A dummy’s guide to carving rubber stamps and fabric printing

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If you haven’t read the last post, “A dummy’s guide to using a speedball linoleum cutter”, do read it as it forms the basis for this post on how to carve rubber stamps.

After completing the “house” series of tea towels, I must say that I absolutely can’t stop carving more rubber stamps! The process is really addictive and therapeutic and I now have way more rubber stamps than blank tea towels to stamp on. Carving rubber stamps requires just a gentle learning curve so here’s a quick tutorial on how I’ve done my rubber stamps so that you don’t commit the mistakes I made while figuring it out on my own :)

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Draw your design on paper. To start, you’ll want to draw a relatively simple design like the above. Here are some suggestions to help you start to brainstorm. I’ve also found it nice to make a few related stamps (3-4) which you can stamp alternately.

– Shapes: chevron, herringbone, triangles, rectangles, geometric shapes, abstract shapes, stripes, polka dots, leaves, feathers
– Themes: houses, kitchen utensils, teapots, animals

If you’re not confident of drawing (like me :P), it helps to search on sites like pinterest, google images or stock photo sites like getty images and add the word “illustration” behind what you’re searching for and it’ll generate cartoon-like pictures (example: “kitchen utensils illustration” on google images) that are much easier to gain inspiration from.

After drawing a test design on a piece of paper, replicate it on your rubber carving block using a pencil.

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Once you’re happy with your design, outline your pencil marks with a ballpoint or gel pen. Don’t use an ink pen as it’ll smudge easily.

Next, imagine how you would want your stamp to look like. Specifically, think about which parts of your stamp you would like to print ink and which you want to be blank (i.e. negative space). Color in the parts of your stamp that you’ll want to print ink. Compare the picture of my colored-in stamp to the final product in the first picture and you’ll see that the colored-in stamp is essentially how your printed stamp will look like. This is important so that you don’t carve off the parts you want to leave on. After you’re done, use an x-acto knife or pen knife to cut out your design from the carving block, keeping in mind to leave ample space on all sides of your design.

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Using your speedball linoleum cutter, start carving the details of the rubber stamp. If you’re not sure how to use your speedball linoleum cutter, read this guide! I would usually start by using tip 2 to outline the portions I want to cut out so that the shape has a nice edge (I’ll come back to this again) but for this design I’ve drawn, I just had to do a straight carve on each of the small rectangles.

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After carving the details in your design, start carving the remaining portions of the rubber stamp. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll notice that I’ve cut out the outline of the design. I find it best to do this using tip 2 as it creates a nice edge for your stamp. After which, you can start to remove the rest of the rubber stamp. To do this efficiently, I use tip 5 and if you look at the picture closely, I’ve held it at an angle to cover a wider area.

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You’ll want to take special care to cave out the 4 edges of the rubber stamp. I find that those areas tend to get on the fabric paint. The above picture is my completed rubber stamp! The areas which have been carved off is not neat and it doesn’t need to be. You just need to ensure that it is carved deep enough so that the only thing you’re printing is your design and not other parts of your rubber stamp. A good way to test it is to face the stamp down on a table and look to see if there’s anything else still touching the table.

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Next you’ll want to test out the stamp. There are quite a few brands of fabric paint out there and I’ve tried 2 brands so far – Speedball’s oil-based fabric paint which I used for this post and Dylon’s fabric paint for the “house” series and while they’re both fabric paints, the consistency is really different.

Speedball’s oil-based paint is thick, and because of its consistency, it is a necessity to use a rubber brayer to smoothen out the paint and to apply the paint on the stamp by rolling the rubber brayer over the stamp. The paint is pretty sticky and will stick to the rubber stamp well, giving you a nice clean print. On the other hand, it can get messy if it gets all over your hands. Dylon’s fabric paint, on the other hand, is much more watery and if you didn’t own a rubber brayer, you could use a paint brush to smoothen out the paint and dab your stamp directly onto the fabric paint. The paint is easier to handle but does not stick to the rubber stamp as well and you’ll have to constantly check to ensure that you have an adequate about of fabric paint on your stamp. But, no matter what you choose, testing is the most important and with adequate testing, your prints will come out equally nice :)

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Using a scrap piece of cloth, on top of scrap paper, but using the same material as that of the cloth you want to print on, attempt printing! Don’t worry too much about having to succeed the first time. Depending on the consistency of your fabric paint, you might have to adjust the way you apply the fabric paint onto your stamp but trust me, it’s not that difficult! 

