Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Elder Sign

During my quest to make all of my siblings personalized pillowcases I have found some pretty nice fabric prints.  It's been a lot of fun matching colors and patterns to everyone's personality and interests!  However, my brother-in-law had me stumped.  With such an eclectic taste in obscure music, foreign films and science fiction he was a hard one to shop for.

It wasn't until I stumbled across a hand-stamped fabric project by Frou FruGal that an idea began forming in my head.  What if I MADE some customized fabric?  I knew that my brother-in-law really liked the legends of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft... so I decided to draw on that for some inspiration.

Apparently, there are a lot of important symbols within the Cthulhu universe, the most notable being the "Elder Sign" which is supposed to protect you from monsters.  There is also the "Yellow Sign," which I thought looked pretty cool.

Elder Sign and Yellow Sign

I happened to have some stamp-making rubber and some speedball carving tools lying around from when I did some print-making back in school.  (Yes, I am one of those weird people who save everything "just in case!" ...and look!  It paid off!)  I sketched the symbols onto the rubber (which is pretty much the same as a big, flat eraser)... and it wasn't until after I finished the Elder Sign that I realized I should have sketched it backwards.  I made sure to do so with the Yellow Sign!

Using my speedball carving tools it was pretty easy to cut around the design and gouge out the negative space.  

If you try to make your own stamps at home you will probably find some blogs that say you can just use an x-acto knife, but I highly recommend getting some carving blades.  They are curved in "U" and "V" shapes so that they scoop out the rubber and allow you to carve small, intricate details with ease.

Once I had my stamps made I played around on some small squares of black fabric until I found a pattern that I liked.

Stamping with fabric paint onto fabric is much different than stamping with ink onto paper.  You have to first create your own stamp "pad" for applying the paint onto the stamp.  Much like Frou FruGal created a stamp pad out of felt and fun foam, I created mine out of some scraps of fleece and some disposable plastic lids.

I mixed up some light blue and yellow fabric paint with some translucent fabric paint and spread it onto my "pad" with a plastic knife.  It was a challenge to get just the right amount of paint on the stamp... too much and it globbed all over the place and obscured the stamp's details... too little and the imprint was too light to see clearly.  I decided to print a yard and a half of fabric because I knew I would make a few mistakes.  

It took several long hours to turn this...

...into this!  

But it was worth it!  The end result was pretty nice.  And as an unexpected bonus, the mix of bright and faint symbols gave the design a bit of wizardly shimmer...

...And the pillowcase I made with the fabric turned out pretty cool, too!

UPDATE:  You can now purchase Elder Sign fabric on Spoonflower!  It's not stamped by hand, but it is custom printed using a design made by these original stamps.  Check out the shop here!


  1. Looks good! I usually use just a sponge to apply fabric paint to stamps- then you can kind of sponge off excess or sponge on a bit more- but you did a great job!
    I 100% agree wtih you on using the carving tools as well!!

    1. Thanks! That is a great idea with the sponge... I'll have to try that next time!