Stamps are a great way to print on fabric. You don’t need a lot of special equipment, the techniques are simple and you can get great results. So if your budget is tight (like mine) or you don’t have much space to print or time to devote to crafty persuits, fabric printing might be for you!
In the past I’ve always used giant erasers to make my stamps, but I recently ordered a Seed stamp block and some new carving tools (see this post). The seed block was great to use, it had more resistance than the erasers making it easier to carve. I love the Japanese carving set, I could get much finer lines than with using the lino carving tools I had used before. I’ll still use the erasers because they work quite well and they are available from the supermarket and department store for a couple of dollars each, but I’ll definitely be getting more of the seed blocks. They are only available from Japan as far as I’m aware but the postage to Australia is not too bad.
The set of carving tools I have has a fine v shape tool, a larger u shape tool and a small blade. The v shape is used for making fine lines, the u shape for removing larger areas and the blade for outlining areas before using the v tool so you don’t accidently remove more than you intended. The blade is also good for removing little pieces and I used it to smooth the outline of the whole stamp.
What you need:
- Drawings or images you want to use
- Stamp carving blocks or giant erasers
- Carving tools
- Craft knife
- Carbon paper
- Pen or pencil
- A drop cloth is handy to catch all the bits that get carved out
Transferring the image to the block
I use carbon paper to transfer my drawings to the block; the Seed block needs to be wiped down first. The lines are light so I go over them with pen. If you’re using your own drawings it’s a good idea to photocopy it and use that to trace the outline, so you’re not tracing over your original artwork.
Start by outlining the area you want to remove with a blade then using the fine v tool. Turning the block as you carve can help to get a nice clean line.
Use a u tool to dig in and remove larger areas.
I wanted my stamps to have some clean lines and some texture as well, so I left some areas near the surface that will show up when I print with them. If you want all clean lines you need to dig down a bit as when you press the stamp onto the fabric areas that have been carved but are still near the surface will pick up ink. I have my carving tools with me when I’m printing so I can test print my stamps to see if I’m happy with it or if I need to carve more out.
Use a craft knife to carve out the stamp from the rest of the block. I keep the larger chunks to make small stamps like leaves.
Use a fine blade to smooth the outline.
some people mount their stamps onto wood or acrylic blocks to make it easier to print, but I've always got by just fine without doing this.
I think hands carved stamps are beautiful little objects and it’s so much fun to get out the fabric inks and use them. Coming up next will be my post about the messy fun of printing fabric with stamps!