A 5-Minute Art Project to Bookmark for the Weekend

Home52's Resident Design Wiz, Nicole Crowder shows us how to make custom prints using everyday materials.

January 29, 2021

Follow the Pattern is a brand new column from furniture maker and upholstery expert (and Home52's Resident Design Wiz), Nicole Crowder. Nicole is here to show us how to breathe new life into old furniture, reuse and repurpose materials, take chances with color and pattern—and develop a signature aesthetic. Today, she guides us through a relaxing, anyone-can-do-it block print DIY with so many possibilities.

Like many of you, I love a bold, colorful art print in my home. Art has a striking impact on so much of your home—from mood to dimensions to energy—and for me, the larger the canvas, the better.

This simple but fun DIY is great for many reasons, not least because it invites you to add a personal touch to your walls using minimal resources. You can create as many unique patterns as you want by using just a wooden block covered in yarn and the paint colors of choice. When you’re done, simply frame your canvas or hang it as is in the foyer among your galley wall of photographs and art. It’s the perfect quarantine DIY to pass the time—either by yourself or with friends and family. Just gather your favorite paint colors, an array of white canvases from your local art supply store, and prepare to stamp out a masterpiece.

With this technique, you can also wrap your canvas in a beautiful textile and use fabric-friendly paints like acrylic to stamp your design directly onto them. I love to find ways to repurpose fabrics, especially since, as an upholsterer, I collect a lot of swatches that don’t necessarily have a use. This simple DIY printmaking tutorial is a wonderful opportunity to give them extra life.

Go big by using fabrics that have a bold pattern to create even more depth and contrast to your finished artwork. I like to use paint-friendly fabrics like cotton, linen, or lightweight polyester (I find that the paint transfers easier and stays longer), versus heavyweight textiles that have raised textures to them.

You can also use this paint tutorial to create printed fabric for custom curtains, tea towels, socks, napkins—in fact, there’s very little you can’t do!

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Cotton yarn (any color)
  • Acrylic paints (2-3 colors works best)
  • White stretched canvas to paint on (I’m using 11”x14” and 4”x4” ones here)
  • Paintbrush or sponge brush
  • Wooden blocks (as many as you want)
  • Dish to put paint on
  • Scissors
  • Fabric swatches (optional)
Wrapping the wood blocks with yarn. Photo by Nicole Crowder
Sponging paint onto the custom stamp. Photo by Nicole Crowder

Let's get printing!

1) Holding one of your blocks and your ball of yarn, begin to wrap a thread of yarn around the block in a tight but loosely-designed fashion. You want to wrap all sides of your block, leaving a little space between each thread line because this is how you create your patterns.

2) Using whichever paint colors you decided, squeeze some onto a plate or washable dish.

3) Taking your paint brush or paint roller, coat one side of your block in the color of your choice. The paint should completely cover one side of your block but not so heavily that the paint drips. If you add too much paint there’s a higher likelihood you’ll end up with an undefined blob when you stamp your canvas.

4) If you plan to cover your canvas using fabric as the base, first measure the size of your canvas and add an extra 2 inches of fabric to account for wrapping around the sides of the canvas. You can adhere the fabric to the canvas by simply gluing it down

5) Press your block onto the canvas like a stamp, holding for a few seconds to make sure you get a good print.

6) Continue to recoat the same side of your block for each restamp if needed. Stamp as many times as you want using the same color, based on whatever print design you envision. You really can’t go wrong! You can also use a different paint color with the same block, just be sure to paint a clean (different) side. What’s great about this is that every single side of your block is going to have a different stamp because the yarn is wrapped differently on each side.

7) Hang or frame your print!

Block-printed pieces of scrap fabric. A little extra print never hurt. Photo by Nicole Crowder

What would you like to see Nicole take on next? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rhonda35
  • Mkowalakperez
  • SallyHuebscher
  • April Marciszewski
    April Marciszewski
  • Nicole Crowder
    Nicole Crowder
Nicole Crowder

Written by: Nicole Crowder

Nicole Crowder is a furniture designer and upholsterer creating custom one-of-a-kind pieces. She has a lover of mixing vibrant color and bold textile patterns. Nicole and her work have been featured in design publications, including Architectural Digest, Domino, Martha Stewart Living, and Better Home & Gardens.


Rhonda35 February 19, 2021
I wrapped yarn and thin rope around an old rolling pin I use for crafts and used that to apply paint/texture to the canvas - fun and looks great!
Mkowalakperez February 2, 2021
Really nice idea!
Nicole C. February 3, 2021
Thank you! Hope you'll enjoy giving some of these a go!
SallyHuebscher January 31, 2021
egg salad - eggs and olives (I think it's from my southern routes). and I also like capers
April M. January 29, 2021
I love this—especially the variation on carving a block. How clever to use yarn!
Nicole C. February 3, 2021
Yay! Same. I love that you can use so many different blocks to achieve a different look with each stamp.