Stamping on pre-cut small squares of quilting fabric, using ink pads rather than fabric paint, is a wonderful way to explore pattern making quickly and playfully. For this tutorial, I am going to use my "Wild Flowers" set of clear decor stamps.
You will need a charm pack, which is a packaged stack of pre-cut squares (usually 5" x 5") of quilting fabric. Choose white or ivory to start with. These charming stacks can become your fabric-printing-idea sketchbooks. But, most likely, you will have results fabulous enough to put right to use in a number of sewing projects!
Also needed will be ink pads that are specially formulated for use on fabric. This is almost always stated on the back of the packaging, but one line I can recommend is the Palette Hybrid Line. Be sure to heat set the inks by ironing if you will be washing the fabric in the future.
Also, at least one acrylic block with grid lines. If you can't find a block with grid lines, you can create your own with a felt tip pen or by actually "engraving" your own lines with an craft knife. You really only need the horizontal and vertical lines to mark the center. Ooops, some of mine are rather stained from use!
You will need a grid that can be seen through your fabric. I like to create several different grids on my computer and print them out, but of course you could use a pen and a ruler. The lines should be dark enough to be seen through the fabric. Make a few with different measurements and be sure to make one in the measurement of the largest stamp in the set. The largest stamp in this set measures 2", so I made a 2" grid. Since 2 doesn't divide evenly into 5 (size of fabric) I made a 5" x 5" red lined square the size of my fabric and placed it so that it is centered over the grid.
To get started, place your first stamp, carefully centered on the acrylic block. Since the stamps cling, it is often easier to place the stamp upside down on a grid, then lower your block over it until stamp and block connect. Now, take your fabric square and tape it over the grid. Ink your stamp, making sure you have full coverage but being careful to only ink the raised portion of the stamp and not the recessed areas or edges. Hold the block, stamp side down, just over the fabric and very carefully line it up with the grid. Then hold your breath and press! You need to press a little harder than you would with fabric paint, but you don't want to press so hard that you distort your image. Repeat this process with the same stamp at the measured spots on your grid. (In the photograph, the grid is hard to see. This was not the case in real life!) Make sure not to print over the tape, leaving an empty spot on your fabric where ink should be. It is easy to just pick up a corner of the tape if needed.
Once you have your first stamp printed in repeat, you can choose your next motif using the acetate sheet which features all the motifs printed in black. This sheet is included with each stamp set. You can also remove the tape and gridded paper at this point because you will visually line up the next stamp-on-a-block with the already printed one.
Choose your next color by testing the colors on paper. However, the colors will appear lighter on the fabric than they do on paper. Of course, a one-color arrangement is also very nice!
I like to add some dots now and then. The eraser on the end of any pencil makes a great dot stamping tool. I erased this eraser down a bit all around the edges to make the dot smaller. Still just a bit large. Note to self: find some thinner pencils with erasers!
A great tool that makes this process so much faster, is a damp stamp scrubber cleaning pad. No need to run to the kitchen to wash the entire stamp and block. The scrubber also works with fabric paints and that is why mine is so stained! Replacement pads are available, so I should look into that! Still working fine, however. Just rinse well at the end of your printing session, or during if the pad loses it's cleaning power. If you can't find a pad or don't want to invest the money, a wet toothbrush will also work. With either choice, just be sure to use a lint-free cloth to dry the stamp. The clingy stamps love to cling to lint. A flour sack towel is my lint-free cloth of choice.
Now print away, playing with colors, color combinations, different arrangements and motifs. You can even throw away your grid and simply scatter-print your fabric square! Go crazy.
After a short time, I ended up with several printed squares, all nicely coordinated. Now, let's think of some sewing projects using these squares.........