After applying the fabric paint onto the stamp, look at the stamp closely to see if there’s fabric paint everywhere before printing. To print, carefully lay your stamp onto the cloth and press firmly. Leave on for a couple of seconds and lift up carefully. Apply fabric paint before every print. I like printing my designs in a somewhat orderly fashion but you can print randomly if you like. If you’re particular about wanting the designs to be perfectly placed, tear off a long piece of tape and use that as an alignment guide. When you’re done, leave to dry and iron on over your design to set the colour.

Looking at the picture above, I would consider the print on the left to be a good and neat print while the one on the right has definitely too little fabric paint and if you look at the stamp, you’ll notice some blue fabric paint on the right side of the stamp. This means that those areas are not deep enough. You can either use your linoleum cutter to shave those off, or clean it off after every print. 

Wash off your rubber stamps and rubber brayer with soap and water. The rubber stamps may be a little sticky when dry so wrap between cling wrap or foil to keep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this tutorial and if you’ve tried fabric printing yourself, I would love to see your designs! :) 

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diy fabric block printing tea towels

IMG_8496I spent a good part of last saturday at a housewarming party for one of my closest friends. Since we were all on the topic of houses, I thought it fitting to gift her a set of “house” themed tea towels :)

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I must say that these tea towels were much easier to make than I thought.

I had purchased a fabric block printing Darby Smart DIY set a while ago which came with ready made cotton tea towels, fabric paint, a speedball rubber stamp carving tool and a carving block. I had procrastinated for a long time because…I am not that good at drawing and was just a little afraid to start! I am still surprised that when I finally decided to give this a go, I went full steam into sewing the cloth and designing and carving my own stamps. And, by the time I was done with the 3 tea towels, I was officially addicted to fabric block printing and already have a few sketched ideas on what to do next :)

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do fabric block printing and for those who require more instruction, I intend to do a more detailed tutorial on how to carve rubber stamps in my next post!


Carving Rubber Stamps

Supplies to carve rubber stamps:
Rubber carving block/ large eraser
– pen knife/ x-acto knife
– linoleum cutter
– ballpoint pen
– pencil
– paper

Instructions for carving rubber stamps:
1. Sketch your designs on paper, bearing in mind that details and sharp edges are harder to cut out. I previously wanted the windows in my houses to look like a grid but found it too difficult to carve those small little squares out.
2. On the rubber carving block, using a pencil, re-sketch your design on the carving block. If you’ve sketched more than 1 design on your carving block, use a pen knife or x-acto knife to cut out rectangular blocks such that each design is on one block, ensuring ample space on all sides of your design.
3. With a ballpoint pen, trace out the pencil marks. At this point, imagine how you want your stamp to look like. Specifically, imagine which spaces you would like the stamp to be blank (i.e. negative space) and which spaces you would like the stamp to print ink. In general, I find that stamps with little negative space (i.e. the first stamp from the left in the picture below) and a wider printing surface are more difficult to print evenly, while stamps with a somewhat equal area of negative space and printing surface looks the nicest and is easiest to print. On areas that you would like the stamp to print ink, color/ shade those areas. It’ll serve as a good guide as you carve out the negative space.
4. Using your carving tool, carve out the negative space i.e. spaces that you’ve not colored in. I use a speedball tool and I tend to use the deeper cutter (i.e. no. 3) to cut around the edges first, followed by using the wider or narrower cutter (i.e. no. 2, 3 or 4) to remove the negative space. Pay careful attention to the edges of the stamp – they tend to get ink on them easily – and carve them deeper.

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Printing on Tea Towels

Supplies to hem tea towels:
– sewing machine with thread and a narrow hem foot (or hem manually)
– cloth (I used a 100% cotton cloth)

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IMG_8466 Instructions to hem tea towels:

1. Cut the tea towels to size. I cut the tea towels 47cm by 67cm including a 1cm seam allowance all around.
2. Using the sewing machine and a hem foot, hem all 4 sides of the tea towel. Alternatively, fold the hems manually and sew a straight stitch through.

Supplies to block print on tea towels
– hemmed tea towels
– spare fabric (for testing)
– carved rubber stamps
– aluminimum foil (or any material that fabric paint won’t seep through)
– fabric paint
rubber brayer (or anything round to spread the fabric ink)
– scrap paper
– tape (optional)

