Simple Block Printing on Fabric

History last week was about the Golden Age of China (thank you Story of the World!). After reading about the ancient Chinese form of block printing, the kids wanted to try it out for themselves. We gathered objects from around the house and outside that might make interesting shapes when dipped in acrylic paint. First we practiced on paper, then we added our favorite prints to pieces of canvas fabric to make these simple zip pouches.

Learn from our endeavors and do your own block printing at home!


Supplies

  • Scrap paper and/or light colored canvas fabric
  • Acrylic paint
  • Glue (optional)
  • Cardboard (optional)
  • Paintbrushes (optional)
  • Various objects you don’t mind getting paint on (we used twigs, leaves, old wine corks, and a bunch of stuff from our recycling bin)

Set Up

Start by gathering supplies you’d like to use for your stamps. Kids can get really creative here! We ended up with wine corks, bottle lids, sticks, pencils, chopsticks, toothpicks, medicine cups, leaves, and probably more that I’m forgetting.

Next, make your blocks/stamps if needed. You can simply use the object itself. Or, if it’s too small to get a good grip on (like a plastic water bottle cap), glue the object to a small square of cardboard. Make sure to glue down the side that you will not be printing with.

Here are some of the “stamps” we used. We didn’t have success with the glue patterns (the ridges weren’t high enough), but the rest worked really well!

Cover the surface you’ll be painting on.

Squirt out small amounts of the chosen acrylic paint colors.

You’re ready to go!


Printing

Note: If you will be printing on fabric, I recommend having the kids try out different designs and stamps on paper first.

Let the kids explore different stamping techniques. Some objects may work well being dipped into the paint, some may work better having the paint applied with a paint brush. You may end up with a kiddo that just wants to use the paintbrush to paint, like I did.

Encourage them to try different patterns, allowing paint to dry between changing colors if the patterns will be overlapping each other.

Change to printing on the fabric once everyone is comfortable with the block printing technique. Acrylic paint can go directly on the fabric! We used a duck cloth canvas fabric, which absorbed the paint well and makes for sturdy zip pouches in the next step. Plus I had scraps left from banner making, so it was a win-win.

Such a simple, fun artistic foray!


Using Printed Fabric

If you will be using the fabric for anything other than display, let it dry for 24 hours. Then iron the fabric to set the paint.

Put your iron on the setting required for your fabric type (mine was quite hot). Place a piece of scrap fabric or parchment paper on your ironing surface, then place your fabric paint side down on top. Iron on the non-printed side of the fabric for 2-5 minutes, moving the iron back and forth slowly to avoid scorching.

Iron on the back side of the fabric for several minutes to set the paint.

If you’re looking for a way to use your fabric, make some of these fun little zip pouches! The “Easiest Lined Zip Pouch” is even simple enough for an older child to sew with minimal help.



Together we can find more ways to reclaim fabric
and breathe meaning, joy, and life into our days.


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