new: lena corwin ‘printing by hand’ book + contest!

by Grace Bonney

to say that i am thrilled and honored to be posting a sneak peek into lena corwin‘s long-awaited first book: printing by hand (STC Craft/August 2008/27.50) would be a massive understatement. i’ve been a huge fan of lena’s since the moment i first saw her work and could not be happier to see that her book has turned out exactly like i knew it would- sheer perfection. from the front cover right down to the last project printing by hand is a sheer joy to read and is sure to become a favorite among design and diy enthusiasts alike.

one of the things i’ve always admired about lena is her ability to create and blend patterns beautifully. from her pillows and plates to the fabrics in her own home, lena has always had a way with print and pattern. so it makes perfect sense that her first book would be dedicated to that very skill. printing by hand (available for pre-order right here!) is a fantastic book of print/pattern-based projects using stamps, stencil, and silk screens (all hand-done by lena herself). i love the wide range of projects in the book like printed napkins, hand-printed bed sheets, custom printed notebooks and even a gorgeous how-to for hand-printed stencil “wallpaper”. if you’re a fan of print and pattern you simply will not want to miss picking up a copy of lena’s book. it’s chock-full of beautiful projects that are just as pretty to look at as they are easy to complete. i plan on tackling the dresser project (shown above) asap but that stencil wall is calling my name too.

to celebrate the launch of lena’s book, printing by hand, we’ll have having a contest to find the reader with the best use of pattern in their home! starting today, i’ll be accepting submissions for the contest- all you need to do is send an email right here (title: lena corwin contest) with photos of your favorite use of pattern in your home. [please note: due to shipping costs we can only accept domestic, usa, entries at this time] all photos must be attached in a zip file or as individual files (no flickr links or flash pages, please) and should be of your own home. in honor of lena’s book, what we’re looking for is homes that combine print and pattern in a way that is fresh, modern and fun. i’ll be accepting entries via email until next tuesday, july 22nd at 10pm EST. finalists will be voted on by readers and 5 winners will be chosen and awarded the following prizes:

  • 1st prize— one 18″ “field” pillow by lena corwin AND one signed book
  • 2nd prize— one 13″ field pillow by lena corwin AND one signed book
  • 3rd through 5th prize— one signed book

the contest will be a fantastic way to celebrate lena’s new book and showcase some of the incredible homes out there that use pattern in creative ways.

last but not least, lena was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to do a little interview with me, the results of which are posted after the jump. so to read lena’s full interview (and see more photos from the book!) just click here or click “read more” below. thank you to lena and her publisher for allowing us a little sneak peek into her new book. if you’d like to pre-order a copy (regular sales open tomorrow) click here to place an order.

click here for the rest of the post, lena’s interview and more photos from lena corwin’s printing by hand.

D*S: Could you tell us a little bit about your new book? What inspired you to create Printing by Hand?

Lena Corwin: The book teaches hand printing techniques using stamps, stencil, and silk screens. Projects include printing stationery, bed sheets, t-shirts, and furniture. The book proposal came about after I had illustrated two children’s craft books for publishers Stewart, Tabori, and Chang. The editor of those books (Kids Crochet and Kids Weaving) brought up the idea of me writing a book, and I was really excited about the opportunity. I get so many emails asking how I print my textiles, so I knew that there was an interest in a instructional guide for hand printing.


D*S: What can readers look forward to in the book?

LC: There are a lot of beautiful pictures in the book (taken by Thayer Allyson Gowdy), but more importantly, the projects have detailed instructions and we (my editor and I) spent an enormous amount of time trying to find the best way to teach each printing method. We didn’t want to gloss over any instructions, because that can be so frustrating for a reader. The book focuses a lot on mastering techniques, and how to work around problems that come up when printing. I hope that readers are inspired by the projects shown, and then try their own ideas too.

D*S: What level and types of projects do you cover?

LC: The book covers a wide range of difficulty levels. The first project in the book, printing your own stationery, is very easy. But it’s also one of my favorites. The screen printing projects towards the end are fairly complex. I stress in the book, that screen printing shouldn’t be intimidating, but it does take extra preparation, materials, planning, and sometimes trouble-shooting.


D*S: Do you have a favorite project in the book?

LC: Probably the printed wooden dresser. The design was inspired by Mexican fabric that you’ve shown here on Design*Sponge. So thank you for the inspiration! I really enjoyed creating the design, and I like the way it came out. It’s also an easy project! It’s somewhat time consuming, but not difficult.

D*S: You design all of your own patterns for the book and your work– where do you find inspiration for the patterns you design?

