Katie, a passionate conservationist, crafter and writer, who loves to try new things, has volunteered to write a few blog posts for our members to help during this period. 

This one is all about a craft she has developed a passion for - lino printing.

Lino cutting or lino printing is a form of block printing similar to printing with wood or metal. The advantage of lino is that the medium to be carved is much softer, and therefore easier to cut. Lino itself was originally invented as a flooring material and traditionally is made of natural materials such as linseed oil and hessian, though modern plastics are now often used as they are longer lasting. 

What do I need?

Lino printing at its most basic requires: a piece of lino, a set of lino cutting tools, ink and a roller to apply the ink. Lino comes in different sizes and qualities, with some being easier to carve than others. Experiment with different types of lino to see which suits you best. I use traditional lino rather than plastic alternatives to reduce my environmental footprint, although these are more prone to damage if poorly stored or handled. 
Many different cutting tools are now available, with some being very expensive. Different tools, cut to different depths and widths, depending on how they are made. The smaller the notch in the tool the less it will cut out of the lino. A basic set of cheap tools from a hobby craft shop is a great way to start. Then you can update as and when you feel you need more variety. When starting out, begin with small tools before adding depth with larger ones. You can always cut more out but you can't add it back in!
Inks can be expensive. Any ink can be used but screen printing or lino printing inks can be the best for giving an even coverage. I use an environmentally-friendly screen printing ink. The roller will also affect how well your ink applies to the lino. You can get rubber or foam rollers. I use a foam roller but it can be worth experimenting with both depending on the ink used. You can buy replacement foam roller heads to avoid buying a new roller. When rolling out the ink you will be surprised how little you need, a thick coating can lead to blotchy prints. 

How to lino cut

To demonstrate, I have made a print of a sunflower. This print is relatively complicated for a first go, as it involves lots of different colours. A simpler option can be to print one lino with one colour, this can be just as stunning. 
When printing more than one colour, you can either print different colours on different blocks, as I have done here, or do a reductive print where you print the same piece again and again,with different colours. I tend to cut out a bit of the lino each time to create a layered effect. 

Firstly sketch out your design on your lino using a pencil. Some linos do not take pencil as well as others. Some artists will transfer their drawings directly onto the lino using tracing paper. Just remember this will be reversed when you print it!

Once the sketch is complete begin cutting away the parts you don't want to print. I usually start by cutting away the outline with my smallest cutting tool. It can be helpful to cut around the object so you don't have too much lino to remove around it. 
You can print in simple solid blocks but this can often look quite flat, so look for ways to add depth by cutting lines inside the object. In time this technique can be used to show textures and shadows. Remember that whatever colour is underneath will show through where you cut away the lino. 
To start, I cut out the petals of my sunflower, cutting around them and then removing most of the centre of the sunflower. A second piece was cut to go inside the sunflower, this piece would be printed brown rather than yellow and go over the top of the petals piece. To give the centre texture, I cut out lines radiating out. I also ensured the yellow and the brown pieces overlapped as I wanted some yellow to show through where I had cut the centre. 
My third piece was my stem and leaves, which I cut out and then cut some detail on the leaves and up the stem. 

To print I rolled my ink in a tray to mix and spread it, before rolling it on my lino. Any raised areas will print so it is often best to do a test print to check where you have missed spots. You can either place the block on the table and lay the paper over the top, or do the reverse, but either way apply even pressure to ensure the ink has transferred and then lift off smoothly to avoid smudges. 
First I printed the petals in a yellow ink. This was dried using a hairdryer and then I printed the stem, as green could be made by mixing blue with the yellow paint I was using. This saves wasting paint and avoids the need to wash the roller! Dried again, the green was mixed with red to create a brown for the centre. 
The first print was mostly successful but you can see I failed to match the top of the stem with the petals, creating an ugly overlap. It also lacked some depth so I cut the top of the stem to the correct shape, and made a final linocut which was the same shape as the flowerhead, but where I had removed most of the centre of the petals. This I then printed in a lighter brown over the top of the yellow petal print, adding a shade effect to the petals. 

Have a go

Lino cutting can be quite intimidating at first, but as with many crafts it's a case of experimenting and seeking inspiration in other people's work. The nice thing about lino prints is even the most basic prints, such as a one colour geometric print, can look really stunning and interesting. It also isn't an expensive hobby, as once you have your tools all you need is paint and lino. Once a design is made you can also print it again and again, on paper, wood or fabric. 

Key things to remember

  • Lino tools are very sharp so don't leave them laying around, and always cut away from yourself.
  • Start simple and add to your repertoire as you get more experienced.

Make something that makes you happy. I created a sunflower as I feel they are a flower which represents joy and hope, something many of us are in need of now. It may not be the most dramatic or accomplished lino print out there, but it makes me happy whenever I look at it, which is certainly what crafting is all about.