Friday, 30 November 2007

Blockprinting inspiration

Last night, idly googling, I discovered the Folly Cove Designers, and their awe-inspiring lino block prints.

This is just a small selection; more can be found at the Folly Cove Designers, and still more at the Sarah-Elizabeth Shop.

The Folly Cove Designers started from a design course taught by Virginia Lee Burton, and were active from 1940 to 1969. Sarah Elizabeth Holloran was a member, and after the group disbanded she opened her shop. The site includes a great photo essay of the printing process.

There's a Life Magazine article from 1958 here, which includes this photo in which everyone seems to be wearing something printed. (It does become an obsession...)

And this is a print showing the printmaking process!

Thursday, 29 November 2007


My PIF parcel from Denise at Freshly Found arrived this morning! Beautifully wrapped, with a little card containing the history of the contents.

Isn't it lovely?

And here it is, vastly improving the comfort level and the aesthetics of my lounge.

Thanks, Denise!

More nice things: Bronwyn at Smoke and Ochre has written a lovely post about my prints. Pop over to her blog to see the amazing things she finds - it's a real treat.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Bit of a green day...

A protea print I'm happy with! It's printed on quite rough cloth, so the texture of the fading stems shows up well. I was also less haphazard with the placement of the blocks, this time.

What I did with the original print, before listening to anyone's advice:

And a few more:

I'm really enjoying this last one, and I think I'll print it in lots of different colour combinations. One of the things with a medium that's so process-heavy, though, is that my judgment is affected by how just how much fun I have with that process. I can't really tell whether I like the print, or whether I just like printing it! If these were designed on paper or screen and all printed in the same way, I'd be able to look at them more impartially.

Another thing I've noticed is that the lino blocks are wearing down. Not surprising, considering I've pulled well over a hundred prints with some of them. Printing on paper I've never pulled more than about 30 off a single block. It might be time to source some wood, at least for the blocks I know I'll use often.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Cloud Cover

Oh, to have an overcast sky every day, just before sunset! It's the perfect light for photos!

I printed the protea lino after all, but I think it needs a bit more. I had an idea of how I wanted to print it, and it didn't quite work. I'm going to try adding some blue to this one, and also printing it again, trying to get the effect I was after.

The other lino is also based on a real flower. It's a succulent, grey-leaved with a long stem holding fleshy orangey flowers. In Afrikaans it's called a plakkie, but I don't know any more than that.

It seems to help to think about a particular flower and draw it from memory, rather than from life or a photo. When I have a reference I get too carried away with the correctness and the details, and for these prints I'm much happier with an approximation. It's also nice to know that this method can handle intricate carving; I've been keeping to simple shapes till now because I wasn't sure.

The plakkie print is listed in my Etsy shop now, along with some other new ones.

Monday, 26 November 2007


On Friday, when I was printing business cards for Saturday's market, I suddenly remembered a stencil I cut ages ago, based on a pattern chart for a crochet doily. A few swipes of an ink roller later, some pretty cards!

It might be worth trying this on fabric - tomorrow. I was planning to print the protea lino today, but the weather isn't playing along. Although I optimistically washed some fabric for printing, it's just not drying fast enough. I may be suffering from a bit of stage fright too, after showing off the lino block prematurely (but thank you for all your lovely comments!)

Friday, 23 November 2007

Thursday, 22 November 2007


Some ways to spend your precious time:

- gloves, mittens, and combinations of the two. More (free) patterns than you'll ever need, in knitting and crochet, here. The photos are some examples of what you'll find.

- VectorMagic, for turning your blocky pictures into smooth, scalable vector images. (Via How About Orange.)
- and knitPro, to convert those vector images into graphs for knitting, cross-stitch, or needlepoint.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


Heather of skinnylaminx is a constant source of inspiration. Not only does she produce elegant, witty work (see below), but conversations with her always feel like brainstorms. Recently she's gotten me thinking about South African design; more specifically, designing things that look South African. Not in a 'local is lekker' kind of way (I can't believe there isn't a Wiki entry for that phrase for me to link to!) or in a curio kind of way. Not in a tagged-on kind of way either; simply slapping some iconic South African images onto a surface doesn't count.

Growing up, I certainly didn't like anything that seemed too local. (Are all teenagers like that?) I thought proteas were exceptionally hideous flowers, springbucks just plain silly, and blue cranes... well, one pecked me on the head before I was old enough to defend myself. Some time in my late twenties I woke up and started to appreciate the things around me. It's taken a while, and I've had to shake a strange nostalgic phase as well, but I think I'm starting to be able to see what local is. Now I have to figure out how to translate that into drawings.

Heather doesn't just talk the talk. Some examples of her work that I think totally pull it off:

See more (lots more) on skinnylaminx, and in Heather's Etsy shop.

I'm working on a new linocut of something that might be a protea, hoping to print it tomorrow. The weather is terrible for linocutting and printing, cold and rainy, not at all the way it should be at this time of year. Apparently this means that it's brolly and sandal weather - very South African!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Be The Blog

Thanks so much to everyone who's said such very nice things about my prints! And Hi! to everyone who's found their way here via Bloesem, Creativadoration, Freshly Found, My Imperfect Garden, and Paperiaarre. I'm feeling all shy and awkward (a feeling compounded by having just cut my finger chopping carrots for supper, and not being able to type properly)....

