Simple Tips for Handprinting Your Own Fabric

Prints Charming

 There are so many beautiful fabrics out there, and some of the coolest ones are handprinted. I fawn over handprinted fabrics every time I run across them. Since I can't buy them all, one of my key sewing resolutions for 2011 is to try hand printing my own fabrics. I have a drawer full of stamping and printmaking materials, so all I need to do is get started. With the spring/summer sewing season soon upon us, it's the perfect time to pull out some lightweight cotton or linen fabric and do some printmaking. I mean, how awesome would it be to sew something with your own one-of-a-kind fabric? 

 My drawer full of stamps and woodblocks ready for printmaking.



The best part about printmaking is that it really is easy to do. You can keep it simple and inexpensive and get great results with stamps and woodblocks or get arty by designing your own lino blocks, rubber eraser stamps, stencils, and screen prints. All you need is some solid fabric and water-based inks that are fabric-safe, and you are ready to go!

Need a "no excuses" reason to get started printing your own fabric? Then I have one word for you.


That's right-great for French fries and great for simple relief printing. Plus you probably have one in your kitchen right now. If you are having flashbacks to 5th grade art class and think you can't make fabulous fabric with potato printing, think again.

Here's the lowdown on potato printing from a beautiful and informative new book, The Printed Pattern: Techniques and Projects for Inspired Printmaking and Surface Design by mother-daughter design team Rebecca Drury and Yvonne Drury.

Materials List

– Raw potatoes (baking potatoes work best)

– Paints and inks

– Paintbrushes and sponge

– Linocutting/woodcutting tool or small knife

– Paper towel

– Tracing paper

– Pencil or pen

– Fabric, paper (or other printing surface)

Draw your motif onto the cut side of your potato, then cut it out with a knife or cutting tool.

Apply a thick, even coating of ink or paint, then print!

Get creative! After your first layer is dry, try overprinting with a second color.


Preparing Your Potato

1. First, select your motif.

2. Cut the potato in half. 

3. Dry out any moisture by placing the potato cut-side down on a paper towel.

4. Draw your motif onto the cut side of the potato with a pencil or marker. A soft dark pencil works best. 

5. If you are not confident drawing the motif directly on the potato, begin by drawing the motif onto tracing paper. Lay the tracing paper on to the cut side of the potato. Using a sharp pencil, punch a few holes outlining the motif, then remove the tracing paper. You should now be able to draw your design onto the potato by joining up the holes that you made.

6. Now take your knife or cutting tool and cut around the motif. Make sure your cut is deep enough (about ½" [1 cm] is fine).


1. Apply ink or paint to the potato stamp with a brush or sponge. Remember, the inks should be quite thick. If the ink is too thin, it will be very difficult to obtain a successful result.

2. Before you start, practice by testing your potato stamp on a scrap piece of similar material. This is also the time to experiment with different color combinations.

3. Once you are happy with your colors and the results of your test print, you can start to print your design. Remember you need to apply more ink each time you print your motif.

Useful Tips

– Try to use an even coating of ink; too much ink will make your print bleed around the edges. Not enough ink will result in a patchy print.
– If you notice that your potato stamp is beginning to lose definition, this could be caused by a buildup of ink. You will need to wipe and gently rinse your stamp, then dry it before continuing.
– Your stamp can be reused for different colors simply by cleaning and drying your potato.
– You can achieve interesting layout options by overprinting your motif. However you must ensure that each layer is dry before you print on top.
– Your potato stamp should last one or two days. To preserve it for longer, you can wrap it in cling film or seal it in a plastic bag and place it in your refrigerator (always clean the stamp before storing).
– Never use oil-based inks or paints when printing with potatoes because oil and water do not mix.

Check out The Printed Pattern and have fun making your own one-of-a-kind fabric for your next sewing project!

Happy sewing,


Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Sewing Fabric & Fabric Basics

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