Printing Fabric with Square Lino

 Printing onto fabric is one of our specialties here at Handprinted. We like to come up with easy ways in which fabric can be printed in a small space at home with minimal mess and equipment. One such way we have been  laying with recently is printing using a square piece of lino. From just a small block, a large number of designs can be made.

We have had a go at a diagonal block and a quarter-circle block to show you ways to print repeat patterns onto fabric!

Here’s how to create a design with a quarter circle:

Draw around your block onto a piece of paper. To create a circular design draw a curve joining opposite corners. Using a folder piece of paper to  create an even curve might help here. This design uses several curves (each made with a piece of folder paper) filled with pattern. In the empty section outside of the curve, draw another smaller design radiating from the corner.

Transfer your design onto the block. You can use carbon paper or tracing paper.

Use a small V tool to carve around the edges of the design. A piece of anti-slip matting can help hold the lino in place whilst you carve, keeping your other hand safe away from the blade.

Use a large U tool to clear the unwanted areas of lino. Always clear the lino in a direction that flatters your design as some areas may be picked up by the ink and print. Around the edges of the circle I cleared in the direction of the curve.

Inside the circle I cleared in radiating lines from the corner.

On the back of your block, draw a curve that mimics how the print will look underneath. You can even number your edges 1, 2, 3 and 4 to help you place your block later.

Spoon out a little Fabric Screen Printing Ink onto an inking tray or glass slab. Use a sponge roller to roll out the ink.

We are using fabric screen printing ink as it keeps the handle of the fabric soft, dries quickly and is inexpensive to buy. A flat roller would slip around in this ink as it is much looser than block printing ink. A sponge roller ensures a more even coverage of ink – more info about using different inks for block printing coming up in our next project blog post!

Use the sponge roller (or better yet, a textile roller) to transfer the ink to the block. As it has more give, the sponge roller will put more ink down on the cleared sections of the lino, showing more of your carving lines. This does not necessarily mean that they will show in your print but using a mounted piece of lino will minimize the amount of extra lines that are printed. Textile rollers will give you less carving lines and absorb less ink, so you’ll use up less ink.

Place your block face down onto your fabric with the curve as shown in the picture (number 1 should be at the top). Press down on the back of the block with the flat of your hand. Pinning your fabric onto a slightly padded surface helps to create an even print.

Re-ink up your block. Rotate it and place it so the curve creates a semi-circle (number 2 should be at the top). Print as before.

Place your next print following the clockwise direction of the circle.

Place your forth print to complete the circle.

Continue to print in this way, starting again in the top left corner.

Your blocks should match up to create a design from the outer corners too.

This is what our fabric looked like after 9 full circles were printed (36 prints).

You will need to set this ink with an iron once the prints have dried. This will make the fabric washable.

Try changing the configuration of your prints. This pattern staggers the circle to create semi circles in a wave.

Here the semi circles all face the same direction but are staggered to create a design like overlapping scales.

This design was printed with the block diagonally, all facing the same direction.

This design matches up the curve to create a spiral (use the curve drawn on the back of your block to help you).

Try a diagonal design where the edges do not need to line up so accurately. This fabric was printed using the same method as the one above:

Different orientations of this block creates new patterns:

To have a go at this printing method you will need:

Meet the Maker: Jenny McCabe


This week we are introducing you to the beautiful work of Jenny McCabe. Learn her inspiration, working methods and motivation here:

Hi my name is Jenny and I live in Lancaster with my 2 children and husband. I have been an artist all my life – I started a degree in fine art in 1999
whilst my first child was only 2! Whilst at uni I took on artist in residence posts and delivered creative workshops around the northwest – they do
say if you need something doing give it to a busy woman! I’m telling you this to illustrate how my art practice has always been busy and varied and
I always have to find ways of sharing it with people – a passion of mine is collaborating and teaching.

I spend a long time working with digital art and film making but in 2006 I needed a change and decided I wanted to get back to making things – hands on
getting messy making! This led me to screen printing as I wanted to work with my drawings and be able to layer and repeat and work with fabric. It
has developed since then into my collages paper works but still screen printing gives me the freedom to layer my drawings and create unique artworks.
I still can’t get away from sharing and teaching and continue to develop community arts projects getting the general public to come and print with
me to make large scale works and of course I wrote 2 books sharing some simple printing ideas for making hand printed fabric items.

