Vegetable Printing

When I was a child, one of my favourite activities was potato printing. I’m sure we’ve all done it – draw a design onto a potato, have a responsible adult carve it out and get messy with the poster paints! Now, I am the responsible (heh!) adult, printing is still an interest of mine and after reading an article in the latest issue of Flow, I started thinking of those potato prints and how to make them more grown-up. When researching a craft one of the first things I do is browse Pinterest. Turns out potato printing is very much a thing for adults – they’re easy to carve, have a lovely rustic shape and transfer paints really easily. However, it doesn’t stop at potatoes! Carrots! Pears! Brussels sprouts! Onions! Lettuce! There are so many crafty people printing with vegetables on Pinterest, so I decided I had to try it out!

I gathered together a variety of vegetables that I thought could be interesting to print with, a carrot, a floret of cauliflower, a lemon, a tomato, a couple of baby potatoes, an apple, a pear, an onion, a brussels sprout and a baby gem lettuce – all to see which would print the best! I bought a plain white pillow case, a canvas bag and a canvas pencil case to print on, as well as some paper. A cryptic post was made to our Facebook page and I was all set to get printing! First, I tried out each vegetable with acrylic paint on standard printer paper to see what the relief of each one would look like before using the expensive fabric paints and the items I had bought to print on.
Potatoes were the first one I tried out as I had some experience with these. First I tried using a cookie cutter to create a more precise shape. Cut potato in half. push cookie cutter in cut edge and trace with a knife. Then I decided to try carving with a knife. This was more difficult, so I decided to use a small knife I have on my key ring. Lino cutting tools would probably work even better.

Carefully cutting around the cookie cutter.

 

Three stages of potato stamp making!

 

Pencil case printed with potato, romanesco cauliflower and apple pip.

Multiple potato prints.

Once I felt I had mastered potatoes, I moved on to another carve-able vegetable that I’d never thought of using: the humble carrot.

Two carrot prints.

Once again, my trusty Laguiole key-ring knife came in handy. I cut the carrot in half with a large vegetable cleaver – this helped ensure the cut surface was flat and would sit flush against the paper. I left one side plain and printed three blue carrots. Into other half, I carved a simple herringbone pattern and printed in pink over the top of the blue and on its own between the blue prints.  I think these are my favourite!

Next, I moved on to the lettuce, cauliflower, lemon, tomato, onion and brussels sprouts:

I tried cutting the lettuce at different points to see if the thickness made any difference.

I was disappointed with the cauliflower, I was expecting small tree-like prints, but these were more like abstract splodges. It may be down to floret selection…

I loved the delicate look of the lemon prints, but the juices really needed a lot of drying with kitchen towel!

The tomatoes looked wonderfully rustic, but again, the juices were a problem, next time I’ll carefully scrape the seeds out as well as drying with kitchen towel.

I wasn’t so impressed with the onions, especially as I had seen so many pretty onion prints on Pinterest. You could make out the rings, but not as strongly as I’d hoped.

The Brussels sprouts were also quite splodge-like, unless only a fine coat of paint was applied.

Finally, I tried pears and apples. I loved these prints for how bold they were with the delicate relief of the endocarp.
(Did you know that’s the name for the hardened layer in the core of an apple that surrounds the seeds? Neither did I, I learnt that word just for you!)

Pears made bold prints.

Alternating the direction created a fun pattern.

 

The apples created a similar look so I alternated the colour to add variety.

Once I’d tried out all the vegetables I liked, I had to choose which ones to use for the fabric items I’d bought.

All the trial vegetable prints.

I wasn’t expecting the vegetables to act so differently with the fabric paints – the details seemed to come out finer, just look at these lettuce and broccoli prints up close!

Lettuce and broccoli.

Lettuce, apple and romanesco.

I chose a pyramid design for the bag and a mandala design for the pillow case. If you try this at home, remember to put a piece of card between the fabric so the paint doesn’t bleed to the other side! Or why not join us at our January Pinterest Party for more vegetable printing fun??

This will look great when coming home from food shopping!

I chose a bold design with 4-fold symmetry for this pillow case.

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