Sunday, January 16, 2011

Potato Prints

The other day, lost inside of a Michael's (big box craft store), I was led by destiny to a bottle of gold screenprint ink. I have many plans for this new friend, but this is the first project I did with it. Potato printing is something I've always reserved for disastercraft with the kids, but I just may have been underestimating the vegetable's potential.

If you're looking for a good weekend project and aren't afraid of paint-like substances, I highly recommend attempting this one. It lends itself to all levels of creative/artistic/sewing skills. And if sewing's not your thing, try printing a purchased tablecloth or curtain, or a throw pillow case if you have one that is easy to remove from the form.

The supplies you need include:

Screenprint ink*
Medium-to-heavy weight fabric (item to be printed)
Sharp knife
Parchment paper or scrap cloth

(*My favorite brand is Speedball, but any brand should be fine. Screenprint ink is available in most craft or art supply stores.)

Slice one end of the potato or whatever vegetable you're using. Using a sharp paring knife, cut shape into the end of the potato. I did a basic square, but do whatever your knife-wielding skills allow for. Just make sure the face of the stamp is as flat as possible so it meets the fabric evenly when you print.

Protect a flat surface from bleed-throughs by laying down newspaper. Then lay out the fabric, removing any wrinkles and fuzz or pet hair or whatever. Pour a little ink onto a tray or plate or newspaper and spread it around with your paintbrush. Dip the potato stamp into the ink and dab it off a little on the edge of the tray. This is the part where you might want a test subject to see how the stamp performs before you start slapping paint all over your granny's tablecloth. I used a strip of the fabric I made the pillowcase from so I'd have a really good idea of the final product. Press the stamp down lightly first, then apply a little pressure as evenly as possible. I reapplied paint after each stamp, but you might want to experiment for a different effect. This is a by-hand process for a handmade finish, so don't freak out about minor variations...that's what makes it awesome.

When you're printing your design, start small and build on the pattern (or lack thereof). If you're attempting something symmetrical, you might want to plot it out first and chalk a template onto your fabric. However you do it, when you're done stamping, leave the fabric to dry completely. How long depends on how much ink you used per stamp and all that, but make sure even the heaviest areas are totally dry before you proceed.

Once the ink is dry, heat set the prints by ironing. Follow the specific directions on the screenprint ink bottle, but basically you'll need to iron the design with a medium-to-high setting, using a piece of parchment paper or scrap cloth between the iron and the project. Iron the front and back of the printed fabric. Once the ink is heat set the print is typically machine washable, though it depends on the type of fabric you used. For longest wear, turn the item inside out to wash or wash inside a delicates laundry bag.

To finish the project, I added a couple cloth-covered buttons to mine so I'd have a tufted pillow, but do what you feel. Yay! It's done!

I know not everyone has the time or desire to make their own their own super sweet throw pillows, but now that I have gold screenprint ink, I have lots of ideas, so stay tuned for more pillows soon to be listed in my Etsy store.


  1. So you made the pillow first, then stamped? So cute!

  2. Elena,
    I sewed the pillowcase first, leaving one side open. I put the pillow form in the case after I was done with the printing, then hand-stitched the seam closed and sewed the buttons through the center.