Inktense blocks are made by Derwent Pencils and are water soluble ink blocks. They come in crayon like form but are a little softer to use, like pastels. You can use them like pencils and draw your design, and then use a wet paintbrush to run over the ink lines and the ink becomes more vibrant and soluble. Alternatively you can wet a brush and run it over a block to paint directly onto the fabric.
I did a little test below to show you how the ink looks when it has just been drawn onto fabric, and then how the colour changes when you add water (at the bottom). To the right is the ink direct from the block, where I put a wet brush onto the block rather than drawing on the fabric first.
I found if you draw onto the fabric first it is easier to be precise, that might just be because I’m not used to handling a paintbrush. The original lines of the drawing do show through a little but for my design this is what I wanted. I decided to draw some balls of yarn for a knitting bag I was making for a friend’s daughter. I wanted the lines to show to look like strands of yarn. Also it found it easier to ger defined lettering using the blocks like pencils.
TIP – Either put the fabric in an embroidery hoop or stabilise the fabric between your fingers before drawing so the fabric moves around less.
When painting direct from the block you get a brighter colour that spreads more easily, it is like water colour painting so if doing backgrounds or larger less detailed designs this method would work well. You do however need to allow the ink to dry between layers. I drew a panel to applique onto the front of the bag. Obviously whilst the paint is still wet it can smudge or transfer so I painted the panel the day before I made the bag to allow it time to dry.
Adding water to the ink really does make the colours much brighter and bolder. I’ve put a photo below which shows my design before and after adding water to show you the difference.
The next day I checked the panel was dry and added Bondaweb to the back so I could iron it onto the fabric for the bag and stitch around it. I found a small amount of the blue colour tansferred onto my applique mat during ironing but largely it was mainly by the heat. Whist stitching the bag I handled the fabric quite a lot and the design did not smudge. Once dried the ink is fixed in place.
The end result was the bag pictured below, with an internal pocket for knitting needles and several balls of yarn inside to complete the gift.
Once dried the ink will withstand washing at 30 degrees heat. Do make sure you stick to the correct temperature. Before making this bag I did a design with my son (the sea one pictured at the top) and I accidentally washed it on a hotter wash and most of it disappered. That will teach me to read the instructions properly first!
One other thing I learnt during that first experiment is when children are using the blocks they need to be gentle. My 5 year old managed to snap the first block he picked up by applying too much pressure!
Overall I found these blocks easy to use and there’s a lot of potential as to what you could make with them. They are great for personalising designs like with this project. It was much faster and easier to do this than to cut the lettering and yarn designs out of fabric and applique them individually to the bag.
Next time I plan to use them as water colours and create my own print on a fabric. The only downside with the particular set I had (the 12 set) was there was no white which means you are more limited to using lighter fabrics. However, I understand the larger sets do include a white block. You also need to factor in drying time before you can start sewing with your designs.
Inktense blocks can be purchased from most local art shops or stationers or can be found on Amazon.