For my birthday this year, my husband got me a gift card to the online art superstore that is Dick Blick (just imagine all the jokes we made in high school art class with a name like that emblazoned all over our communal supplies). For months I just sat on my gift card scheming over all the possibilities until I finally broke down and bought some block printing materials. Then another couple of months went by before I got the idea to make these cute hot pink and gold radish print napkins.
Let me tell you, nothing makes you relive your school days quite like sitting hunched over a linoleum block clutching a carving tool with a look of panic in your eyes (this doesn't look like a radish?!).
Oh, is that just me?
But they turned out so well I'm more than a little obsessed. I just want to run around the apartment stamping every last thing.
Block printing ink for fabric (I used a water soluble kind which I later learned is not so great for fabric. Don't be like me. The link here is for the tried and true fabric ink which will hold up much better)
Cloth napkins (Target -- 6 bucks!)
Scrap paper and pencil
I started by sketching my design on a piece of scrap paper to get a feel for what I wanted my stamp to look like. Using light pressure I drew a rough outline of a radish, and then once I had it exactly how I wanted it, I went back over the outline with heavy pressure to darken the lines that would then get transferred to my linoleum block.
I turned the piece of paper over and placed it on the linoleum with the drawing side facing down. Using my pencil I lightly shaded over the radish outline, transferring the image onto the linoleum.
Using my X-ACTO knife, I trimmed the linoleum block into a 4 inch x 4 inch square with my design in the center.
Then with my linoleum cutter, I used the smallest cutter blade to carefully carve out the linoleum surrounding my sketch. Since I was creating a stamp, I was careful not to cut out any part of linoleum touching my drawing. You want to carve the clean light gray linoleum away and leave the dark gray area (from the pencil) intact.
Once I carved the area inside and immediately surrounding my radish, I went back in with a large cutter blade and cleaned up the big patches around the outer edges. This makes it easier to apply ink with the brayer since you don't have to worry about getting ink all over the edges of your stamp and leaving unwanted marks on your napkins.
I squeezed a quarter size amount of ink onto a ceramic plate (don't worry, it won't stain) and then rolled it evenly in all directions with the brayer. It's important that you get a thin, even coat of ink on your brayer to ensure even distribution on your stamp.
I lightly rolled ink onto my stamp, going back and forth first in one direction and then another, making sure to get a thin, even coat on every part of my image. If I got any paint outside the lines, I quickly wiped it off using a damp rag.
I then laid out my napkin and eyeballed where I wanted the pattern to go. Starting with the pink ink, I decided to do an alternating pattern of right-side up and upside down radishes. For the gold ink, I went with all right-side up radishes spaced further apart than I did for the pink radishes.
I applied the stamp directly to my napkins with firm, even pressure. I used one hand to keep the stamp from moving while pressing down with my opposite hand, making sure to apply pressure to every part of the image.
In between stampings, it's best to keep your plate of ink covered with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the ink from drying out.
Once done, I laid the napkins on a flat surface and let them dry for about 30 minutes.
If using fabric ink (which I highly recommend), you'll want to finish off by heat-setting your print. Set your iron to medium-high heat and turn off any automatic steam settings if your iron has them. Place a dry dish towel or piece of fabric over your image and run the iron across your fabric for about 4 minutes, moving constantly.
While it took a little bit of time to carve the stamp, I'm really quite happy with how they turned out. The pink ones are pretty and polished while the gold ones are soft and subtle. Perfect for gussying up the dinner table, if you ask me.