Printed Fabric

I’ve been super busy playing with printing fabric and paper; all types of printing from lino block printing, silk screen printing and printing with patterned rollers. It’s been a huge learning curve, lots of mistakes, but super fun. I have so much to share with you all about my printing journey; Christmas was filled with hand printed presents, cards and wrapping paper. I’ll share all of the projects that I’ve been working on but for today, I’m sharing my first play with patterned rollers on fabric.

I purchased the patterned roller kit for fabric from The Painted House on Etsy a number of years back but I have only just started using them. This isn’t the entire fabric kit; when the box arrives the kit contains two small rollers that sit in each chamber in the trough and one larger roller and a rubber rod that both sit above the smaller rollers; these pick up the ink/paint from the well (the grey trough) and coat the patterned roller. Today I used the ‘tapet’ design.

The first thing you do with the patterned rollers is to add a plus sign on one side of the roller and then

add a minus sign  on the other side of the roller, exactly opposite to the plus sign. By doing this, you can lay the pattern in a way that offsets each column – if you don’t offset each column, the pattern will look odd.


When printing fabric with the roller kit, you need to tack your fabric taught to a wall or board. I purchased a large piece of 6mm ply so I could stand it up in my garage leaning on the shelving unit (my shelving unit is a super heavy load industrial type so leaning the ply panel isn’t a problem. I will slide the ply panel behind the shelving units in the garage when it’s not in use. Fold up a painters drop sheet and sit it under the panel of wood; it will protect the floor if any accidental spills happen – if you’re even vaguely like me (totally uncoordinated) you’ll drop paint on the floor and make a shocking mess…ask me how I know to use a painters drop sheet under the wood panel??? Lesson #1 learned.

You could also tape newspaper behind your panel to stop the paint bleeding through if you wanted – I didn’t.  I didn’t bother setting up my pneumatic staple gun for this job; instead I used a manual staple gun; it was quick and easy.

Don’t drive the staples all the way into the wood panel; just set it in as a sub tack like you would if you were upholstering and wanted to temporarily set down your fabric. That way, you can easily pull the staples out with pliers later. I will be using this fabric to make a prototype of a bag I’m working on so the holes from sub tacking don’t matter to me, but they might be problematic if making something like a curtain panel – it’s something to think about. I resorted to sub tacking because painters blue tape didn’t work and neither did packing tape; once I started to apply tension to the fabric, the tape failed to hold the fabric.

Before you start, line up your plus or minus sign on the roller so you can see it; you’ll need to line the opposite sign you used in the very same place on the second pull and then you’ll revert back to the first sign you used on your first pull. You’ll alternate the sign on each pull so try to remember what you started with. By doing this you will offset the pattern and it will sit in a diagonal pattern across the fabric.

For the second pull, you’ll also need to slightly over lap the roller so the pattern of the roller sits right next the pattern already painted. As you can see by my attempt, I didn’t do this very well as there is blank fabric lines between each pull…lesson #2 learned!


If you’re thinking that I only learned 2 mistakes from mistakes, you’re way off track hahaha, My biggest mistake was after i dropped paint on the garage floor and had to set the roller down to clean up. I absent-mindedly pickup up the roller and started to do a pull with the roller facing the wrong way; you guessed it, I forgot to remember which sign – or + I had used previously and I even managed to do the pull with the trough facing the wrong way so that the roller pattern appeared upside down. If you look at the second last column, you can see my mistake lessons learned; the print is not only upside down but not off set particularly well.

So let’s talk fabric ink and paint. I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint; it makes a wonderful dye bath and it works a treat for printing fabric with patterned rollers. In the YouTube instructions from The Painted House, you are instructed to water down the paint to a “single cream’ consistency – much like a pouring cream consistency…but truth be told, i don’t think you need to do it because i found that parts of the pattern were quite smudged  with a bleed like consistency. I currently live in a warm sub tropical climate (Brisbane, Australia) and i think that humidity may have something to do with not having to water down the paint. Next time, i’m not watering down ASCP. I will also try using the patterned rollers with Permaset Aqua fabric ink…this will need to be watered down as it’s quite thick. I use it for screen printing  and it needs to be quite thick so that it doesn’t bleed; straight out of the tub, it’s way too thick for the patterned rollers. ASCP doesn’t need setting; once it’s dry, it’s ready to go, but Permaset Aqua needs to be heat set with an iron.

Even though the fabric is a bit of a mess, I’m not concerned in the least…and here’s why: firstly, the fabric cost $3 per metre, so nice and inexpensive for inevitable design changes/mistakes and second, the fabric was purchased to make a prototype of a shopping tote I’m designing and mistakes are all part of the design process. I’m hoping at very least, that the prototype becomes a working model and it’s not entirely useless.

So there you go, there’s my first foray into fabric printing with patterned rollers. If you purchase the roller system for your own projects, there are plenty of instructional videos on YouTube; so go ahead and make lots of mistakes because they’re good for you! I’ll share the bag as soon as it’s made up; it will be part of a range of hand printed homewares and accessories that I’ll be creating and selling both online and at local Brisbane markets in 2018.



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