Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Projects Planned for 2011

 [Above, Elizabeth James's wood block collection.]

So, what has it been? More than seven years since John Robshaw appeared on Martha Stewart's show and demonstrated his block printing techniques? I remember recording the episode. But I guess it took nearly five years of sporadic blogging about block-printed fabric (traditional Indian and contemporary) to finally prompt me to purchase my own lone wood block from Elizabeth James,  the founder of Pacific & Rose hand-blocked textiles.

Stacey Bradley's printing blocks and brayers are for fine art, not textile design, still Julia Lynn's recent photos of the tools further inspired me.

  [Photo by Henry Wilson as seen in Selvedge, issue 24.]

[Image via Pacific & Rose.] 

Feeling pleased with last year's DIY upholstered sawhorse desk, I'm now motivated to try my hand at a block-printed pillow, and although it will probably be February before the project is posted here, I have pulled some tips and resources from the archives. First, advice from Elizabeth:

1. Use a blockprinting ink. She describes it as very tacky and sticky but notes that a regular paint will seep into the crevices of the block. The blockprinting ink can be purchased at art supply stores, or a site for textile artists, like Dharma Trading.

2. Squeeze a little ink onto a flat surface, such as a tray, then roll a rubber brayer into the ink. Next, roll the brayer onto the block.

[Brayer via Dharma Trading.]

3. When placing the ink-covered block down on the fabric, try giving it a good thwack with a rubber mallet, to better transfer the ink. (See images of more tools here.)

John's suggestions can be found here. For general inspiration, visit The Zucchi Collection, home to 56,000 printing blocks used to produce handprinted fabric over the course of three centuries from 1785 to 1935.

And see these past posts: Woman Shops Globe, Seema's Studio, More Block Prints, and On the Borderline Again.

If you have any tips of your own, please share!


jen wardle said...


I have a few of these Indian blocks that I used to make paper this christmas - what a hit! I used interior eggshell Benjamin Moore as well as a mixture of distemper & dry tempera that I mixed myself ( so I could make it a bit thicker ) - go for it ! I had so much fun. I also printed the chair in my studio that was left over from the previous tentant - much nicer now!They're on my blog - your blog!!

Style Court said...

Thanks Jen!

The Peak of Chic said...

Unfortunately, I have no tips to share as I've never tried my hand at this! But, I cannot wait to see your pillow. How exciting. Good luck!

Style Court said...

J --

Maybe I should have waited to see how this turns out before mentioning it :)

cloth & kind said...

Just a note to tell you how much I adore your blog! So creative and inspirational. Thanks!!

Style Court said...

Cloth & kind --

I appreciate that! Thanks so much. Always happy to hear from another textile junkie.

Janet said...

I have always wanted to do some block printing. Can't wait to see how your project turns out. Happy New Year!

beki said...

this post makes me want to do block printing right this instant!!

quintessence said...

Looking forward to seeing your pillow as well. And wanted to mention that I just found a lovely British artist who does the most charming lino block prints. They are hand carved, hand inked and hand printed. They are a mix of her own designs and reproduction antique ones. She has a shop on etsy - here is the link -
I think you'd like them.

Unknown said...

Dear Courtney,
a few weeks ago I started my own project with Indian block printing in combination with painting though using acrylic paints on heavy watercolour paper.
If you would like to see some pics about my process please check my other blog "Images and Imagination":

Hope you'll find it useful.
Greetings, Petra

Tokyo Jinja said...

I have been mooning over some block print wallpapers I cannot afford - so I was thinking of trying this on the walls in a small bathroom instead. I've been buying a few blocks on eBay, but I am excited by Elizabeth James' blocks too. I can't wait to hear how this goes for you!

Natalie said...

Just stumbled onto your blog, and I'm thrilled to keep reading. I love these wood blocks and can't wait to see your finished project! Thanks for sharing! Come say hello on my blog la vie en rose at

Style Court said...

Natalie --

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Quintessence --

Glancing quickly via iPhone, her work looks great! Thank you.

Tokyo --

Let us know if you go for it. A bathroom sounds like the perfect place to start.

Janet --

Happiest of new year's to you!

Petra --

Thanks for sharing the link. Anxious to see...

Beki --

I'll keep you posted on how it goes :) Thanks for stopping by today.

Ninette said...

Thank you for the instructions and the inspiration! I have had some Indian blocks lying around a few years now, but only after reading about them in this post did I finally get the courage to actually try them out. So thanks!

Style Court said...

Ninette --

That's great!