Block Shop-Inspired Ottoman

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Los Angeles-based Block Shop Textiles has really hit their stride lately. I’ve been fangirling over them for some time, more seriously once I bought my first rug from them last year — I highly recommend their products. The products are well and ethically made and use centuries old techniques. The company is by two adorable sisters who are also the founders. They have all kinds of products these days — pillows, rugs, scarves (which make lovely wall hangings, too!), paper prints, table linens… all thoughtfully designed and made. They recently did a collaboration with Amsterdam Modern, a local mid century modern furniture shop. Cool, right? Even if this collaboration did result in an upholstered ottoman, Virgil and I aren’t exactly at the “investment furniture” part of our homemaking. So, we did what we always do and made our own.

This project could use ANY type of print or pattern, but I was particularly excited to try my hand at block printing. So maybe it’s two DIYs in one? Anyway, I hope you learn something here!

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MATERIALS — OTTOMAN BASE

  • One 4x8 sheet of plywood, 1/2”

  • Nail gun and nails

  • Circular Saw (you can rent one!)

  • Eye protection!

  • Large T-square is helpful

MATERIALS — UPHOLSTERY

MAKING THE BOX

This part is simple enough with the right tools. Measure out 5 rectangles on your plywood sheet: one 24” x 42”, two 42” x 14”, and two 24” x 14”. Use a large t-square to draw parallel lines. Cut out with a circular saw, carefully and with proper safety equipment. Virgil assembled our box using pocket screws, according to the drawing below.

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MAKING THE LINO BLOCKS

For this design, we used 4x5 blocks. There are two designs, a straight and a curve. Print out this template and make sure it is exact size. You can check this by placing your block on top of the print out, making sure the edges line up precisely. Cut off one strip at a time, tracing the space of the black area. If you cut and draw, cut and draw, it keeps the spacing even and the paper more rigid, making tracing along it easier! Just be sure to keep aligning using the same corner until finished. Use this process for both designs. The black areas on the templates are the ones we want to leave raised in the carving process.

Using a finer nib in the carving tool, go through and outline the design, slowly and carefully. Holding the block at an angle helped give Virgil more control and pressure on the tool. He’s the one who did all the carving! Once you’ve outlined everything, use a larger nib to dig out the all of the negative space. Once you’ve carved out your design, we found it super helpful to draw lines straight up the sides of the blocks from the edges of the design, so we could see where the stamp would line up as we printed the design. Highly recommend this step!

PREPPING THE FABRIC

We measured out 5 rectangles for ottoman cover, similar to the plywood box. For sewing, we added an inch to each side, and also to give us a little bit of wiggle room for lining up the block printing between pieces. The dimensions are as follows: top piece, 44” x 26”; short sides (x2), 26” x 16”; long sides (x2), 44” x 16”. We used a tape measure, t-square, and a pencil to draw these out onto our fabric. Cut them all out and you’re ready to start printing!

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BLOCK PRINTING

Using the above diagram (I designed the pattern beforehand in Adobe Illustrator using my exact size block graphics to plan), we started with the middle piece and lined up pieces to the edges like above to make sure things would line up. This will only be really successful if you measured and cut your fabric carefully, so be sure to double check! I continually referenced the design as we went, eyeballing where things began and turned.

The left piece and bottom center piece also line up with each other — you just have to take your time and be strategic. To print, we placed the piece of fabric down on a large piece of poster board to keep the mess contained. Make sure whatever surface you are on is smooth. Any texture will screw up the solidness of your stamp.

Squeeze a bit of the ink (shake well first, it separates) onto a flat surface (we used some cardboard for this) and roll out in a plus-sign technique with your brayer. Once you’ve evenly distributed the ink all over the brayer, roll it onto your carved lino block. Make sure you get a nice even distribution, and don’t be afraid to lay it on there.

I think it’s easiest to start printing at an edge and work your way in for this design. Carefully line up the block and lay it down at an angle. One end down first, then the other. This allows for more control and less wiggling than just dropping it face down onto the fabric all at once. It’s also much easier as you are lining up your next stamp with the previous one. Put good pressure on the block, evenly distributing your weight. Peel the block up similarly to how you laid it down, holding the fabric as you peel. The ink is pretty sticky.

After each stamp, get your brayer inked up again and roll it out onto the stamp. Do this each time. You’ll need to refresh your ink on your inking board every handful of stamps — you’ll notice the print starts to fade a bit.

Take your time with this part — I had Virgil supervising my movements as we went because I tend to become oblivious to wet ink or paint while crafting and end up with it all over everything. He stood by with a wet paper towel and warned me if I was about to kneel in black ink or something. I’m not very good at multitasking, HA.

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We also periodically needed to clean fuzz from the fabric off of our blocks so it didn’t leave any stray ink marks, just to note. The ink is water soluble, so you can pretty easily wash it off of the blocks if they get too messy.

You can also experiment will all kinds of different patterns and shapes. It could be as simple as half circles or triangles and stamp them randomly! You could also buy fabric that already has a pattern, get something vintage, or keep it plain. So many possibilities. Have fun with it!

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SEWING THE COVER

We allowed our printed fabric to dry overnight, as to not make a giant mess with still-wet ink. The next day, we methodically took to attaching all of the pieces, starting again with the top piece. I’m sure if you are attempting this project, you’ve sewn things before, so I’ll spare the silly details. Just be sure that your lines are lining up with you face them to each other and make sure your corners line up as well. This should be pretty smooth if you carefully cut and measured the fabric back at that step. Sew them all onto the top piece before addressing corners. For the corners, you have to fold the fabric down in a triangle, almost like the top of a paper airplane, and then lay it so you just have half of the airplane top visible in order to join the vertical creases. Virgil is the sewing engineer here, so if you have any questions on that step, I’ll direct them to him!

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BATTING AND COVERING

Pro tip: wear gloves for the batting part if you don’t want to be washing sticky fuzz off our your hands for a day. We did not wear gloves. My hands were atrocious. Definitely do this step outside and away from cars or walls or anything the spray adhesive could blow onto while you’re working. We cut our batting to size first, measuring so that it wrapped over the corners and would soften them once the fabric was on. Spray an area of the wood, spray the side of the batting that will be against the wood, and stick it on there. We wrapped the bottom layer around the whole thing so that all of the corners would be soft. The batting we used needed doubling up, so we sprayed between the layers, too. We also had a little extra at the bottom so we could pull it under the edge when stapling the fabric on. Next step!

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To secure the fabric, we pulled the cover over the batting-wrapped ottoman and flipped it over. Starting in the middle of one of the sides, I pulled the batting and fabric tightly up and over the plywood edge and Virgil used a staple gun to hold it in place on the 1/2” side of the plywood (the part that goes on the ground). We worked our way out from the center of each side, pulling fabric tight as we went, saving the corners for last. That part gets a little tricky, so trim away any excess batting from your corners to make it easier to secure the folded fabric in place. It would probably be wise to add a layer over top of these fabric edges, so that when you slide it on the floor it doesn’t pull at the secured pieces, but we have yet to add that on. Flip that baby back over, sit back, prop your feet up on it and admire your handiwork. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments and please tag me on Instagram so I can see your takes on this project. Can’t wait, happy making!

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