What have you done this summer? I’ve been working on a lot of things, with one exception: Blogging! I haven’t blogged in ages! But rest assured- I’m back now. At first, I was thinking I’d run through everything I’d done since we last met in one monster post. Then, I of course realized that there’d be nothing left to talk about for the rest of the summer (this is only a mild hyperbole), so I decided to break things up. Here’s the first part!
Towards the end of last semester, along with my usual coursework, I was hard at work building myself a brand new screen for all the screen printing I imagined myself doing over the summer! Now, if you know anything about me, you know I’m the type to buy everything I need for a new hobby, use it once, and then shove everything into the back of a closet. This, I promised myself, would not occur! By the end of the project, I’d decided to build myself an exposure unit and open up an etsy store! I felt like the project bags I’d made for my friends for Christmas could be in pretty high demand. But I’m getting ahead of myself- let’s begin at the beginning!
The beginning of summer- Dad helped me build an exposure unit big enough to accommodate my ambitiously sized screen:
It’s a simple pine box, which holds six 48″ lamps. Each pair of lams is connected to a ballast, which is a fancy little device that controls the power that the lamps get. Each ballast is linked to the switch, which is grounded. The base is cardboard which is not necessarily code, but it’s lightweight, and the only time the unit is ever on is when I’m sitting next to it, so it’s not going to burn down the house. It’s topped with an optically clear piece of tempered glass that weighs nearly as much as I do.There are castors underneath, which allow the whole contraption to roll under my bed and out of sight when it’s not in use. Everything’s painted matte black, to prevent any stray light from reflecting into places it shouldn’t be. It took a few weeks to build, mostly because I don’t have muscles and therefore needed Dad to do most of the grunt work.
After I had it built, the next job was figuring out exposure times- that whole ordeal took about 3 weeks and cost me my screen. It started off with inadequate film positives, though- after I figured that out, the sailing was a lot smoother.
In the interest of not showing you my failures- and because they’re all bad pictures anyways- I’ll skip to the first time it worked:
Not only did I finally get it to work, my first print was for the etsy store! You can find these bags here. I had some fabric already dyed, cut, and waiting to be printed. After they dried, I sewed them all together along with some really fabulous tags that I’ll get to in just a minute.
Now’s a good time to show you the rest of the setup as well.
So basically, My mom’s got this table that she calls the ‘camping table’ and I call ‘mine’. It’s got 3 heights and it folds up flat, so I love it. Here, it’s on the highest setting and I’ve laid some fabric and towels over it because it is my preference to print fabric on a semi cushioned surface. Then, on the right side, there are two hinge clamps affixed to the table, and to prop the screen up when needed I just use my squeegee. You can’t see it, but on the left there’s a piece of thick acetate taped to the table, which acts as my registration. The whole thing is actually pretty spot on, registration-wise. I know, I was surprised.
Here are those tags I was telling you about!
I printed them on some 1.25″ wide satin ribbon, which I wasn’t totally sure would work, but it has, surprisingly well! Another surprising thing about these tags is the point size- I can clearly print 10 point type, which is about 3 point sizes smaller than I originally thought. Of course, this means that I can get details with incredibly fine lines, which opens up a lot of doors! These tags were heat set, folded and ironed in half, and sewn into the base of each bag. They have washing instructions, and they also say ‘This product was dyed and printed by hand. The nature of these techniques make it one of a kind.” GUYS. Even the period shows up in the print! That’s how much detail I can get! This was probably the most exciting thing I’d done in the summer, up to that point.
As previously mentioned, the testing phases were too rough on my screen and I had to take the old mesh off the frame and put some more on. I won’t go into the details of why it had to be replaced, except to say that it couldn’t be avoided. Besides, new mesh is pretty cheap. Here’s the first print that came off the new screen:
Here’s an illustration original to the first batch of bags I made last Christmas- but it’s been updated a bit. The photo emulsion allows for a lot more detail. Also, the words you see are not written in a typeface, it’s all hand lettered specifically for this project. You can find this particular bag here.
After I finished those bags, I took a birthday-detour to work on some T-Shirts for Val. I don’t have any pictures of the finished shirts (yet), but I do have this pretty wonderful picture of a freshly exposed screen:
I don’t know if you’ve figured it out, but my progress on screen printing this summer has been a series of new challenges designed to allow me to learn something new. First, the trick was just to get a good exposure. Next, printing on ribbon. After that, testing the detail I could get with a drawn image. This test was printing on T-Shirts. Anything you’ve read on the internet and in books says that 12xx mesh isn’t meant for printing on fabric- but that’s the mesh I chose. I didn’t want to sacrifice detail. 12xx mesh won’t provide a solid coat in one pass on T-Shirts, though, because it doesn’t let enough ink through to coat the shirt, which has a pretty defined knit texture. My way around this is to clamp the screen down on the right side (you’ll recall that it’s already clamped in on the left), which allows me to run the squeegee as many times as I want, without the shift that would usually occur. This, in turn, allows for a nice, even coat even on the most textured surfaces. Mission accomplished!
You’re almost caught up on my screen printing adventures so far this summer! Here’s the last bit:
‘It’s not a hobby, it’s a post- apocalyptic life skill’ is the last of the bags to be printed so far. It’s my first two-run print. The illustration is my own, although I got the quote from somewhere- I can’t remember where. The gas mask eyes, the yarn in the basket, and the sign are all printed in glow in the dark ink, and the rest, obviously, is black. I’m a pretty big fan of the little girl, I want to just print her on everything! I still might. You can find her here.
My plan for the next print is to be a little bit less image and a little bit more yardage- that’s why I made such a big screen in the first place, after all. It’ll have cute fiber animals or something of that nature. We’ll see. Do you have any suggestions for future prints? bags you might like to buy from my shop? I do have a few lined up, but I’m always open to suggestions.So there! you’re all caught up on the screen printing part of my summer. I hope it wasn’t too technical for you non-screen printers, but I hope I’ve provided the knowledge of my own experiences for those of you who are! This time, I promise to keep you more up to date and not abandon you like I did last time…