Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Block printing cotton bags

I bought some cotton bags from Hobbycraft for £1 each so that I could try printing on them at home with my Plymouth Pilgrims linocut which I made at my NatSatClub.  I washed the bags and they shrunk quite a bit, and I couldn’t get them completely flat with the iron but I like the slightly crumbly texture they have.  The other equipment I used was:

  • Blue Essdee Block-printing ink which I bought from Cass Art (Bristol)
  • A stainless steel serving spoon to use as a baren
  • A thick slab of glass to roll the ink on
  • The four inch roller from the Essdee Cutting and Printing kit bought from the The Art Side (Plymouth)
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Attempt #1

Attempt #1 – I used cardboard inside the bag in case the ink bled through and the usual amount of ink I would use for printing on paper.  The print is visible but looks pale or faded.  There was no ink on the inside of the bag.  I thought that I needed to apply more ink next time and wondered if the cardboard had cushioned the fabric so that the pressure from the spoon wasn’t enough to transfer the print.

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Attempt #2

Attempt #2 – I removed the cardboard so there was nothing inside the bag and used a thicker layer of ink.  The ink did bleed slightly on the inside of the bag but it was quite a patchy print.  I decided I needed a thin protective layer inside the bag and to apply more pressure to the spoon.

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Attempt #3

Attempt #3 – I used a thin piece of paper inside the bag to protect it from ink bleeding and a thick layer of ink.  I put greater pressure on the spoon in all areas.  The paper took any ink that bled through but the print was still a little patchy.  The print wasn’t aligned properly on this bag but it was my best attempt so far.

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Attempt #4

Attempt #4 – A thick layer of ink, a lot of pressure with the spoon, and a layer of paper inside the bag.  I aligned the bag carefully and went over the print area thoroughly and with a lot of effort with the back of my spoon.  This print looked really good although I did lose definition in some areas because of how thick the ink layer was on the lino.

I enjoyed this experiment and I’m going to make some more block-printed bags soon.  I need to find a better way to apply more consistent pressure with the equipment I have at home because the spoon works well with paper and card but doesn’t work as well with the fabric.  I really like my design and I’m glad it looks good on bags.  I don’t know if the ink will stay on the bags in wet weather or if it will wash so I’m going to test one of these bags after they’ve had time to dry properly and look at different types of ink.

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