Be The Blog award

Kaija at Paperiaarre has given me a 'Be The Blog' award. It was created by Mark of MeAndMyDrum; in his words, for bloggers who " make it their own, stay with it, are interactive with their readers, and just plain have fun." Which is something to remember on those nights when I drag myself to the PC, mumbling "Must... feed... blog... before ...sleep...."

I'm passing it on to Denise at Freshly Found. I love visiting her blog to see what she's done, made, found, or just looked at, every day.

Friday, 16 November 2007

The thin red line

Still warm from curing in the oven, block printed cotton tape.

It's such a great feeling when things just work out neatly! I bought this roll of tape more than a year ago, knowing I'd want to do something with it sometime. This morning I opened the cupboard, there it was looking at me, and I knew exactly what to do with it.

I'll be listing it in my shop this weekend, in case anyone wants to share in the prettiness!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

PIF - you're in!

Ruzana, Mrs Benitez, and Suzanne: please email me your postal addresses (unless I already have yours, of course!)

Everybody else now has a chance to receive a handmade gift from you!

Just Add Colour

An image from a new colouring book I've just finished working on. It's full of pictures of things to see and do around Cape Town, and it should be in the shops before Xmas.

Monday, 12 November 2007

The little book that just gets bigger...

Page from uTshepo Mde: Tall Enough by Mhlobo Jadezweni and Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris is one of my favourite illustrators, so I was pleased to find out (a bit late, actually) that her book has won yet another award. So far uTshepo Mde: Tall Enough has been a joint winner of the Exclusive Books IBBY SA Childrens' Book Award, and been selected for the international IBBY Honour List. Now it's won a Merit Award in 3x3 magazine.

You can see more sample pages from the book here, buy a copy here, and read Hannah's blog here.

uTshepo is published by Electric Book Works. Have a look at their site to see what else they have; I'm really looking forward to Louis Barnard's Wie is Dit?

Sunday, 11 November 2007


I keep narrowly missing a spot in the Pay It Forward exchange, but this week I finally nabbed one on Freshly Found. Which means that (lucky me!) I'll be receiving a handmade gift from Denise. And in return, I get to give gifts to 3 more people. I'm already plotting...

If you'd like to join in, here's how it works:

I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

(I've tried to follow the tracks of this things so I can write 'via...via...via' but it's beyond me... )

Friday, 9 November 2007

I'm Back!

Looks like I missed a whole lot of cool stuff while I was away: Miranda-Jane's arrival at sakura snow's new home (the postal system - it works!), the opening of Paperiaarre's fabulous Etsy shop, skinny laminx's makeover... and I'm sure a whole lot more I haven't had time to catch up on yet.

I've been racking my brains trying to think what I could use to show the scale of my prints easily in photos - matchboxes are sort of standard, but not always very stylish. Then it hit me: teacups! Pretty much the same size the world over, and pretty much... well, pretty. I can indulge my appetite for crockery I'm too scared to use, but must have, all in the name of craft. Not sure how well it will go down in my kitchen ("Sorry, dear, we can't keep the plates in the kitchen anymore, I need all the cupboard space to store props.")

But I've started listing pieces of block printed fabric in my shop, so look forward to a dazzling array of teacups, all serving a very practical purpose.

Friday, 2 November 2007


Delightfully creepy stories and drawings, updated every Friday, by Mrs Benitez at A Column Inch.

And here at home, waiting to have life stuffed into them:

Not quite as creepy, but it is a pile of bodies. Because you can't join a knitting webring and just never ever post about knitting.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Printing Fabric - the reason for all this madness

Anyone with a shred of sense might wonder why anyone else would print fabric in such a laborious way. Silkscreening seems a lot more practical; it's quicker, and you can get someone else to do it with very consistent results. The beaten-up old trunk in the picture is part of the reason.

Blockprinting separate motifs makes it easy to use fabric I already have, whatever shape and size it is. I can use my granny's old linen sheets, tablecloths I find at the market, napkins from secondhand shops - anything. Once the blocks are cut, setting up to print is really quick, and cleaning up is quick too. Everything's waterbased, making it even easier. Linoleum is relatively cheap, and bio-degradable. The blocks are generally small (for now), so they're easy to store.

And the best part: I can play around with patterns and colours while I'm printing, trying different combinations without having to set up a whole screen. These prints were all made with the same block.

Convinced? I'm almost out of words, but just a quick note about fabric. With old stuff it's not always easy to know what it's made of. Fabric paint is supposed to work on synthetics, but the fabric might not stand up to heat curing. You can try the burn test to guess fiber content fairly accurately. Here's a chart to help as well.

And one more thing: fabric paint doesn't penetrate fabric the way dye does. The colour particles are suspended in a glue that bonds the paint to the surface of the fibers. Prints will stand up to regular gentle washing, but not scrubbing. Think of the prints as being similar to embroidery in that way, and stick to similar guidelines when you're deciding where to use them. Cushions are great, pillowcases not, except around the edges. Borders on tablecloths are fine, but not on the parts where food is likely to spill. Your own clothes, fine; children's clothes ... maybe not.

Okay, that's it, I'm done. Suggestions, advice, refinements, improvements ... I'm dying to hear them!