The first time I tried linocutting, I was not impressed with it. I was 16 or 17 at the time, and taking high school art. I drew a picture of a shattered hand-mirror on a piece of linoleum, then carved out the parts that were supposed to be white by using sharp little tool I called "the gouger." When the carving was done, I rolled a thin layer of ink over the raised parts of the picture, then stamped the image onto a piece of paper. Wooo, I thought. I can now make as many copies of this terrible drawing as I want. Awesome.
It's possible that I was only jealous of my best friend Crystle, who in true '90s fashion had drawn a butterfly surrounded by floating pills. We were not cool enough to ever be offered drugs, but we were pretty fascinated by them (I remember drug-related artwork being pretty common in art class, which sort of surprises me in retrospect, but probably says a lot about the teacher's belief in freedom of artistic expression).
14 years later, I can only assume that I didn't get excited about linocutting because no one ever explained me that you could 1) stamp patterns on fabric, then 2) make clothes out of that fabric. Also, when you're an adult, you can do all this while drinking lemonade and vodka and listening to Swedish dance music!
This is all to say, look what I made last night:
It's my first experiment with linocut stamping.
I cut up a brand-new bedsheet that did not fit my bed and printed with a linoleum block that I carved. The top looks extra wide because it will have a single pleat down the front. (It's the Colette Patterns' Sorbetto Top, a free pattern that you can print at home).
I took the idea for the print from a project in Printing by Hand: A Modern Guide to Printing with Handmade Stamps, Stencils, and Silk Screens by Lena Corwin.
The sheet is white and the ink is blue-green. I designed the stamp so that I could achieve a rough continuous pattern.
The whole process was pretty involved. I made a table (not shown) for printing on by covering an old Ikea TV table with a thin layer of foam (as suggested by this poppytalk tutorial. Tracking down a piece of foam was the hardest part, but eventually I found an upholstery shop that sold me a piece for $2.00.
1. Shop around for supplies. I bought my Speedball starter kit and three colours of ink from Collage in Portland for about $30. I saw the same kit for sale in Michael's for $50! And I could have easily spent $20 on foam if I hadn't been diligent about checking the upholstery store.
2. If you want the pattern to go right to the edge of the fabric, consider stamping first and cutting second (especially if you don't follow lesson 3).
3. Make sure your stamping table is big enough. I used my little folding Ikea table because that was what I had on hand, but a bigger surface would be easier to work on. If you have a kitchen table, you could cover a large board with foam and use that instead of a stand-alone table.
4. Try different stamp materials. The linoleum blocks that I bought are really hard. This makes for a good crisp print, but it's tough to carve with any degree of accuracy or control. At this point, I think the advantages of a hard lino block are lost on me.
5. Be patient. The packaging on my textile ink says that it makes 2 weeks to cure! I am very eager to sew this shirt and discover if it fits me or not, but I am going to hold back so I don't accidently run tacky ink through my sewing machine.
At least two weeks gives me lots of time to decide what colour trim I want!