printmaking with children: homemade labels


For years I've wanted sew-in labels that were my very own, something unique, something special.  I've spent a long time trying to come up with something unique.  And recently it all came to me--involving my children in one of my favorite art forms, printmaking.

This has been one of the most satisfying projects to do with my children because the process and the outcome stay with me, their artwork and who they are are evident in each label.   Now a little part of Johanna and Caroline can be sewn into the treasures I make for them, labeling the item based on the owner.  Or the labels can be used in homemade gifts we give away as a family, reminding the recipient who made them the gift.  Or, lastly, the labels can simply be used to color code totes, line your children's shirts, or do a myriad of things.


To print your own homemade labels (or to simply try printmaking using paper) you'll need:

  • a linoleum block or piece of rubber (both found at a local arts and craft store)
  • block printing ink
  • 1 inch twill tape (If making labels)
  • rubber roller
  • printmaking carving set
  • paper plates



I begin by breaking apart a piece of my Speedball rubber piece for my two girls to share.  Measure off a 1 inch x 2 inch portion for your child to carve their design for the label.


Depending on your child's age, assist them as they learn to control and use the carving tool.  Inside the handle of the printmaking carving tool are different size tips to carve with.  Some tips are wider and create a deeper cut, others are narrow and create a shallow cut.  Have fun experimenting alongside your child as you both carve lines, curves, and designs.  Remember, whatever you carve in the rubber or linoleum will print opposite.


Here is one of Caroline's designs she carved in her rubber.  She carved on both ends of her rubber and both sides.  And we were able to pull prints on each design by simply washing off any remaining ink before starting on another carved design to ink up.


Here's a brief video tutorial of my Caroline's process of creating her label.  It's my first video/editing project which is the most thrilling thing in the world to me!  And yet, it is so my life-- Blue's Clues in the background to keep the twins in the other room while I was recording, an unpolished ending, etc., etc.  This is as good as it gets-- so enjoy!



Once you've printed all of your labels, use pinking shears to trim.  These are all designs that Caroline and Johanna (with a lot more help from me) came up with.  You'll be amazed how even simple abstract designs look incredible after you've pulled a print and made a label.


To add a bit more interest and texture, stitch borders and lines on the labels with contrasting thread.  The more random stitches the better.  Aren't they fun labels??

I have used these family labels in one project.  The colors of the labels just pop!  I will share the tutorial for the project tomorrow, but until then, here's a sneak peek...


What would you do with homemade family labels?


the sleepy time gal