Describe your process.

My process starts with and idea and then lots and lots of drawing – some screwed up and thrown away never to be seen – some worked on over and over until
right. I love to draw birds and animals and look for dynamic poses and movement which I try to capture in my messy ink lines. When developing a project
to work with the public I keep it simple as the magic of screen printing is in the reveal! Lifting up the screen and seeing a perfect print never gets
old and the smile on peoples’ faces when they pull their first print is very addictive for me!

How and where did you learn to screen print?

I did do a tiny bit of screen printing on my foundation art course at Bourneville art college in Birmingham in 1993!!! So I understood the basics but I
am self taught apart from that – trial and error – tears and tantrums and now many years of practice – Plus I don’t think I would ever say I can screen
print. I’m a bodger – I can get a print out of a screen but I don’t really know what I’m doing!

Why screen printing?

I wanted to be able to put my drawings onto fabric and paper collages and repeat and layer images – screen printing seemed the most flexible for my needs.

Where do you work?

For years I had a perfectly adequate studio in my garage (very cosy garage with heating and insulation! ) but I recently moved in to a shared studio space
in the centre of Lancaster – my space is a similar size to my garage but its so great to be with other creative people and to have to leave the house
to go to work! It’s making me work harder and have a more defined shape to my day – I still do the odd night working in studio till midnight but it’s
more difficult to arrange that which was the idea – family first!

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I get into work straight after school run (my youngest is still at primary school). I turn on laptop while the kettle boils – I do a bit of half arsed
yoga if my back hurts! Then I make a list for the day and try to tackle it! My days are short as I do the school pick up so I usually cram all my making
and printing into the morning and leave admin till afternoon or once I’m home – I have plenty of galleries stocking my work so there is always a deadline
for a show or re stock or a fair to be making for. Plus I’m developing another large scale public engagement project so much writing and fundraising
to do – all worth it in the end!

How long have you been printmaking? 

I’ve been printmaking since 2006ish!

What inspires you?

Nature – British birds are just amazing – from their behavior to the incredible colours and all right on our door step. Collaborating and sharing art with
people is a vital part of my practice and makes my soul feel good!

What is your favourite printmaking product?

I am not brand loyal and tend to go with the cheapest and make things work in a very LO-FI way. Couldn’t be without a good sharp squeegee though – makes
all the difference in pulling a good print.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

Well obviously my children are my greatest creation and the thing I am most proud of and always will be but if I think about my art that’s a very hard
question – I really love my community work – it’s a joy to help someone else create – a project I did last year and intend to develop further was called
Flocking – screen printing with members of the public in an empty high street shop to create huge fabric banners of flying birds – this year I intend
to revisit the project and make it even bigger.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

My work is stocked in a few gallery shops across the UK and online.

My biggest supporter locally is Arteria – a fab gallery shop in Lancaster. Artfinder is working well for me and Folksy has always been a great platform.

What will we be seeing from you next?

Well – big things – literally!– I’m developing my Flocking project further and intend to work with hundreds of members of the public and schools to print
thousands of birds to fill the gallery room at the Storey Building in Lancaster.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Just do! The only way to learn is do it and make mistakes and try again. The only way to get your work seen is to just make the work and get it out there,
be kind and generous to other makers and your audience because that’s the right way – life is not a race or a competition, it’s a journey and we all
end up at the same destination so enjoy the ride because it should be fun and share the ride because that’s what it’s all about!

See and hear more from Jenny on her website, facebook or twitter.


