Kitchen Surface Design

Julie B Booth
Surface Design News

A Newsletter dedicated to exploring the kitchen as a resource for surface design on fabric techniques.

Look for Fabric Printing at Home available November 1, 2014 from Quarry Books.

Julie's taking the summer off from teaching. Look for her Fall class schedule in a future issue.

I recommend this book!

This was the "composition bible" for my Story Cloth class! In her book, Molly Bang focuses on the relationship between picture structure and our emotional reactions by recreating a scene from Little Red Riding Hood. By analyzing how we react to the use of color and shapes, the placement of objects on a page as well as the relationships between the objects (size, etc.) we can create pictures (and stories) that evoke strong emotions.


Issue #19

The Teacher Becomes the Student

A Personal Note from Julie

July 6, 2014

Every once in a while I'm lucky enough to teach a class where the students seem to gel as a group. I set the goal, provide handouts, inspiring images from books and Pinterest, samples and supplies. They get to work and completely astound me! I was very fortunate to have two such classes this spring: Patching, Stitching, Weaving: Creating Healing Cloth and Fabric Painting, Printing and Stitching to Tell a Story with Cloth (aka Story Cloth). These were two new classes and although in my mind's eye I knew what I'd hoped and wished for, the final results from the students went way beyond my expectations. Not only was the work incredible, but the sharing, caring and support between students made for a particularly satisfying teaching experience.

It's in this atmosphere of sharing and being open to exploring that I can find myself becoming the student. Such was the particular case when one student in my Story Cloth class decided to try block printing on teabags. Susan's story cloths seemed to center on communication and the  interaction between simple human forms inspired by cave drawings. The soft browns of a used teabag became the perfect fabric background to tell her story. While experimenting in class, we discovered that one could pick up subtle textures by slipping a flat texture such as burlap beneath the teabag and then printing. After her prints dried, Susan then experimented with hand stitching them to fabric. What a surprise that the seemingly fragile teabags were actually sturdy enough to be stitched!

Susan's work in process. Printed teabags stitched to cotton fabric.

Susan's experiments inspired me to play with the idea of recycling not only the teabag paper but the string, tag, envelope and even the tea box to create print blocks to then print on the bags. By deconstructing the teabag into its many parts, you can come up with some beautiful prints.

All this playing with teabags has also set the stage for my annual summer family art project. Yesterday, I was steeping multiple teabags (both black and green tea) that will be turned into pages which we'll nature print and bind into small books. I'll be sure to post some images to my blog ( and perhaps one will sneak into the next newsletter.

Enjoy this hot summer month and consider creating a few teabag prints of your own!


Deconstructing Tea

Recycle the parts of a tea bag (sans tea leaves), the paper envelope it comes in and the cardboard teabag box to create print blocks. Print designs on found fabric: i.e. teabags!

You will need the following materials to create print blocks:
  • Teabags that have been steeped in boiling water and allowed to dry completely (drying will take at least a day).
  • Teabag envelopes, strings and tags
  • Cardboard teabag box
  • Craft knife
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Clear plastic gridded ruler (e.g.Omnigrid)
  • Self-Healing Rotary Cutting Mat to use with the craft knife.
  • Double sided tape
  • Masking tape
  • ModPodge, white glue or gel medium
  • 1" foam brush to apply ModPodge, white glue or gel medium
  • Small plastic container to hold ModPodge, white glue or gel medium
  • Pencil or pen
Preparing the Teabags
1. Have a trash container handy for this part of the process. Carefully pry the small staple holding the teabag together or undo the knotted string to open it up.

2. Pour the tea leaves into the trash container.

3. Find the seam in the teabag and very gently pull it apart.

4. Smooth the teabag to flatten and remove any stray tea leaves or residue left behind.

In addition to printing designs on the teabags, you can cut some into strips and use with the materials mentioned below to create print blocks.

Designing Print Blocks
1. Cut the thin cardboard tea boxes into squares or rectangles. Some of these will serve as the backings for your block designs. If you want the block backings to be a bit sturdier, cut two pieces the same dimensions, apply double sided tape to one of the pieces and adhere the other to it.
2. Apply strips of double sided tape to the backing and then create components to place on your print blocks. This could include:
  • Cutting 1/4" -1/2" wide strips of thin cardboard to layer on top of the backing or stand on edge. Consider curling the strips around a pencil or pen or bending them to form an interesting design.
  • Cut 1/2" strips from teabag paper and twist or roll into components or gather and tie with a teabag string.
  • Trim and fold a teabag envelope. Cut designs using small sharp scissors or a craft knife (think paper snowflakes). Attach this to the thin cardboard backing with double sided tape and use as a template to create a stencil. Use a craft knife to cut away areas of the design.
  • Arrange teabag tags on a backing. This works well with thin cardboard tags.
  • Arrange teabag strings on a backing.
  • Roll paper teabag tags. Keep from unrolling by taping with masking tape. Cut into thirds and arrange on a backing.
  • Refer to Issue #8: Recycled Resolutions for more ideas.
Some components may be too fragile to apply paint without first sealing with a layer of ModPodge, white glue or gel medium. If you find that components are moving or falling off the backing while printing, seal them. Pour ModPodge or gel medium into a small container and use a small foam brush to gently cover the components on the block.

