I’m going to introduce to you the process on how to create block print bandanas. These handmade bandanas sell exclusively in our Fourth street store location for 100% proceeds to Planting Justice. They are a local grassroots organization that cultivates organic foods to nurture and uplift our East Bay community, and empower those that have been impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities. Please visit their website to learn more.
- Linoleum blocks
- Linoleum cutters
- Inking Plate
- Palette Knife
- Brayers (We used 3)
- Tubes of block printing ink (We used 4 colors)
- Sewing machine
- 100% Cotton Fabric 19” by 19” per bandana
- Turmeric, Black tea, or other ingredients with tannins for natural dyeing
First process: Dyeing the Fabric
Natural dyeing is super fun and as easy as steeping tea. We decided to make two runs of our floral hand designs, using black tea for the first batch, and turmeric for the second. To make sure it’s clean fabric, put it in the wash with detergent. Keep wet and put directly into a pot of boiled hot tea, or turmeric. We used a box of black tea on 2 yards of fabric. On the second run we used 3 tablespoons of turmeric for 2 yards. The water should cover the fabric, turning and moving the fabric around for a good 15 minutes, then coming back every 20 minutes to turn and make sure it gets evenly dyed. After an hour or so we left it alone for the next morning to turn, and in the evening gave it a good wash in the bathtub and left to air dry.
We used ingredients that already had natural tannins in them, but experimenting with mordants and other natural ingredients can showcase an amazing environmental palette (Roses, maple leaves, avocado skins and pits, purple cabbage)!
Second process: Block Printing the Bandana
Kim is sketching out the layout of the bandana. Their notebook set is a customized Paper Republic leather travel book and an array of pens (Papier Tigre pen, Erasable Frixion Pen, Helvetica Mechanical Pencil).
First things first! There are so many creative ways to process block prints depending on the design goal you have in mind. We will give you the rundown on our experience for a patterned floral piece, which started off with a loose idea of themes: Floral, leaves, hands. Kim set off to create various blocks, some repeated and reversed for a cohesive pattern. We wanted a central radial and a border.
Playing with a pattern on PS.
We set up a DIY print table with cork boards and old bedsheets to protect the surface. Then, we pinned the bandanas to the protected cork boards. We did many samples to get into the groove of block printing, and picking out colorways. For instance, you mix colors using a palette knife, inks, and inking plate. Or you can use the brayer to layer ink over your linoleum block design. There is a perfect middle where the ink isn’t layered too thick or too thin, which will help with providing an even block print. Press with a baren.
Once committed and comfortable, start on the real fabric! Lay out guidelines using a fabric marker, or Erasable Frixion Pen! They disappear with heat.
We finished the print with white dot accents using a Helvetica pencil.
Let the ink air dry. Once fully dried, iron away the guidelines and cure the ink permanently. Move the iron around - each section should be under 160 degrees for 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 30 seconds. For this particular bandana we left the edges raw and sewed ¼” seam to keep from further fraying. Put it in the laundry for wash and dry. Complete!
Thank you for reading! We’d love to see your creativity and hope this is inspiring.
Contact our Berkeley location at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to purchase a bandana.
Kim Mai (they/them) is a teacher, an illustrator, a painter, and tattoo artist/enthusiast in training. Their interests lie in nature and animals (particularly rats!). They’re constantly intrigued, always observing the world around them. This project was accomplished with great support by fellow companions Devon and Van.