What is up, party people? I'm here today to talk about block prints in design! I'm embarking on a series on textile design and today I'm highlighting block printing as a way to introduce our two newest fabrics from Merchant & Mills, the excellent British manufacturer of fine textiles. We now offer Organic Tomato Spot and Organic Indigo Spot, two colorways of a simple yet effective block print design. These 100% GOTS certified organic cotton fabrics are printed using traditional block printing in India. They are lightweight and breathable, for those of you who still have some hot weather ahead of you, or for those who plan to go somewhere hot somewhere hot!
So let's learn more about block printing!
Block printing is an ancient technique - essentially you carve a design on some kind of medium - wood block for example - apply ink to the block and stamp it on fabric. The designs tend to be fairly simple, but can be more complex. The repetition of a simple design can be so impactful!
I haven't yet made anything from these fabrics yet - hopefully I can snag some before they sell out! Instead, I'm going to show you my interpretation of a block print that I turned into hand-painted wallpaper for my bathroom.
Now let me tell you about my bathroom. My husband and I bought a 1938 home in Grosse Pointe, MI. We're from Tampa, Florida, and recently moved to Michigan to get out of the heat and constant hurricanes (and tbh the politics!). We went from a 1985-ish house with a nice open floor plan to a home with original tile, fun quirky features, and lots of nooks. It's taken me a while to figure out exactly how to decorate it, but I'm finally getting there after living with it for a year. Sometimes that's best, you know? You have to get to know your space before you know what would look best.
The bathroom has original tile, and for some odd reason, whoever chose that tile decided that butter yellow and garnet red would be a good combo. It's not the combo I would have chosen by a long shot (why didn't they choose one of those amazing pink and green combos?! Who picks a yellow and red combo other than McD's??). But, I love that it's original, and we don't have the money to replace it now, so I knew I'd have to work with it.
When we moved in, there was a peeling wallpaper in a navy print with red and blue flowers on the walls. It was okay, but it was old and peeling so I removed it as soon as possible. And then I waited. I hoped that I could just paint and be done with it, but I learned quickly that just painting it white was not going to work - in fact, I couldn't find a single color that would work. So I decided that wallpaper was the answer.
I tried some different options from Spoonflower - tbh I didn't love the quality on some of the prints, but others were great. It may have been the samples I ordered, or maybe a larger scale print is better for Spoonflower. I'm not sure, but I'm super glad I tried out the swatch service!
As you can see, none are particularly bad, but none made my heart sing. This was a great exercise, though, because it helped me narrow down what I wanted. It surprised me that green looked good, but I preferred the red and peachy floral because I prefer anything that's close to pink!
Oh, and we learned from the previous owners that the floors had original tile underneath the bland peel-and-stick that had been added sometime in the 90s. About a year ago, I finally got brave enough to peek underneath, and what I found THRILLED me.
How cute it is! Here she is all cleaned up:
She's so pretty!
So, now I was faced with a conundrum: how does butter yellow work with this cute apricot shade? I decided that I needed my color cards!
I love using my color cards, and I use them in all of our fabric listings so that our lovely clients can be comfortable knowing what color fabric they're actually getting. If you're interested in getting a color card of your own, this is the one I like!
So, armed with the knowledge of what color families I should look for, I went to buy the paint samples! My initial plan was something like this:
I did something similar in my old house, in the entry:
This was super simple - I knew the shade of blue I wanted, so I got a lighter and a darker and mixed some various tones with my white wall paint and just did a quick raindrop effect. I loved it!
I tried that with the colors I chose: the apricot, dark red, and butter yellow from the tile, and I added some complimentary colors: pale pink, bright tomato red, dark green, and two shades of blue-green. And I ended up with this:
Oh! I forgot to mention these curtains - I got them at World Market years ago and found they were perfect for this bathroom! I hung them in front of the actual shower curtain and some of the colors of paint I picked were taken from the colors in the curtains.
The colorful, abstract paint dash look was okay, but it just wasn't what I was looking for. It was too chaotic, and I wanted a lot of white on the walls. So I turned to the topic of this blog post, block printing! What if I came up with a block print-inspired design and painted it on the walls! But what colors? I didn't love the mix of colors in the above pic, it was too chaotic, so I decided to keep it simple with two or three colors. And so I came up with this design:
And then I got to sketching! I used painters tape to define the pattern repeat, like so, and then I started filling in! I used the dark green and a medium (custom) pink that I already had on hand.
And finally, I added the sweet pink flower heads! And voila!
And while this project took the better part of four days, it only cost me about $80 in supplies (not including the leftover wall paint). Only $80 for a completely custom hand-painted wallpaper! And I can tell you, the people I've shown cannot believe it's hand-painted! My sister-in-law said it looked like Rifle Paper Co. wallpaper, which was maybe the best compliment ever!
Now you may be thinking, what the heck does this have to do with fabric? Well, it's all about the design process, isn't it? Good design can be translated into all kinds of ways! A block print can be a fabric, a patterned paper, or the inspiration for a hand-painted wallpaper. It's all interconnected and we, as creative beings, can do whatever we want.
Do you like block prints? Check out our two brand new Merchant & Mills block prints in the shop now! What are you thinking about making with them? I think a late summer dress would be perfection!
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