small, tiny stamps I mostly use without any aids to have the greatest flexibility in the printing process.
After printing I fix the colour with an iron. I wash the stamps out with hot water, so they can be used again.
Hope you enjoy my little fabric printing guide. Have fun trying some of your own fabric printings!
*You can buy Factis Artis Stamp Block (blue version) from Modular.de, but their shipping to the UK is quite high. Another alternative is Martin Universal Moo Carving Block from Amazon which has free delivery. **Amazon also sell Speedball Textile Inks that you can use to print on fabric.