I’m not sure if there is such a thing as an African zombie, I think zombies are native to the Caribbean, aren’t they? But what else can you call my latest block printing motif, when I only has one eye and hair standing up in all directions?

Last time I went to Rathdowne Remnants in Melbourne, I picked up a piece of brown linen from one of their remnant bins. It seemed a really good quality, but I could see why it was still for sale when there was not a lot of other linen left: the brown colour was especially unappealing. But I thought I could do something with it and so it came home with me. Then, when I came across some African graphics online I thought a couple of them would be the right look for my linen piece.

I have always liked the combination of black and brown, it is counter intuitive but somehow the black gives the accompanying brown a sort of coppery-gold appeal. And African looking graphics compliment those colours well.

But what to make out of the fabric? When I bought it, I had a sleeveless maxi dress in mind. Not a bad idea, except that I don’t wear dresses a lot. I feel too dressed up, if you pardon the pun. What does get worn, day after day after day, are tunics over pants. With my linen being a bit over 2m, I decided I had enough for a long sleeve tunic with a modest cowl.

For a pattern I used an Vogue 8542, now OOP. It is meant for knits and very oversized. I have made it up many times, always in a size 8, which goes to show how much ease there is. But this time I was using a woven, and therefore I went two sizes up to a 12. Possibly a little over the top, as the fit through the upper bodice is quite loose. I did want the dropped shoulders for comfort and to be able to wear a long sleeve tee underneath in colder weather, and the downside is the looser fit. If you want to read up on the details of the sewing process, please go to my entry on Pattern Review.

On to the printing details. Please skip these if block printing is not something you are interested in.

I always start my new printing session on paper, to make sure the block is carved properly and no extra bits show up. It also allows me to work out print placements and patterns. This time I was using two blocks, so this was particularly important. You want the finished piece to have a nice even distribution of motifs and a pleasing balance of fabric and ink.

I usually cut out my garment pieces and print them in the flat. I could print the whole fabric length, but that is a lot of extra work. I do join the shoulder seams on the front and back pieces, because the print placement around the face is important. I don’t overlock/serge the seams because it would add extra bulk that will show up when you place a print over it. With this project I also had a centre back seam, which I ironed flat with the seam allowances apart for the same reason. If you need to overlock it can be done later.

I did a grid of one motif first and then filled in the other one in between. When placing the motifs I use my hand or fingers as a guide (a whole hand’s width or so many fingers between motifs) and also the motifs themselves, i.e. how far to overlap the rows. I am reasonably good at this, but if you are starting out you may need more help with a ruler or a piece of thread placed across the fabric piece.

One bonus of using black paint was that I found colour penetration on the fabric to be especially good. Probably because I have been printing pastels for a while which are heavily mixed with super cover white, a paint that is quite thick. The black in comparison is much more runny. I also wet the foam roller first, squeezing out the excess, but the depth of the roller stays wet, stopping the paint from getting gluggy as it builds up in the foam over time. I use the foam roller to ink up my block, and the quality of paint it deposits is important.

I fix the ink in the hot dryer once it has air dried on a clothes rack. The inks I use are screen printing inks called Permaset, an Australian brand but I think they are available overseas as well. If you want a detailed explanation of the printing process in my posts Block Printing on Linen and Leaf Print Version 2.

Here are a few more pictures of the finished tunic.


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