From Knit to Print
Starched lace. Copper plates. And ink.
These are the tools that Julie Rosvall uses to transform knitted lace into exquisite prints. As a skilled lace knitter, Julie creates scarves and shawls that are beautiful in their own right—but it’s what she does with them after she’s finished knitting that makes them extraordinary.
In her light-filled studio near the sea in Nova Scotia, Julie uses textile relief printing and soft-ground copper etching to capture knitted texture and pattern on paper, creating detailed prints have graced greeting cards, gallery walls, and more than one enthusiastic knitter’s home.
“I believe that all knitting is art, but it’s a practical, and in some cases ephemeral, art,” says Julie. “Whether you’ve made a shawl or a pair of socks, that can represent weeks of your life. Printing the textile on paper is my way of recognizing that.”
Waltz of the Dragonflies Diptych
I asked Julie for more information about her textile relief printing process.
The first step is to choose a pattern. Unlike choosing a pattern for personal use, when choosing a pattern to print, she looks for strong graphical elements that will withstand a hard blocking and that include lots of white space. Julie is an avid collaborator and community builder, and has made prints with patterns designed by Romi Hill and Lucia Stepankova, among others.
Knitting comes next. Small swatches might only take a day or two of dedicated knitting time, but larger pieces can require weeks of concentration.
If the piece to be printed is a garment, next comes an initial blocking and a photo shoot, featuring the item as it was originally intended to be worn.
This is where the printing process takes over. The shawl or swatch is blocked again, this time quite aggressively.
Vesna by Susanna IC pictured here and above knit in Julie’s signature yarn dyed by Nova Scotia’s own Handmaiden Yarns
The more the knitting stretches, the more white space there is and the better the image, so Julie is strict about stretching and liberal with the pins.
Next, she covers the knitting in a mixture of white glue and water, working to cover every fiber. This stiffens the knitting, ensuring that it will be able to withstand the inking and printing process without shifting. Drying can take up to a week—even at this stage, the process is slow and deliberate.
Honeysweet by Romi Hill prepared for printing
When the glue-stiffened knitting is finally dry, the next step is inking.
Julie sometimes uses black ink; other times she mixes her own ink to match the yarn she used or another aspect of the project.
Next, she places paper over the inked lace, then uses a press to apply pressure to the page, transferring the ink—and the image—to the paper.
Voilà! Peeling the paper off the inked knitting reveals a print.
“Openwork Diamonds” from Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns
- Visit Julie’s website here
- Find her on Instagram here
- Through May 12, 2023, Julie’s CONTEXTURE exhibit is up at the Craft Council Newfoundland & Labrador Gallery