Fabric printed with lemons and onion

Waste Matters

You might not be surprised that there is a great deal of chatter during the printmaking sessions in The Barley Barn, though at times you can hear a pin drop, so intense is the concentration.

In one of these sessions, conversation turned to the waste we produce with our printmaking. Before us was a pile of prints. Some were good but others less so. Some were awful because that’s what happens when you learn a new skill and experiment. I know plenty of magazines would have you believe that in one afternoon you can pick up a piece of lino, carve and print it with no previous experience and have a framed masterpiece on the wall by teatime, but it isn’t so. Practice makes perfect – or at least improves. Though we’re invariably thrilled with the results of our first attempt at a new craft, looking back after more practice, we can see how much we’ve improved and how basic our first piece was.

We talked about using scrap paper to make books and how wonderful envelopes can look when made with reject prints, how best to use fragments for cardmaking or scrapbooking and techniques for mixed media and collage. We discussed the merits of making compost with paper and using the recycling bin.

“But what about fabric?” someone asked. It seems that one of the main obstacles to taking a fabric printing course is having to deal with the fabric once you’ve printed it. Some students design and print fabric that they make into clothes, others make pencil cases, bags and cushion covers. Some get carried away with the printing process and then store the fabric away, with the vague notion that one day they’ll do something with it. Others avoid the course.

Napkin made with onion printed fabric

Mindful of the conversation about waste and my admiration as a friend had eschewed the paper napkins on offer at a restaurant recently and instead pulled out a cloth one from her handbag, I decided to make some small cloth napkins of my own. Not enormous ‘tie around your neck ready to eat spaghetti’ but small enough to slip into a bag and not special enough to cause upset if they’re left behind or used as a first aid accoutrement in an emergency. Also less wasteful in the kitchen than kitchen paper.

As luck would have it, I had several pieces of suitable fabric that have been used for printing practice and then forgotten stored away.

Napkin made with fabric printed with lemon

These cloth napkins are super easy to make. Just cut them to shape – 30 x 30 cms is a good size though some of mine were smaller – and hem the edges. A simple project for using up small pieces of hand printed fabric.

Because waste matters.




Hand Printed Napkins

4 thoughts on “Waste Matters

  1. Thats a great idea – I always use cloth napkins rather than paper as they wash easily and I don’t mind ironing them, so having a supply of them that can be used all the time, without feeling precious about them at all is a wonderful idea. And they will be unique too!

  2. Using your own printed material to make napkins makes them special and unique. What a great idea.

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