Anyone who knows me knows my obsession with tea-towels, especially calendar tea towels. If we’re going to have a good time this afternoon, DIY 2020 calendars may be beyond us. However, we can easily get in on the magic by creating a few simple block-printed tea towels.
How are we going to do it? We’ll sketch a few ideas on paper or print out images we love [in reverse] and transfer the best onto small rubber blocks. Then, we’ll carve our images on the blocks using linocut tools. Using screen printing ink, we’ll stamp our designs onto flour sac tea-towels. Then, iron to set.
Note: You could do just as well using a holiday cookie cutter on a potato to create a stamp! See our Summer of Funner craft from 2011 for potato stamp ideas! Super stretched for time? Use a pre-made rubber stamp!
Here’s the Aquarius Sign Zodiac Tea Towel I created as a test run!
And here’s my Block-Printed Tea Towels DIY in the form of a Recipe Card:
BLOCK-PRINTED TEA TOWELS DIY
- For sources and product recommendations, see NOTES, below.
- Paper and Pencil or Washable Marker for Sketching Your Design
- Flour Sac Tea Towels ironed
- Linoleum Carving Blocks* [We used 2.75 x 4.5 in Speedy Cut Lino Blocks. But you can also use Potatoes! or Pre-made Rubber Stamps!]
- Screen Printing Ink or Fabric Paint*
- Spoon [one you can wash or compost]
- Linoleum cutting tips and handles* [or Cookie Cutters for your potatoes!]
- X-Acto knife [optional]
- Twine [optional]
- Brayer or Paint Roller*
- A Piece of Plexiglass or glass from an old frame on which to Roll Ink [or a small dollar-store paint tray]
- Parchment Paper
- *If you don’t have a lot of these items I highly recommend the Speedball Beginner Block Printing Kit! See Notes, below.
- Print a design to the size of your block to use as inspo. [I like to print mine out in reverse, so that I can see exactly what I’ll be sketching onto the block] OR, in pencil, sketch your design on a piece of paper.
- Sketch your design in washable marker right onto the block. [Remember, your print will be a mirror image of what you draw here!] OR, place your pencilled design face down on the linoleum block and rub the back of the piece of paper with a credit card or transit pass to transfer the design onto the block.
- Carve the outline of your shape with linoleum carving tools. [Whatever remains raised will print on the towel — in reverse!]
- If desired, use an X-Acto knife to cut the shape out of a larger linoleum block. [I don’t bother.]
- Spread the ironed tea towel on a flat surface. [You might want to line that surface with craft paper to avoid damaging the surface with ink that bleeds through the towel. Note, the ink we use is washable until iron-set.]
- If desired, use lengths of twine to grid the tea towel to produce equal sized zones for your block prints. [I used 8 lengths of twine to grid my tea-towel into 25 zones.]
- Place about a teaspoon ink or fabric paint on your plexi-glass and use the brayer to roll a thin layer of ink across the glass.
- Roll the inked brayer over the stamp to coat the raised image evenly.
- Place the inked block on the towel and press down firmly with fingertips or palms.
- Repeat the inking and stamping process as desired. [Try regular spacing or flirt with an irregular pattern. Try mixing colours or using multiple stamps. ]
- Allow the ink to dry for an hour.
- Set the ink with an iron by covering the prints with parchment and pressing for 3-5 minutes. [Consult the directions on your ink/paint for proper heat setting and time.]
- Flour Sac Tea Towels: Amazon
- Linoleum Carving Blocks: DeSerres*
- Screen Printing Ink or Fabric Paint: DeSerres*
- Linoleum Cutting Tips and Handle: DeSerres*
- Brayer or Paint Roller: DeSerres*
- Plexiglass: DeSerres *If you don’t have a lot of these items, I highly recommend the Speedball Super Value Block Printing Kit!