wearable sculpture + unique fashion

Morgan Culture Tutorial: HOW TO make layered fabric wedding invitations (Part 2: Lino-cut)

This is the second step in making these layered fabric wedding invitations! In Part 1, you learned how to prepare, paint, and tear your fabric.


This part will include how to print your fabric (the old school way). A cool video tutorial  by Blick Art Materials is Here. (just notice she does a few things I specifically say to NOT do- like laying her brayer on its face, eek!). If you already know how to do a lino-cut, you might want to read this just to get a few new tips, but it’s overall a very basic description of a lino-cut.

For printing, you’ll need:

A linoleum block (I prefer the wood-mounted type height blocks- they are type height for if you are using a letterpress- which we aren’t- but are easier to maneuver as you work. Also, beware of rubber stamp blocks, usually pink, which are completely inferior)

Set of linoleum cutting tools (Speedball’s set  is cheap, convenient, and works fine)

Mirror (for rolling out ink on- if you don’t have one available, hardware stores sell them in packs. If you purchase these, tape the mirror to a piece of cardboard to protect yourself from its sharp edges. Mirrors are best to see your ink on because any color under the ink- even white- can alter your perception of the color and how it will look on your particular fabric, whereas on a mirror the ink can only reflect itself and its own color)Block printing ink (Speedball, again, is perfectly good. One tube should print plenty- we used 2 colors on 140 invitations and 30 guest bags and still have plenty left in each tube. Use water-based ink for easy and environmentally-friendlier cleanup)

Brayer (Again, Speedball makes a few. The brayer is the most expensive part of this whole endeavor and you’ll likely want to keep it, so TAKE CARE OF IT! First criteria: make sure your brayer is not bigger than your block. This is very important, because if you’re consistently rolling the brayer over a too-small block, you’ll wear a groove into your brayer and it will never lay ink on the same way again. I got one that was almost exactly the depth of the block but slightly smaller. Also, NEVER rest your brayer on its rolly-part. Lay it on its back with the metal part holding it up so the rolly-part doesn’t touch the table/surface).

1) Plan your block. This step is IMPERATIVE- remember that anything you carve into the block will print BACKWARD. It’s a stamp. And if you mess it up, you won’t be able to fix it. So watch especially for your text !!

You can use a transfer method to put your image on your block backwards after you print it on a piece of paper, which could save you some time. The old-schoolest method of this is to just print your design, color over it in a heavy drawing pencil, lay it onto your block, and color on the design again with a pencil from behin

d.Also, make sure to use a high-contrast image (not a lot of gradient). Grays and gradients can be really hard and frustrating for beginners to try to carve.

2) Heat your block. Use a hairdryer or heat gun (heat gun on VERY LOW so as to not melt the block). The heat will make it cut like buttah.3) Cut your block. REMEMBER: The stuff you cut out is the part that will NOT print; i.e. you are carving out a relief of the image you will actually see. The stuff that will print is the stuff that’s left. Use your lino-cut tools appropriately- some are obviously for smaller sections, others are for larger sections, and the big knifey-thing is for cutting out large areas. At the end of each stroke you do, pull the tool UP so you aren’t ripping any extra linoleum off the block. A great lino-cutting tutorial is here. Keep in mind that one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of a lino cut is the “chatter”- those strokes that aren’t quite carved out, that pick up a little ink. You can see in our block that I purposely arranged the chatter in a cool pattern and left quite a bit of it- it would have been WAY easier to cut those empty sections out completely with the knifey-thing, but cutting them in small strokes in that pattern gave us a very cool final product. Plan your chatter, and err on the side of leaving too much. You can always cut it down more later if you’ve got too much.

3A) Proof your block. You want to test it out to see if you like how it prints before you get ready to do a million invitations! Follow the next few steps on inking and printing.

4) Roll out your ink. Take your mirror and put a blob of ink on it. If your ink is brand new or has been sitting a while (or is a metallic hue), it may have excess oil that comes out, like ketchup does. Make sure you wipe this oil up or get rid of that portion of the ink, because otherwise the ink will be very thin, or even translucent, when it prints. Using your brayer, spread the ink out. Don’t just roll back and forth- pick your brayer up at the top of each stroke so that the ink refreshes across the brayer and the mirror. Your ink should have an orange-peel texture and should make a sticky sound. If your ink has rows of marks in it instead of an orange peel texture, you have too much ink down. You can scrape off some of your ink slab and continue with thinner ink. If you don’t see a texture or part of your brayer rolls out empty on your mirror, you don’t have enough ink. Watch the tutorial here (at 1:03) for the noise and texture your ink should have.

5) Ink your block. I didn’t give information on how to do what’s called a “rainbow roll” like our invitations have (with the green fading to black), so that will come later and we’ll keep it basic for now 🙂 Roll your brayer over the block until the block has the same texture your slab had- the orange peel. You’ll need to roll it back in the ink and then back on the block a few times. If when you print the image is smeary, you may be over-inking. If your print is light, your ink may be dry or you may be under-inking. You should print a bunch of tests before you’re ready to use your actual fabric.

6) Print. Again, proof your print several times to make sure your ink is right and will lay well on the fabric before you actually start printing. And make sure you like the amount of chatter that’s showing up- if not, go back to step 3 and remove more block.  Make sure to re-ink your block before every print! Try to land the print in the same place on every piece of fabric so you have consistency.

When you print, you can either use a little press (one’s shown in the pictures here) or a wooden spoon. I prefer the spoon method, because it’s even more old-school. And it’s a SPOON. Slowly lay your fabric over the block, leaving the block facing upright. Start at one side of the block while you’re laying the fabric down. Use your spoon’s round back and rub it in a circular motion all over the block. Make sure to cover the whole thing, and make sure you’re using pressure (not TOO much pressure). You may find the ink is coming through your fabric and onto your spoon if you have thin fabric, so you may want to use a paper or another piece of cloth between the spoon and your print. I don’t usually, because I like to see the print showing up on the fabric.

7) Allow to dry. You should let these dry for at least a few hours- overnight if you’re using oil-based ink.

8) Clean up. Make sure to wash the rolling part of the brayer AND the sides. Rinse off your block with water (some say to not use water on linoleum, but I do). Use your razor to scrape off your mirror and wipe all that ink on some paper towels or shop towels. You likely won’t need any water for the mirror.

Step 3 is all the rest! I know, step 2 was long- but it’s all worth it 🙂

Me teaching this at Craftcation Conference! Thanks to the Coco Gallery for the photo.


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