Here are some samples of print blocks and stencils.

Printing Your Deconstructed Tea Blocks
You will need the following materials:
  • Print blocks you just created.
  • Teabags (see above, Preparing the Teabags)
  • Pebeo Setacolor Opaque Fabric Paints. Choose colors that complement the tan or rust colors of the dried and flattened teabags. I mixed a bright light blue, indigo, dark brown, warm red and a cooler red. You could also use black.
  • Rollrite Foam Brayers or another brand of dense foam brayer. You will want one for each paint color you choose.
  • Foam daubers. See Issue #4: How to Make a Foam Dauber. Use these to apply paint through stencils.
  • Glass or Plexi-glass palettes. I purchase glass from the framing department at my local craft store. Buy the least expensive glass available and tape the edges with duct tape. I like to have several available to use with different paint colors. You will spoon the paint onto the glass.
  • Small plastic containers with lids to hold paint. I like to use Ziploc xs/bowl 8 fl. oz. containers, but you could use recycled yogurt, margarine or other small containers.
  • Plastic spoons for mixing paint and spooning it out.
  • (2-3)15" x 20" Padded Portable Work Surfaces. (See Issue #2 under Get Ready, Get Set.../ Padded Portable Work Surfaces). Use one for printing and the others for drying your printed teabags.
  • 1/2" upholstery foam (same type used for the foam daubers). You will need a piece that is at least 2" larger in height and width than your teabag. If you prefer, you can cut a 15" x 20" piece to cover the entire portable work surface.
  •  Muslin or cotton fabric. Cut a 15" x 20" piece to cover the portable work surface.
  • Masking tape
  • Paper towels
1. Mix up colors of Pebeo Setacolor Opaque Fabric Paint or use colors directly from the bottles. If you are mixing a custom color, be sure you start with the lightest color and gradually add darker colors. Always remember that a little goes a long way!

2. If you are printing with a more dimensional block, place the piece of 1/2" foam on the padded portable work surface and lay the piece of muslin or cotton fabric on top of it. Place a prepared teabag on top (Optional: use small pieces of masking tape to attach the corners of the teabag to the fabric). For flatter blocks, tape the cotton or muslin directly to the work surface and place the prepared teabag on top.

3. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of paint onto the glass palette. Use the dense foam brayer to spread the paint evenly across the glass palette. Roll the brayer in different directions until there is an even coating of paint on the brayer.

4. Use the brayer to roll an even coat of paint onto the block.

5. Turn the block over onto the fabric and gently press to release the paint onto the teabag. The fabric underneath will prevent the paint from getting on the upholstery foam or the portable work surface. It's also a way to print a piece of fabric in addition to your teabag.
The components on this block were made from rolled and cut paper teabag tags.

To print with stencils:

1. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of paint onto the glass palette.

2. Use a foam dauber to pick up a small amount of paint at a time. Daub the paint on the glass to remove excess.

3. Apply paint through the openings of the stencil.

Brayer Rubbings

In addition to printing directly with your blocks, some of the flatter blocks or stencils can be placed under the teabags for brayer rubbings.

1. Tape a piece of muslin or cotton fabric to the portable work surface.

2. Place a flat print block or stencil on the fabric (Optional: use small pieces of masking tape to attach the block or stencil to the fabric).

3. Lay a prepared teabag on top of the block or stencil (Optional: use small pieces of masking tape to attach the corners of the teabag to the fabric).

4. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of paint onto the glass palette. Use the dense foam brayer to spread the paint evenly across the glass palette. Roll the brayer in different directions until there is an even coating of paint on the brayer.

5. Carefully roll the paint over the teabag picking up the textures/designs from the block or stencil.

Try printing or stenciling with different blocks on the same teabag for added interest. Here are some samples.

Setting the Paint
Since you are printing on paper you don't need to worry about washing. The paint passively sets in one week.

Turn your printed teabags into a book or stitch them (hand or machine) to fabric to create a wall hanging!


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