Meet the Maker: Sophia and Matt

If you’re in need of some motivation to get you through the cold months then this Meet the Maker is for you. We met Sophia and Matt in their beautiful
Brighton shop and fell in love with their products and inspirational story:

Sophia and Matt

We met a college when we were 16 and became a couple 2 years later, we’ve been together for 17 years. We studied art together for 3 years and then Sophia
went on to specialise in fashion design and I went on to study graphic design for a further 4 years each. In 2005 we formed a small design company
and created a simple set of products (a makeup bag, some toiletry bags and a handbag). We cut them on the floor at Sophia’s parents house and sewed
them using Sophia’s old industrial Singer Sewing machine. We took the finished products to Greenwich Market on a Friday and sold everything we made,
so we made some more. We ended up doing that all week every week for 5 years and it slowly turned into a business. Trading in the freezing cold and
hand making 1,000s of products was very tough but it was also rewarding, we sold our products all over Europe and Japan. We remained low profile but
had a dedicated following of customers and they helped form the foundation of our company. In 2010 we had grown to the point where we could open a
shop in Greenwich and leave the markets behind. We started outsourcing the cutting and making to a small family run factory in London so we could spend
more time on design and running the company. The company continued to grow and in 2015 we opened our second shop in Brighton on Bond Street 10 years
after our first day on the market.

Myself and Sophia design the products, the prints and all the hardware you see on the products. We also write all of the software that runs our company
(Website, POS software in our shops etc) and do our own photography. We pretty much have a hand in every aspect of our company. We have 3 incredible
staff back in London at our Greenwich store that support us and take care of everything else.

Sophia & Matt Brighton, 42 Bond street

 Describe your design process

A new product or print usually comes about as the result of 100s of casual conversations between myself & Sophia spread over weeks or months, and we’ll
make it happen when the time is right (usually if there’s a demand or finances will allow). We’re always talking about what we like and don’t like
when it comes to design as part of every day conversation and so we’re pretty much always in tune with what each other are thinking.

Because we work so closely with the retail side of the business (we often work in either of the shops) we meet a lot of our customers and we listen to
what they tell us, quite often they have no idea we’re the people behind the company and those customers talk openly about what they like and don’t
like. Over time you start developing a picture of what there’s a demand for.

The actual execution happens rapidly. Sophia might say one day “lots of people have been asking about x” and I’d say “yeah I’ve heard that too, it be cool
if we did it like this…” One of us would create a crude sketch on a piece of receipt paper or whatever is kicking around and that would be it.
Sophia would then create a paper pattern for the product and sample it at our flat in Brighton. She’d cut and sew it and show it to me when it’s done
and I’d either say “cool, you’ve nailed it” or “we need to work on this bit”. We’d iterate over that process a few times until it’s done which can
take anywhere between a few hours or a few weeks depending on the complexity of the product. Once finished Sophia would draw up a production specification
and work with our factory to produce a production sample.

When it comes to designing a print, that happens very randomly. Ultimately we’d get to a point where we know we want to make a Wild Floral (for example)
and I’d usually start hacking stuff together randomly based on what we’d been talking about for the last few weeks or months. When it comes to our
florals I like to work with India Ink on cheap printer paper. I let it dry and then I scan it and convert it into vectors and work with it in Adobe
Illustrator. Sophia works with graphic pens and I scan that stuff too. The final execution happens in Illustrator. When I’ve finished the graphic work
I hand it back to Sophia who works on the colour palette.

We then digital print onto high quality ink jet canvas to get the colour right, it’s the quickest and easiest way to print a version in multiple colour
variants to get the relationship between the colours right. We send that to the factory to colour match and screen print. We don’t bother with pantone
references because in our experience factories tend to forgo the pantone guide and work from their imaginations, so instead we send them the ink jet
print and tell them “if it doesn’t look identical to this don’t send us a sample”. It’s a very accurate way of doing things and saves a lot of back
and forth.

Matt working on a sketch for our Wild Floral Print

Sophia working on a sketch for our Wild Floral print

Featured above, our Wild Floral print. This is a huge print. When we started to talk about creating a Wild Floral we knew we wanted to do something unusual and push our limits. We emailed our factory and asked them for the absolute maximum size screen they could produce. They got back to us with the measurements and we began creating our largest and most complicated repeating print to date.

We had fun with this print and hid lots of little messages and illustrations around the print including a little bee flying amongst giant pollen with a 13 on his rear, and little sign post with Sophia Loves Matt on it.