LC: I get inspired from my environment, both nature and the city landscape. I get inspired from old books and vintage fabric… art museums, traveling, my dog… I could go on and on…

D*S: You have such a great eye for vintage fabric and pattern- who are some of your favorite pattern designers (past and present) and do you have any favorite places to buy vintage patterned fabric?

LC: Thank you! Some of my favorites are: Alexander Girard, Lucienne Day, Vera Neumann, Akira Minagawa, Wakako Kishimoto, and Virginia Johnson.

D*S: What is your favorite use of pattern in your home?

LC: Probably pillows because they’re so easy to add or take away. I always have the urge to redecorate, so pillows are the quickest way to add a new pattern into the mix. Lately I have been drawn to traditional textiles like Turkish kilims and Guatemalan woven fabric, and I like the way they look mixed with the other (very different) styles in our apartment.


D*S: Your wall pattern techniques look fantastic- and just like wallpaper. Do you think wall stencils will be making a comeback and if so, what types and what styles do you think will be popular?

LC: I don’t know— but they should! They’re so easy, and are a great alternative to wallpaper. I still sort of cringe at the thought of wall stencils, because they sound so old fashioned. I think of borders and icky traditional stencil motifs. But I think the tree project in the book is a good example of how stenciling can look fresh. I would love to design more wall stencil patterns, I think they’re great. And they’re so much less of a commitment than wallpaper.

D*S Your book title is printing by hand- why do you think the handmade movement has had such a comeback- or resurgence in popularity- over the past few years?

LC: Now that we have the ability to make things perfect and precise on the computer, I think the pendulum is swinging the opposite direction- and there is an appreciation for imperfection, for things made by hand. It reminds me of the Slow Food movement. With all the perfect, genetically modified fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores, many people (like myself) have realized that they prefer more natural, imperfect foods from local farmers. Or they are growing their own vegetables. Maybe printing your own textiles is part of a kind of Slow Design movement.

D*S: Do you have any advice for someone taking on a project in your book– or for anyone about to make their first handmade diy project?

LC: Do it with a friend! It helps to have an extra set of hands (especially with screen printing) and if you’re having difficulties with a step in a project you can work through it together.

Suggested For You


  • That print on the dresser is exactly what I had in mind for my bedroom! It is based on the traditional designs of Mexican Otomi Indians – just stunning in any colour combination!

  • Lena’s next book should be about how to create such a warm and inviting home. I can’t wait for the book and whatever else she’s got in store.

  • Like many above…my copy is on the way!

    But now why would you take a perfectly good dresser and make ii stylish and cheery? Lena…that’s just crazy! But, if you insist. Your cutie-pie pup is convincing me anyway ;)

    Can’t wait and CONGRATULATIONS, Lena! Thanks for the great interview, Grace! :)

    (ps – Really…that’s not a dresser…it’s an anti-depressant! Hooray!)

  • Love that dresser. And I’m already thinking of stenciled patterns I could do on my walls (good for people in rented apartments.) I can’t wait to see the book.

  • Oh that is SO gorgeous. I lover Lena’s blog too. And her sister’s new book. Maybe the Corwin’s will adopt me.

  • Great! Thanks so much! I’ve missed this sort of hands on work since I graduated college over 10 years ago. I think this is just the thing to get me back into it!

  • The book is FANTASTIC!! I saw it at Barnes & Noble on Sunday and absolutely fell in love with it! I will be purchasing this book very soon!

  • I have been eagerly waiting a peek inside this book!

    The contest sounds wonderful! I’d enter in a heartbeat if I weren’t the process of packing away my things :( But I’m excited to see the entries! A lot of inspiration to come, I’m sure.

  • great interview, i can’t wait to find the book and read it :)
    I have a question about the contest : is it open to foreign readers? I live in France and i would love to apply, but i’ll understand if i can’t!

  • thanks everyone, for such wonderful comments!

    yes, it does come with a template for the dresser design (and for all projects).

  • i just received printing by hand [preordered at amazon] – it is truly amazing. lena should be proud of her hard work. i would even attempt some of the more intimidating projects in the book – the instructions are clear and concise and everything looks like so much fun! i especially enjoyed the photos of her torso -and- hand model . looks familiar…. thank you lena for a wonderful book.

  • love your site…I too am a print junky and love patterns and detail as you can see from my paintings.
    have put my designs on wine labels, clothes, lampshades, and in my mission statement put paint stuff on anything that stands still
    Would love to enter your contest and am published as a floorcloth maker of note. good luck with the book.

  • I just bought a copy of this after reading your article here. You’re a very good sales person! I’m soooo excited about the book. Seeing the pictures online is nice, but I’d love to see this in person. And I don’t buy alot of books (in Ireland, pickings are slim, buying online is expensive). I