How To: Make A Block Print Scarf (+ Five Ways NOT TO)

I’ve been wanting to make a scarf for a few months now. And I’ve been trying, too. This has been one of those simple projects where I really raised the bar in the stupid mistakes category. I’ll point them out as I go along, but know that overall this is a fun, simple, inexpensive project.

Materials & Tools:

Scarf fabric: About a yard of cotton lawn or batiste. I bought mine so long ago I can’t even recall what it was or what it cost.
Jacquard Fabric Paint: If you are thinking, hey I’ll just use some acrylic fabric paint that I already have and mix it with some of that fabric additive they sell, do not. On the fine, wispy cotton fabric the paint will be thick and stiff and weird. (Attempt #1) Or if you think for some reason you’ll just use the Speedball block printing ink you have on hand… step away from the fabric and go to bed. Surely after a good night’s sleep you’ll realize what a terrible idea that is. (Attempt #2)
Acrylic Block and Craft Foam: With these supplies you can make your own stamp in any shape, or you could simply buy a foam stamp from the craft store instead.
Scissors and/or XACTO Knife
Brayer or Paintbrush
Glue Runner or Doublestick Tape


1. ¬†First, wash your fabric. Then cut it to the desired size. I made a 36″ square, but scarves come in almost every size. Here are some common scarf sizes if you need help. To make the cutting easier, just make a small snip where you want to cut and then tear the fabric. This will make sure it’s a nice straight line and have the added benefit of fraying the edges.

(I opted to leave the edges unfinished for a natural look. Of course you could always take the extra step of hemming the edges, if you are crazy.)

2. To build your stamp, draw or trace a star (or any other shape you choose) onto the craft foam and cut it out. Attach it to the clear acrylic block using a glue dot runner or doublestick tape. This way you can peel it off when you’re finished and use the acrylic block again for your next scarf.

3. Pour out your paint onto a plate or tile. I mixed a metallic gold and a metallic white and then used a brayer to apply the paint to my stamp. You could also use a brush to apply the paint, just do a few test stamps before starting on your scarf. Also, be sure to put the scarf on a protected surface as some of the paint will soak through. On one failed attempt I used paper which stuck the scarf, so don’t do that. (Attempt #3) Cardboard worked well. And this next scenario is highly unlikely, but I managed to make the mistake so I’ll share with you: don’t use a surface that you’ve previously used for watercolor because when the light fabric paint touches the rainbow of dried watercolor it will seriously mess up your white scarf. Argh. (Attempt #4)

4. Stamp your shape all over the scarf. The star was easy to scatter randomly. You can also make a repeating pattern and try to cover the whole scarf, but you might get bored of the project halfway through and never finish it. (Attempt #5)

5. After the scarf dries follow the instructions on your fabric paint to set with an iron.

Yes, this was the SIXTH scarf. Can you believe it? Even photographing this project was challenging! Recently a book called Print Workshop came out, so if you are interested in block printing it looks like a great resource. One that I should probably read before my next project. It’s by the woman behind Yellow Owl Workshop whose stamps you might have seen in West Elm. Also, there’s a great interview with her at angry chicken.

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