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Simple block printing: Barbara Zarestky shows you how to get customizing.

Are your placemats, napkins or curtains looking a little drab these days? Got a jacket or a skirt that needs a custom update? Spice up your home decor and your wardrobe with a simple block printing project using items you already have.


You can use this printing technique on almost any material, but below, you'll see you how to customize a reusable grocery tote. Use organic and sustainable hemp or cotton to construct your own beforehand, or order one online from

For this project, almost anything can serve as a printing block to transfer paint from one surface to another. Look around your home for possible materials: jar lids, erasers, old kitchen utensils, small scraps of wood, or even a toothpaste lid. Before you throw anything out, examine its printing potential!

Your design options are endless, and inspiration is everywhere. Use flowers, leaves, shells, or other natural shapes for an organic look. For a bolder design, go for geometric shapes like squares, paisleys, circles or stripes.

Learn more about this process and other techniques at the Creating Pattern on Fabric: Block Printing workshop at Cloth Fiber Workshop in June. Barbara Zaretsky is a fiber artist and director of Cloth Fiber Workshop (; she also operates BZDesign, a textile design and manufacturing company and can be reached at



The only things you'll have to purchase for this project are fabric paint, available at most art supply stores, and an X-acto[TM] knife if you're doing any carving. Make sure you select nontoxic paints--like Pebeco Setacoior or Deka Paint--that should be labeled as such on the packaging. Other items you'll need to gather before you begin include paintbrushes, a container for water and some tape. Once you've collected your materials, the steps are quite easy.



If your fabric or project is new, be rare to pre-wash and press. Then, before you cut or palm anything, decide on your design. If it helps, make a sketch first and then cut out or arrange your design using your printing material. In this case, we're using a jar lid, a cardboard box cover, and an eraser. Then decide where you'd like your design to go. A single image in the center? Covering the entire surface?



For padding, stack a few old newspapers, on a hard surface, like a table, followed by an old pillowcase or fabric. Tape the layers down, making sure the area where you'll be printing is flat and smooth. Next, put some newspaper inside your bag to avoid transferring paint to the other side.



Apply a layer of paint to your printing block (or blocks) using the paintbrushes and press the painted side firmly onto the fabric. Repeat to create your design.



Let the fabric dry for 24 bouts, and you're ready for the market! If you can, avoid washing your bag for four weeks. Your paint bottle may offer a beat-setting option, but letting the fabric set naturally is best.

Photos by Olivier Le Pord. Gradient Media Photography
COPYRIGHT 2008 New Life Journal Media LLC
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Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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