All of the prints we design are oversized and are designed to be cut up randomly. No two products are ever exactly identical. You can see how the colour
and texture changes from the original digital artwork when its screen printed and turned into the final product, we like the slight inconsistencies
you get from screen printing that you don’t get from digital printing.

Wild Floral final panel

Above: An original sketch by Sophia that formed part of the wild floral print above (see the big green sections) and later made appearances in our Dandelion and Riperton prints

An early version of what later became Spot Deconstruct. Sophia was at work in our Greenwich store and I stayed at home to work on creating a new print. I was working my way though a “Deadliest Catch” marathon and a bottle of wine whilst I was playing around cutting up circles. Sophia came home, looked at it and said “there’s definitely something here” so I carried on working on it. That’s pretty much our process.

(2012) Spot Deconstruct final panel


Our Mainline makeup bag, £25 in Spot Deconstruct

Did you used to print your own products? You mentioned that most of your products are screen printed in the UK, why did you choose screen over digital?

We did screen print, but in small batches and only as part of the creative process. We were not in a position to be able to do on a larger commercial
scale because it was too expensive to do here in the UK.

Screen printing for us is still a critical part of the process even though it happens at the factory. Our work goes from paper and ink to digital and
back again and through that digital process you lose something. Especially when you’re working with vectors in Illustrator. It can feel soulless.
Screen printing breathes life back into the artwork, the work becomes analogue again. We also like the discipline screen printing introduces which
shapes our work. You can have as many colours as you like when you print digital but when you screen print commercially you’re pretty much limited
to 8 or 9 colours and it can be very difficult to create colourful, well balanced artwork with such a limited colour palette.

Having those limitations can leave its mark on your artwork and that’s particularly evident in our Spot Deconstruct print (2012) where we ended up
creating pin striped sections to create lighter shades of colours. Without that restriction it would have been something completely different.

Describe a typical day.

Our son Oskari is nearly 2 and he’s up early, so we get up, grab a huge cup of black coffee for me, a tea for Sophia and milk for Oskar and we sit
in bed and watch something on my laptop whilst we wake up and drink our drinks. Oskar heads off early to work in the front room with Mr. Koala
and his bricks. We stay in bed for another half hour and chat about the day ahead. I like to write software first thing in the morning when my
head is clear and Sophia likes to read industry / design news.

I then head off to our Brighton store where I work at the shop, I reply to emails, work on prints, photography and write code. Sophia works from our
flat where she can use her industrial sewing machine and develop new products styles. We swap at the weekends.

Where Sophia works at home. In the picture above we’re working on a thermal bottle holder on miserable January morning.

We work through until about 7pm and then stop for the evening. But we never really stop. Our work life and home life are kind of blurred. We don’t
see what we do as work, it’s just what we do each day.

How long have you designing and making products?

Coming up to 11 years now.

What inspires you?

The pursuit of being good at what we do and refining our craft. Each new print and product is an opportunity to create something new, to surprise ourselves
and to do it better than last time. That drives us to keep doing what we do.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

Honestly that’s hard to answer. We’re extremely critical of our work, and like many designers, when you see the final product all you can see are the
flaws or those things you wished you had done differently. We worked on our Wild Floral for months and it is has been one of our best sellers for
3 years, we should of been proud of it when it was finished but when we received the final products two of the colours were off slightly and we
couldn’t bare to look at those products for months, it really bothered us.

Overall though though I’d have to say that it’s our mainline collection of products. Those are the products that are designed and made with no expense
spared. No deadlines. They’re ready when we’re happy with the final design. Our mainline handbag and mini box bag are great examples and really
are beautifully made.


Above: Our mainline handbag (£124) and Mini Clutch Bag (£29)

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

We have a store in London (28 Greenwich Church Street, London SE10 9BJ) and a store in Brighton (42 Bond Street, Brighton BN1 1RD). We also sell online

What will we be seeing from Sophia and Matt next?

We’ve been talking about homeware on and off for years. For the last year we’ve been working on a collection of homeware products and wallpapers.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers, designers and creatives?

Push yourself to take risks and work outside your comfort zone. Try and create work that you’d be proud to put your name to. Do those two things and
you can guarantee yourself a life fraught with successes, failures, anxiety and a beautiful portfolio at the end of it all : )