Printing on Fabric – how to create unique cloth for your projects

Marilla Walker has launched a fabric swap on her blog. This requires participants to print a metre of fabric and send it to another blogger. I have signed up because I love printing fabric. This dress which I have on today (it’s still boiling in London) is the reason why.

Vogue xxx made in lino-printed cotton
Vogue1553 made in lino-printed cotton

I wanted to try to recreate “Blades” the iconic DVF fabric in order to make – the iconic DVF wrap dress.

DVF wearing her wrap dress in Blades textile
DVF wearing her wrap dress in Blades textile

Had I wanted an absolute replica I may have resorted to bidding on eBay for a genuine piece (approximated $1000) or I might have tried to get a firm like to print a similar version ($26.50 a yard for jersey, plus tax and postage). But I am like the Granny in Goodness Gracious Me, who always claims she can “Make it at home” for a fraction of the cost. Meera Syal as Ummi. Picture from the Guardian

Meera Syal as Ummi. Picture from the Guardian

The fabric I used – Adult Ed cotton – costs around £2.50m. But of course making the fabric took me weeks of labour!

I downloaded images of Blades (based on blades of grass), used tracing paper to copy the design, transferred it to a piece of Lino, and cut out the white sections of the pattern. Hard work, but good for the biceps! Once completed I used Permaset ink in Red to transfer the image to the cotton.

Permaset textile colour - but Red
Permaset textile colour – like this, but Red

After the lino printing is complete it is left to dry, then ironed with a hot iron to fix the colour.

Printing the fabric
Printing the fabric

As you can see the print is roughly similar to the original, but of course the pattern register is far from perfect. But I didn’t even try to get a continuous pattern, and you get see marks on the fabric where the block printing starts and finishes. Block printing is a traditional and rather ancient approach (going back around 3000BC) and to me this is its charm. It is the kind of thing you can do at home. The ink is not especially even.

But the main problem with my project is that, try as I might, I could not get my lino to print effectively on my chosen and appropriate fabric, cotton jersey. The DVF iconic wrap dress is designed for a knitted fabric – albeit silk rather than cotton or viscose. I tried various techniques on cotton and viscose jersey but the ink just didn’t absorb. My tutor suggested trying mixing powdered procion dyes into a binder instead of the commercial ink, but the effect was even more patchy. In frustration I used the lino block on woven cotton and the results were very good. Unfortunately most DVF patterns call for a knit rather than a woven so my project was in jeopardy.

On this occasion I threw caution to the wind and made up Vogue 1553, a pattern I had already successfully made up  in jersey. Unfortunately, as every child knows, woven cotton doesn’t stretch much. As a result there was insufficient ease over the bust. The dress is really closely cut around the arms. It looks fine but I had to deploy a little trick. I stitched on the buttons with shirring elastic. It now has just a little bit of give.

Buttons sewn on with elastic
Buttons sewn on with elastic


9 Responses

  1. rillafree

    Wow, what an acheivement! That print must have taken ages, but well worth it. Really cool effect. I never would have considered an all over lino print like this, but it’s so beautiful! Would you mind if I use some images from this on a future post about lino printing?

    • fabrickated

      You are up early too! I would be honoured if you did that. Thank you. I will do a few more printing on fabric posts over the next few days to support your swap project. Lino is really quite easy to buy and use.

      • rillafree

        Always early with my little ones, although it was definitely after 5. That clock on the comment is a bit out 😉 Really looking forward to reading more print posts from you! X

  2. Stephanie

    Lovely work. I have at least one DVF dress in exactly that style (though in the stretchy silk jersey), though unfortunately the one I’m thinking of (in brown and white) is too small for me now through the bust. 🙁 I also have a vintage one that is very similar to the one on the Vogue Patterns cover, though in a less-flattering print and in a deep pink with orange and black I think. That style really suits you and the printing is quite an accomplishment!

  3. Joyce

    That dress looks fabulous on you. ( Did you consider a little modesty panel behind the buttons , although it seems your trick has done a good job.) Fantastic print!

  4. Jamie Malden

    I love what you have created here. Block printing on fabrics is very close to my heart as you can see from my website and to use this style of printing to make a dress is inspirational.

    Keep up the good work.


Leave a Reply