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Pressing Matters: How to Make Printed Napkins


Printed napkin

Block-printed textiles have a handmade organic look that I adore. The traditional technique uses carved wood, but you can sub craft foam to create designs on tablecloths, pillow covers, even fabric that can be framed and hung as art. In creating these napkins I discovered lots of other fun and easy ways to make patterns too—with found objects like bottle caps and wine corks. Now I'm inspired to put my personal stamp on everything.


• Smooth cotton fabric or muslin
• Self-adhesive foam sheets
• Wood block or acrylic sheet
• Fabric paint or acrylic craft paint mixed with textile medium
• Card stock (for template)

Foam Stamps: This technique can be used for any graphic design, such as all the napkins in this slideshow.

Step 1: Wash and dry fabric to remove sizing, then iron.

Step 2: Create a template on card stock and trace around with a pencil onto the back of self-adhesive foam, or do freehand designs.

Step 3: Cut out foam shapes with fine-tipped scissors and mount on wood block or acrylic sheet.

Step 4: Lay fabric on a flat work surface protected by scrap paper. Brush a thin layer of fabric paint onto the foam cutouts using a small foam brush. Press the shapes evenly onto the fabric and remove carefully. Repeat as often as desired, adding a fresh coat of paint to the foam stamp before each use.

Step 5: Let dry, then iron to heat-set on the reverse side of the printed fabric, following manufacturer's instructions.

Step 6: For napkins, use a ruler and rotary blade to cut finished fabric into 20-inch squares, then fringe the edges by pulling out a few threads from each side.

Note: Transparent acrylic blocks make it easier to see the design as you're printing.