That’s how we roll!
Neon-print napkins from Lena Corwin turn the simplest meal into a fancy-pants occasion!
■ Metal hole punch, with ¼" hole or larger ■ ¼"-thick foam sheet, approx 8½ x 11" ■ Multi-surface waterproof glue ■ 18" wooden rolling pin (not tapered) ■ Paper cup (optional) ■ Small paintbrush (optional) ■ 1' muslin, for test printing ■ 4' light-or medium-weight cotton ■ Fabric scissors ■ 18 x 24" pad newsprint paper ■ Plastic artist’s palette, at least 18 x 15" ■ Water-based acrylic fabric ink ■ Old spoon ■ Foam brayer ■ Rag or paper towel ■ Thread in matching color
“While planning my book, I became especially interested in the concept of rotary printing,” says Lena Corwin, author of Made
by Hand. “I wondered if I could make a small-scale rotating stamp to print an all-over pattern. I adhered foam pieces to a rolling pin, and it worked!”
A simple idea yielding great results – just what we like to see. One yard of fabric makes four napkins, and the newsprint used while printing can be recycled as giftwrap. You’ll need a work surface of around 5 x 3 feet. While waterbased ink is non-toxic, it’s best to work in a well-ventilated area. An apron might be handy!
01 To make the rotary stamp, create holes in the foam sheet using the hole punch. Keep the small foam circles you punch out and set them aside. Tip: If you’re having a hard time fitting the foam into the hole punch, try punching close to the edge of the foam, pushing back and forth. If you’d rather, you can cut out shapes using some small scissors.
02 Lay the rolling pin on your work surface and carefully glue each foam dot (or other shape) to the rolling pin. Use the glue directly from the bottle, or you can pour it into a paper cup and use a paintbrush to dab it on the underside of each foam piece.
Create a random pattern on the rolling pin, gluing some dots close together in clusters and others farther apart. Allow the glue to dry before you rotate the rolling pin to add more foam dots.
03 Continue gluing dots or shapes until the entire rolling pin is covered. Allow the glue to dry for several hours or overnight.
04 Either iron the muslin and napkin fabric or pull the (still warm) fabric from the dryer and press out any wrinkles with your hands. Cut both the muslin and napkin fabric into 18” square pieces.
05 To perform a print test, place two pieces of newsprint side by side on your work surface. Lay the muslin test fabric on top of the newsprint, smoothing out the fabric with your hands. Next, stir the ink carefully before you use it to check its consistency – it should ideally be a bit like melted ice cream. If it’s too thick, add a small amount (approximately one teaspoon) of water and stir. Add more if needed. If your ink is too thin, leave it uncovered and exposed to air until it naturally thickens.
06 With your spoon, scoop out approximately two tablespoons of ink onto the palette. Spread it out with the spoon, creating a line across the width of the palette. Spread the ink further with your foam brayer, creating a rectangle of ink approximately 16” wide and 10” long .
07 Slowly roll the pin back and forth through the ink. Sometimes it’s better to hold the pin itself, rather than the handles, by placing your fingers between the foam dots, to give you more control while rolling.
08 Lift the rolling pin and stand it upright, resting the handle on your work surface. Check to see if any ink has managed to get on the rolling pin, and if so, wipe those areas with a paper towel or rag.
09 Place the rolling pin on the edge of the test fabric and slowly roll the pin away from you. Note that for the first rotation of the rolling pin, the ink is heavily coated on the
foam and only a little pressure is needed. As you finish one rotation of the rolling pin, the printed ink will start to appear lighter, so you will need to apply increasing pressure as you approach the second rotation. With practice you will be able to achieve two rotations of the rolling pin with nice, even prints. If your print has globs of excess ink, you are pressing too hard. If your print is faded, you are pressing too lightly.
10 After two rotations of the rolling pin, stop to roll the foam brayer on the palette to redistribute the ink, and reapply the ink to the rolling pin. Add more ink to the palette as needed. Lay down fresh sheets of newsprint for each piece of fabric, and practice printing on the test fabric until you are happy with the appearance of your prints.
11 To make your napkin, lay down fresh newsprint on your work surface and place a piece of napkin fabric on top. Print as you did with the test fabric, rolling the foam brayer on the palette to redistribute the ink, applying the ink to the rolling pin, and checking for stray ink. Roll the pin over the fabric, adding pressure as you finish the first rotation. Place the printed napkin fabric in a place where it can dry completely.
12 To switch to a different color, make sure your palette, foam brayer, and rolling pin are washed thoroughly (but not in hot water). Press the brayer and rolling pin with a rag or towel and wipe the palette to speed up the drying time. If you want to roll a second color on the same fabric, wait until the first layer of ink is dry. When the fabric is completely dry, iron the pieces on a high heat or dry them in a machine dryer on a high heat for 15 minutes. This will make the ink permanent and washable.
13 Hem the edges by folding the fabric under a scant ¼ ” seam – “scant” means a couple of threads short of the measurement. Sew with a straight stitch in a thread to match the fabric.
Meals lacking that certain something? Neon-dot napkins are the answer.