Although I studied printmaking at University (and wore block printed t-shirts when I was a kid), it’s only recently that block printing on fabric has become something of an obsession for me. It’s a time-consuming, very hand-made process, but it produces results that are quite beautiful.

It seems as if I’m not the only one rediscovering this ancient technique; I’ve noticed more and more block printing around the web recently.

The printing is done with carved blocks, either linoleum or wood, which are inked and then pressed onto a surface to transfer the design.

These photos are from the website of Hugh Dunford Wood, who designs and prints astonishingly lovely wallpaper:

More designs and colourways on his site.

A South African company that’s doing block printed textiles is Side Attraction 3, who produce luxurious cushions, tablecloths, curtains, and more.
Items can be purchased by phone, fax, post or online. See their website for details. (Side Attraction 3’s photos by photographer Alastair Mclachlan).

Slipstream, the company responsible for printing some of the Side Attraction 3 textiles, also sells limited edition block printed fabrics of their own.

The name of another South African company – Zambane – gives away their unusual printing technique. In Zulu, “amaZambane” means “potatoes”, and these prints are made with potatoes as printing blocks.

Read more about Zambane here, and order these cushions through Babazeka, a great new local online shop.

Also worth a look: Galbraith & Paul, who produce fabrics for home furnishings and lights. Printing with linoleum, they creat
e wonderfully subtle and intricate patterns. Their site has some great ‘process’ images too.

The basic tools and techniques of block printing are very simple, but the range of designs that can be produced is dazzling! If you’re feeling inspired to try your hand at block printing, you’ll find linoleum, cutting tools and fabric paint at most art shops. Potatoes are even more readily available, and can be carved with craft knives! Once you’ve printed, all you need to cure your fabric is a hot iron or oven.

I’ve written a three-part block printing tutorial over at my blog. Start with part 1 here, then look through my archives for the rest.