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Instructions to block print on tea towels:
1. Lay the scrap paper on a flat surface to absorb residual paint from the fabric and lay your fabric on top, ensuring that your hems are on the right side up.
2. On aluminium foil, or any material that fabric paint won’t seep through, pour a generous amount of fabric paint. Using a soft rubber brayer or anything around your house, spread the fabric paint all over the aluminium foil.
3. If you intend to print your design straight, like how I did with the houses, use tape to create a straight line. This will help guide you when you’re stamping.
4. With your rubber stamp face side down, dab it on the foil of fabric paint. You can also use the soft rubber brayer to roll on your stamp but I find the best way to dab my stamp on the fabric paint and looking to ensure that there’s paint on the rubber stamp. If any paint falls on the edges of the rubber stamp, wipe it away with a cloth or tissue paper or it might get on the fabric.
5. Carefully turn your rubber stamp downwards, aim and stamp carefully. Lift up after 2-3 seconds or so. Don’t be too worried that your stamp doesn’t print perfectly every time – sometimes that’s what makes them handmade! But if you feel that there’s too little paint on the fabric, you can try stamping over it again, making sure that you’ve aligned the stamps
6. Put aside until dry. They dry pretty quickly but it’ll be safer to let it sit on its own for about 15 minutes.

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*Note: pictures in this post are from http://www.bamix.com. Comments are based on personal experience with no contact from the manufacturer.

Whenever recipes called for blending, more often than not, I tend to flip the page over. I used to fear blending. All the attachments, chunky machines, lids that are so hard to close, hard to wash areas and blades that look like they could fly out any moment…yeah, you know what I mean. Not to mention, preparing hot soup that requires blending. In the interest of time, I have once poured hot soup into a blender hoping to blend everything, only to scald myself. Blenders can be dangerous!

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I feared blenders until my mom decided to get the bamix. It is really a breakthrough and I can’t imagine living without it! I now use the bamix to blend anything and like that it is really portable. It blends evenly and is able to blend nuts, for example, until it is really fine. It can even blend sugar to icing sugar. The design is unlike any other blender and features a stick design. More importantly, it is really easy to use and easy to clean.

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gianduja gelato recipe

For the longest time, I had been struggling with my cuisinart ice cream machine. It worked well when I was in US but since I brought it home, it has been giving me a multitude of problems. At home, we have quite a few american appliances and due to different voltage, we have a huge voltage transformer. My kitchenaid, and many other american appliances have worked great but the cuisinart was a different story. Sometimes, nothing would be wrong and I would churn out ice cream fine. Sometimes, it would run for 15 minutes and switch off by itself and not be able to turn on again. At other times, the same thing would happen for 10 minutes. One day, it decided to not turn on again, and I guess it was gone forever.

This time when I went back to Seattle, I decided to bid the voltage problems goodbye, and get the kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment. I must say that in terms of churning out good consistency ice cream, this attachment is really really awesome. I must say though, my only problem with it is pouring the mixture in. Due to all the stirring and cooling involved, I tend to place the mixture in wide mouth bowls and containers so that they would cool faster. It is actually quite hard to pour the mixture in while the machine is turned on (which is what you’re supposed to do) since the space available to pour the mixture in is very limited.  Hence, it has been quite a feat so far with me holding the mixture and another person holding a funnel, positioning it strategically over the bowl but not touching the moving parts – sounds complicated, right! So, until I find a better way, I love my new ice cream maker attachment just about 99%.

David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop ice cream book is highly recommended for anyone who loves making ice cream. It is the only recipe book I have that’s dedicated to ice cream and it has served me very well so far. I like it that the book has a combination of very easy to make recipes when you feel like whipping something up in 10 minutes, Yet, the book also has complicated recipes if you’re looking for a challenge or for a recipe to impress.

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When I first flipped open the book, the first recipe that caught my eye is the gianduja gelato! I always pick a hazelnut ice cream when I go to gelato shops and I just couldn’t wait to try making it myself.

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apron cooking guides

About a month ago, my dear friend and colleague, Sheryl, told me that she had a present for Jon and I, which she felt was really apt. I had been really curious since she told me about it and although I didn’t say much to her, I was waiting with great anticipation to find out what it is. Yesterday, she came by my desk and passed it to me. It was in a brown paper bag with a note stuck to it saying “since you bake and he cooks” – its an apron, with a cooking guide by Suck UK (umm, not sure what the name’s supposed to mean)

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I really love textile based materials with cooking/baking themes, especially when they are really practical. A while ago, I purchased a conversion dish towel from crate & barrel which I shared here and it has been extremely useful. I refer to it whenever I need to convert from degrees farenheit to degrees celcius and it provides just the right amount of detail I need.

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cooking/baking themed kitchen towels!

The only time I tend to buy on impulse, is when I see anything that has a baking theme to it. It does not matter if it is a set of post-it notes, or gift tags, or a notebook, or kitchen towels, or even a bracelet. I just love how the designs these days incorporate baking or food motifs so beautifully!

I’m proud to be an owner of the Poketo and Crate & Barrel kitchen towels :)

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