Collecting Indian wood blocks for printing can be addictive so I’ve found myself adding to my collection over the years as my tastes have changed. So how to get the benefit of such a large collection has exercised my mind as well as how to do something creative and different with them. I know from on-line examples that I’ve seen lots of people use them on paper, particularly at Christmas time to make wrapping paper and gift cards. But my preference is to work with fabric; so I began by just using the blocks on their own with different coloured fabric paints. That was quite fun and added another dimension to my sewing projects. But soon I wanted to get more from my stash of printing blocks and I started to add hand embroidery to the outlines. That is when I found that using the embroidery threads as an enhancement to certain parts of the print and leaving part of the design free from embellishment produces a different look which appeals to me.
The bag shown here is from a patchwork pattern and by cutting out the fabric pieces slightly larger than the paper pattern pieces and big enough to go into an embroidery hoop it can be stitched during relaxed moments or in front of the TV. The print blocking can be done in one go and then the pieces ironed to set the paint so that the finished item can be washed without losing the print. I like using linen for my hand-made bags and linen takes the fabric paint very well.
The individual images can be embroidered using well known surface embroidery stitches. I look at the printed image and decide how best it can be represented with an embroidery stitch. I’ve found that chain stitch, stem stitch, French knots and straight stitch are the ones I use most often although I like to include some cast-on stitch, bullion knots and pistil stitch where appropriate.
When printing and embroidering the designs it’s wise to leave plenty of room around them for seams and headings. I found I had to alter the paper pattern slightly because I hadn’t left sufficient room and in the finished bag some of my hand stitching got lost in the top seams.
Other ideas I’ve tried are a cushion cover which has a dragonfly surrounded with flowers and using Kantha stitching around the dragonfly to add emphasis. Wall art which gave me the excuse to use my tree shaped block prints and then some free machine embroidery on the tree shapes which in itself was good practice for free motion stitching on the machine. An Indian style bag that I’d started to illustrate the use of Shisha embroidery with little mirrors and and then decided to add some printed abstract shapes embellished with beads and sequins, something I hadn’t tried before and will probably do again. An apron with chicken print block outlines and some lovely hedgerow plants and flowers which, I’ve mentioned before, are my favourite print blocks. Here are some images of these creations to give you a variety of ideas as to how you can use your own blocks if you have the opportunity.