Block-Printing T-shirts

Block-Printing T-shirts

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, January 2008




  • White T-shirt

  • MDF (medium-density fiberboard) wood

  • Foam glue

  • Iron

  • Portable ironing pad

  • Sewing machine

  • Quilt-basting spray

  • Craft paper

  • Craft knife

  • Linoleum block carvers

  • Pencil or burnisher

  • Uncarved Speedy-Carve or linoleum block

  • Water-based fabric inks

  • Glass plate

  • Brayer

  • Ultrasuede

  • Old toothbrush


  1. Download and print the templates: chickadee, cloud, flower, grass, seadiver, bubbles, or octopus. You can also use clip art or photographs, or draw your own design.

  2. Using a pencil, trace over the printed template design.

  3. Place the design facedown on a Speedy-Carve (soft block-printing material) or linoleum block.

  4. Transfer the design to the block by firmly rubbing over the back of it with the side of a pencil or burnisher. 

  5. Cut out the negative (blank) areas of the transferred design using linoleum block carvers. If you are using a Speedy-Carve, you don't need to carve out all the surrounding negative space -- just carve about 1/4 inch around the entire design. Cut away the rest of the unused block with a craft knife.

  6. If using Speedy-Carve material, apply foam glue to the stamp back (the side without the design) and mount to a piece of scrap wood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard) that is about 1 inch larger all around than the cut-out stamp. Let the mounted stamp dry for at least 15 minutes.

  7. Repeat to create additional blocks for overlapping designs.

  8. Work on a padded surface, such as a portable ironing pad, that is protected with craft paper. Place a few layers of craft paper in between shirt layers to prevent ink from bleeding through.

  9. Mix water-based fabric inks to get your desired color(s). Spread the prepared ink onto a glass plate or other hard surface. Roll a brayer over the ink to cover the brayer completely; lightly roll the inked brayer over the prepared stamp to transfer ink to the stamp. Make sure you have covered all parts of the stamp with ink.

  10. Position the stamp block over the area of the shirt where you would like to print the design. Place the block on the shirt and use an even, firm pressure to press the block straight down. Carefully peel the block away from the shirt. Let the ink dry for 15 minutes before adding overlapping designs. (To clean the block, use water and an old toothbrush.) If you would like to add an applique to the shirt, print an additional design on a patch of Ultrasuede.

  11. Heat-set designs with an iron that's set to the appropriate temperature for the fabric; be careful with Ultrasuede; it is 100 percent polyester and can melt and become hard if the iron heat is too high.

  12. To add the applique, cut around the printed design by about 1/4 inch. Spray the applique back with quilt basting spray, position, and machine-sew onto shirt.


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