Block Printed Napkins

Hello Summer!  

I love picnicking on the weekends with my family. We pack up our trusty blanket, leash up the dog, strap on the baby, and head to a nearby park. I prepare a snacky lunch of fruits, cheese, crackers, and sparkling water (or bottled cocktails if we’re feeling frisky) and always include my reusable dishes and napkins.  

Inspired by my friend Rachel Khong, who wrote this great article about the qualities of using a dishcloth, I began replacing all the single-use products in my kitchen. I discarded our crusty sponges and replaced them with a couple of handwoven dishcloths. I put away the paper towels and opted to use cloth napkins instead.  

Since switching to cloth napkins, our at-home meals feel so special. Using them adds a little bit of extra warmth and personality to an otherwise mundane activity. Suddenly your morning cereal is more memorable when you use a pretty bowl and linen napkin. They are also great to pack on the go! Toss one in with your bagged lunch, and you’re not searching for something to mop up spills or dab the corner of your mouth with. 

In this tutorial, I update some plain napkins by block printing them by hand. This craft is a great way to refresh your well-loved linens. Hey, stains happen! They also make great gifts; print a bunch and share them with friends and family. Help spread the word about stylish sustainability! 

 Below I cover the basics of block printing. Follow along to learn how to carve a stamp, apply ink, and print. I will also go over creating a color scheme!


Gather Your Materials

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PRINT MAKING SUPPLIES

SPEEDY CARVE BLOCK

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LINO CUTTER

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SOFT RUBBER ROLLER

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Step 1: Draw

In your sketchbook, test out a few ideas of what you would like to print. Once you have an image, you can either trace it or draw directly on your block. 

*Printing will reverse your image.

Step 2: Carve Your Stamp


Start by carving the outlines of your shape using a v-shaped blade. 


Always cut your block by pushing away from your body. Be careful! Accidents happen. 


Next, cut out the details with the tiniest blade. Here I am using a size one blade.


Carve away a perimeter around your image using a larger blade. 


Cut away the excess material with scissors.



Remove any rough spots along the edge of your block with your lino cutter.

Step 3: Choose a Color Scheme

Before you start printing, you need to pick a color scheme. For inspiration, I like to look online at different color swatches. In my example, I am printing on an orange linen napkin. I want to choose colors that will complement the base hue. A quick Google search led me to coolors.co. I used it to quickly test out various color schemes and settled on this one.

Step 4:  Print

Start with a pool of ink at the top of your palette. Place the rubber roller on the edge of the blob and pull it towards you with light pressure. The rubber roller should be able to roll freely. Lift the rubber roller with each pull to ensure an even coating of ink.


Roll the ink on the block. Make sure to lift the brayer at the end of each pull.


Position your block above where you’d like to print. You only have one chance! I like to use my hands like kickstands to help steady the block.


Press your block firmly and evenly with your hands.



Carefully lift and repeat. Re-ink your block every time.

Once your fabric is dry, make sure to heat set it by ironing it for three minutes or putting it in the dryer on high for 30 minutes. Heat setting ensures that your printing permanently adheres to the fabric.

Yay! I'm so happy with my new napkins! I hope you feel inspired to try out a block printing project.

Want to learn more about printing? Check out our blog about printing for textile design!

Have you printed before? Share your questions and artwork in our comments!

JENNIE LENNICK 

Designer, entrepreneur, and lover of crafts! Boss Lady at Jenny Lemons in San Francisco