I made my first attempt at block printing today. I spent a bit of time over the last week browsing online how-to's and gathering images of period paintings and extant fabric samples. Here is a great video of block printing in Jaipur. The video starts with a multi-colour print using four speerate blocks and then demonstrates a great method for turning corners - using newspaper to make angles. It's also comforting to see that professions (who do this every day) sometimes misalign the blocks. This morning, I felt confident enough to make my own attempt on a scrap of pale yellow linen I had lying around.
From what I can gather, a lot of block printing is done using wooden or copper blocks like the one in the image above (grabbed from a random ebay auction). The blocks are crafted in such a way that the design will flow from each printed block. The raised section of the block is covered in fabric paint or dye from an ink pad and then the block is stamped onto the fabric.
For my first attempt I decided not to buy a block from ebay as I only wanted a small design. Also, alot of them seem to be discarded blocks from India and I would want a complete pattern. Instead, I crafted a mini-block using 'Make 'n' Bake', a mont marte femo knock off. I got the idea from aan article by Lindsay Boardman for a polymer clay cookie stamp. I took the idea and made a small quatra-heart pattern stamp. The hard part was getting the hearts flat. As you can see in the image above, when I defined the groove between the hearts, the bottom two buckled. I used Pebeo's Setacolour opaque for this first experiment. Mostly because I have a couple of pots sitting around my house from a previous abortive fabric painting attempt. I ended up painting the dye onto the stamp as I didn't have an ink pad and I wasn't going to be doing many stamps. It took me a while to master getting most of the design on the fabric. The left two stamps in the image below are the best print I achieved with the stamp alone. The print on the right I touched up with a paint brush.
I quite like this effect and will try it again to make a small Persian headscarf or possibly even a full tunic (if I get around to making more stamps). In the mean time, I'm going to look for a rubber stamp of two crossed quills. The type of rubber stamp Samantha used to use for her card embossing art. I suspect it may work well for a small block printing project.