PlanetJune Craft Blog

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block printing workshop

block printing workshop

On Saturday, I attended a block printing workshop, taught by Jesse Breytenbach, a Cape Town-based illustrator and printmaker. Jesse has a Masters in printmaking and many years’ experience of relief printing, producing beautiful textiles like these:

block prints by Jesse Breytenbach

The last time I tried printmaking was ‘carving’ into styrofoam with a pencil in primary school(!), but I love learning and I love making things, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn a new skill from a world expert in this craft.

I loved that this workshop wasn’t a class to make a specific project, but a way to learn the skills and techniques which we can then apply to any projects in future. Jesse just told us to draw simple shapes and then start to carve them….

block printing workshop

We used plastic easycut lino and learnt how to use a selection of carving tools to turn our drawn shapes (above) into a block ready to print from (below).

block printing workshop

Jesse (below, left) walked around throughout and offered help and insight to all the participants. It was so useful to hear all her tips and expertise as the workshop progressed.

I started out far too timidly with carving away the excess material, but by the end of the class I really felt like I understood the process: how to make clear outlines, how to carve fine and deep lines, how to efficiently clear away unwanted material, and how to check if the block is finished or needs a bit more work.

block printing workshop

Then it was time for the messy part: inking up our blocks and printing onto fabric!

block printing workshop

Everyone else’s test blocks were far more ambitious than mine – I just wanted to learn to carve, but the others made far more complex shapes with more fine detail and multiple colours. Here are some of my favourite prints from other participants:

block printing workshop

Looking at the variety of blocks we made, you can start to see how versatile this medium is. It was really interesting to see how all the different types of blocks behaved when they were printed.

I rotated my simple ‘boring’ block to make different patterns, which was fun and yielded some surprisingly interesting patterns! These were just test prints, so I tried to judge the spacing and angles by eye, but, with a few registration marks so I could print them evenly, I think I could make some really nice prints from my little block.

block printing workshop

This workshop was such an enjoyable and creative morning. I usually make things in isolation, so it was really fun to be creative in a group setting and get to see what other people were making. I’d definitely recommend learning a new craft from an expert, if you get the chance – they can point out exactly where you’re going wrong so there’s a lot less trial-and-error and having to figure things out for yourself.

If you live in or near Cape Town, I can highly recommend learning about block printing from Jesse! If you’re interested, contact Jesse for more information or to sign up for her mailing list for notification of her next workshop dates.


Once I got home I felt so fired up by learning a new skill, I really wanted to do some more carving. My ultimate goal when taking this class was to be able to carve a block in the shape of my PlanetJune yarn planet logo. Before I went to the workshop, I thought I’d need lots of practice before I even attempted it, but I was so excited by the whole process that I couldn’t stop myself from getting started right away, on the same day…

As a novice with only a few hours’ carving experience, I knew I’d probably mess up the carving a few times and waste some lino, and I was prepared for that to happen. But I took it slowly and steadily and remembered Jesse’s advice, and, somehow, I didn’t make any critical errors – I even remembered to carve my block as a mirror image so the design will print the right way round!

planetjune logo block print

And a couple of hours after starting, I’d gone from a square of blank lino and a piece of plain fabric to a PlanetJune yarn planet print…

planetjune logo block print

I’m so excited by all this! It feels really special to have my own hand-carved block so I can print my own hand-designed logo.

What am I going to do with it? Well, I’m planning to sew up some project bags to store my crochet works-in-progress, and print my logo in one corner of each one. They’ll be PlanetJune projects in more ways than one – isn’t that just perfect?!

8 Comments »

  1. Theresa said

    That looks like so much fun. As for your ‘boring’ block, I disagree. You made some amazing prints using the simple shape.

  2. Lisa Schwartz said

    I love it! It’s always fun to learn a new skill and you did a great job.

  3. Miriam P. said

    I for one would love to have something with the PlanetJune yarn planet printed on it!

    We did wood block and lino block printing when I was in primary school (I had a wonderful art teacher). I clearly remember my lino print – it was a vulture sitting in a tree with a moon in the sky (must have been near Halloween or maybe I’d learned about vultures and thought they were cool) and it came out surprisingly good. So you post made me nostalgic. Thank you!

  4. .: petrOlly :. said

    This looks like fun! My last attempts at something similar are also ages ago – in my case it wasn’t styrofoam but potatoes (potato stamps) 🙂

    Did you use any special paint and/or fabric?
    Is there any handle on the plastic(?) back of the carved blocks? I am wondering how to hold it – and especially how to lift it again after you stamping…

    Did you think about adding PlanetJune project bags to your shop? 🙂

    • June said

      That’d be fun! But, realistically, I can’t see a way for it to happen… My time is my most precious and limited commodity, and unless I can charge hundreds of dollars per bag (ha!) or employ someone to make the bags for me (no thanks) I just can’t see how to make it viable.

  5. Doug said

    That is soooo cool!
    And double plus for doing it the same day while everything was fresh!

    • June said

      Doing that really helped to cement everything I’d learnt, so I’m really glad I did it that way (although it did make for a pretty exhausting day!)

  6. that looks like so much fun!!! thank you for sharing another fun craft with us! and the design logo looks great!

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    June Gilbank

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