Fabric printing has been dated back to the 4th Century BC. It is an ancient art which began with block printing. This technique is the process of dye being pressed onto a fabric from a carved material which was usually wood but other materials can be used.
From the 1660s British printers and dyers were beginning to print on to plain cotton and by the end of the 17th Century there were many dye houses in England. Over the years new techniques were developed and in the 18th Century roller or cylinder printing was created and during the 20th Century the process of screen printing became popular.
There are seven main methods of fabric printing which are hand block, perrotine, engraved copperplate, roller, stencil, screen and digital textile printing which are mostly used today. Fabric printing continues to be a popular and decorative textile craft.
Materials with a tight weave such as 100% cotton and silk provide a good surface on which to work. This ensures that colours do not dull and it is easier to add detail than on loosely woven fabrics. It is best to do a sample test on a piece of the material you are intending to use before printing the full item. This will let you know what results to expect.
You should wash items that you intend printing on (do not use fabric softeners). This will reduce the risk of shrinkage after printing, which could distort printed patterns.
Iron fabric before printing on it. Wrinkles could distort the printed pattern.
It is easier to print onto fabric if you work on a padded surface. An old towel could be suitable.
A rubber stamp
Decide on the shape you want to use for your pattern. Using a craft knife you can then cut this from a rubber block. A rough surface on the stamp will add texture to the print.
Attach a handle such as a piece of wood to the rubber stamp. This will make the stamp easier to use.
An ink pad can be made using a piece of fabric in a dish. Add paint to the pad. Alternatively you could use a roller or a brush to apply paint to the stamp.
Applying the colour to the fabric
Apply the colour of paint that you have chosen onto the stamp. When printing on items such as T-shirts, place paper or card inside to ensure that the paint does not go through to the other side.
Heating the print
Heat the prints, following the manufacturers instructions for the paints that you have chosen to use. The application of a hot iron for a few minutes is usually all that is required.