How To: Make Your Own Block Printed Napkins

How To: Make Your Own Block Printed Napkins

Claire Bock
Nov 30, 2011

Hand printed napkins are a great way to personalize a holiday table and block printing is a great technique to achieve a handcrafted look. Follow the steps in this DIY guide and you will be able to create your very own custom napkins for the hoildays.

Having some experience carving linoleum blocks from my days doing letterpress, I knew that I needed to keep the image simple and classic for the best results. Since silhouettes are everywhere these days, it is pretty easy to find some basic shapes to suit your fancy.

First, you should start with basic solid cloth napkins. You could sew your own or to save time purchase some inexpensive linen napkins. For those of you in Europe, H&M Home has the perfect simple linen napkins available in four colors. West Elm also has a set of four basic napkins for $16 in an array of gorgeous colors.

The tool set that you will need includes the following:
Linoleum block
Speedball carving tool
Fabric paint
Rolling brayer
Paint tray

If you have never printed before, a great kit to get that has most of the tools you need is the Speedball Block Printing Starter's Kit

Carving a linoleum block requires a steady hand and a bit of concentration.
The one tricky part about carving a linoleum block is remembering that the image you trace onto the block becomes a mirror image. Since I wasn't carving any text, it didn't matter which way my image faced. Trace your image and fill in with pencil. Place the image face down on the linoleum and burnish the image onto the block. Now you can fill it in on the block with Sharpie marker and you are ready to carve out the negative space.

Once you have a carved block that you are happy with, it is time to start printing!
Place some of the fabric paint onto the paint tray. Roll it out into a thin layer and roll the paint onto your block.

I found that for the best results and ink permeation, laying the fabric on top of the block and using the baren plate to press the fabric into the block works the best. If you have some scrap fabric lying around, test out some different methods to figure out what you prefer.

Last step before use is to heat set the ink into the fabric using an iron. Now you are ready to dine with friends and show off your creative handy work.

Images: Claire Bock and Phillip Stoup

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