Block Printing Workshop

When I heard about the block printing workshop being hosted by local textile lady, Cynthia Edwards, of Lichen and Leaf, I was VERY excited. I have had a thing for textiles since forever and have really been wanting to learn some print techniques. To be able to set aside a day to learn from someone who has been working on their craft for years, and who can demonstrate what to do, and guide you along the way is so much better than tearing your hair out at home while watching a gazillion youtube tutorials (as character building as that may be).

Six of us gals arrived at Cynthia’s home, filled with morning light and succulents, and after a cup of tea and a round of introductions, got going on our work for the day.

I had been agonising over what to work on, but decided to go with a retro caravan theme based on a pic I took a while back of a sweet little van I spotted once while camping with my sister at Theewaters.

Step One

Draw the image as you’d like it to appear (sizing, styling etc) directly onto the lino. I was a little nervous about this process as I had initially intended to work directly from a printed image, tracing it onto the lino, but of course forgot that it was a public holiday and the printing place was closed. In the end this was a blessing because the design turned out way more hand made and a little less perfect in the end.

Step Two

Start carving. I think there are technical terms for these processes, but us newbies referred to ourselves as ‘scraping’, ‘gouging’ and even ‘digging’ at some point.

“I just need to dig around the edges a little more here, I think.”

Cynthia had provided a set of carving tools for us to use in workshop, and to take home with us, so we tried out our u-gouges and v-gouges until the forearm cramps set in. Lino is surprisingly resistant, and the carving bit wasn’t quite as easy as it looked.

Step Three

The next thing is to do a test print, where you check for any inconsistencies in your work, and get a hang of how much paint to apply, and how to place it on the fabric. We got to use our nifty mini paint trays and rollers, and to figure out how to use a brayer (another roller that applies even amounts of pressure to your print once it is on the fabric).

Step Four

Lunch - tasty vegan soup cooked by Cynthia’s friend Candice. (A second helping may have been had.)

Step Five

The ACTUAL print. This was a little nerve-wracking. You’ve got to somehow coordinate the correct placement of your linocut on the fabric, with the right amount of paint and pressure, in the right direction, without getting blobs of extra paint anywhere. While trying to place my second caravan down, I somehow managed to ‘throw’ it onto the fabric at an angle (ack!), making it look like the caravan was having a rest.

Step Six

Marvel at everyone else’s wonderful work.

Step Seven

Wait with bated breath to see our prints turned into tote bags. And here they are. I think they’re glorious, and I can’t wait to pick mine up.


Thank you so much to Cynthia for running her first ever brilliant workshop — so organised, so relaxed, such a great atmosphere — and to my new block print buddies: Ella, Dom, Kirsten, Kirsty & Simone.

If you want to check out some more links, here is a bit about Cynthia’s future workshops, and here are some more images from our day of making.