Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Block Printed Flour Sack Towels and How Its Done

In college I learned how to do linoleum and wood block printing. I've been in love with the printing process since then, in all forms. I even worked for a commercial printer and a newspaper, and continue to use printing in my artwork today.

A while back I introduced the new towels, napkins, coasters and runners, made in the Carolinas. Today I'm going to talk a little about how its done.

Here are their new Christmas designs!


Linoleum is an easily cut, inexpensive material where simple tools can bring good relief prints. Relief printing means removing material so that the remaining raised inked surface comes in contact with paper or in this case fabric. The ink is transferred to the fabric using pressure. Designs are made by what remains, or what is not cut away from the surface. There are few limits regarding designs-making linocuts as simple or detailed as the artist chooses.

Current brands of linoleum contain a gritty inner material that rapidly dulls tools, but battleship linoleum, while looking the same, is superior material. It cuts well when cold and like butter when warmed. A close lamp, iron or sunlight is enough heat to make a difference.
You start by penciling a design on the lino, remembering that it will be reversed in the printing process. Some use a mirror to see the design inverted. Once you have a design, you redraw the lines with a permanent, blue ink Sharpie pen, marking across any unwanted lines to avoid errors. It helps to label areas to be cut out.

There are four cutting blades. They are "u," "v," a straight edge, and a pointed edge, all in various sizes. To start, you precut the lines using the pointed edge, holding the tool upright like a pencil, turning the lino to facilitate cutting curving lines. The pre-cutting makes for crisp edges and is good for close clearances.

The "v" gouge cuts a simple line and the "u" gouge  scoops out large areas, cutting towards the already incised safety line from my original cutting with the pointed tool.

Once you have your design the way you want it you ink it with a brayer, put your fabric on it, if you have a press, you press it down, and it's done!!  If you don't have a press using a wooden spoon rub it over the material to transfer the ink to the fabric.

That's all there is to it!!

Here is one of their every day designs we have.

- Jan Francoeur

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