Big Printin’

Sarah made me a lovely Burda raglan sleeve knit T-shirt (8827) for the Christmas Day Blazers vs. Super Sonics game, where the crowd was encouraged to wear red. I didn’t have anything red to wear, so she whipped this one up for me (it literally took her like an hour). Let me say that while it is really comfortable, how often does someone need a plain bright red shirt? If you are me, not often. I must admit that I love t-shirts with things printed on them. I am not much for the logo wear, that acts has expensive advertising for a product (unless that product is a baseball team). Sarah and I have spent some time talking about doing some printing on fabric and even bought some fabric paint and a lotus root to do some abstract printing. However, the lotus root did not dry very well in this climate and rotted away—kind of gross actually.

After much deliberation, we decided to go for it and buy a screen printing starter kit. Now there are a lot of different ways to do screen printing and a lot of ideas of how to do it on the cheap, but we decided to go for the basic Speedball Fabric Printing Kit. If you decide to give this a try (and already I am going to spill the beans and say that it is great fun) a little comparison shopping is a must. The same kit varied in price by 20 bucks (with Michael’s Craft being at the high end). We ended up buying ours at a local independent art supply store, though with even more searching on the internet we probably could have saved a little more money. While the kit isn’t the greatest value in the world in a per ounce basis of the chemicals and ink, it was the cheapest way to get started with out knowing if we were going to like it or do it again. The biggest advantage with buying the kit is the INSTRUCTIONS. I should say that I am terrible at following directions (unless the Sewist tells me something to do), the few time in our lives that we have bought Ikea furniture, Sarah has to interpret things and we have to build the things together (the first time this happened, we were a bit frustrated with each other, but after many years we have settled into a nice routine on these matters). Even my dumb ass was able to print properly the first time around.

The image that I choose to print was a baseball player (surprise, surprise I know). The Library of Congress is a great resource for old images (among many other things) and I found this great baseball card in the American Memory Collection. I have Adobe Creative Suite on this computer because I use InDesign a lot for work and with that have Photoshop and Illustrator for work. After much tinkering with the image I was able to come up with a monotone black and white line drawing (later I found the live trace function in Illustrator which made this go really quickly, yeah I don’t know much about these programs).

We set up our printing station in the garage on an old table.

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Something everyone should know about this is it isn’t a tidy process (oh my god, if we had white carpet and I tried this on the imaginary white carpet you would be reading my obituary this week) and you need a sink to wash all of the inks and chemicals and either a table that you can destroy (or “customize) or at least something you can cover the table with.

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The first print we did was the baseball print and, amazingly enough, it worked.

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A couple of days later we printed AU Eagles t-shirts to celebrate the old alma mater’s first round lost in the NCAA tournament. (These shirts are hilarious. We’ll make sure to post pictures of them, but Sarah’s been sick and doesn’t want her picture taken with a big red nose.) We did these shirts later in the evening and I didn’t bother to wash the screen out well enough. Big mistake. You always have to clean the screen promptly, I have had nothing but trouble since.

This has turned into a great new part of the sewing hobby. Even the Sewist has gotten behind making prints. She wants to screenprint herself a “SuperTrout” T-shirt to wear to a Blazers game as part of her penance for saying really mean things about Travis Outlaw early this year (this is a long story that would only be entertaining to Blazers fans, so I won’t torture you with that).

~Josh

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8 thoughts on “Big Printin’

  1. If not the trout shirt (I have no idea what it means) you need ones with a picture of Channing Frye with the words “Cutie Frye” on them. Yes, only women will wear these, but I am on a mission to make “Cutie Frye” his nickname! ha!

  2. Great printing! The only screen printing I’ve done was in high school art, where I made a godzilla shirt that I wore for years. Make Magazine has a clip on YouTube about making your own screen for printing. It actually looked quite easy to do but very involved. Have fun!!

  3. I too did some screenprinting in high school art class. I made a couple shirts; one had the design from the center of the 1970′s Clue board (shadowy figures on the stairway) and the other was a tribute to Atari.

    I think I recall using some hardcore straight bleach to clean out the screen when it had been abused by other students, but I wouldn’t swear to it for fear of you ruining yours!

    I have been pricing printing kits, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. Thanks for all the advice!

  4. I was wondering about these kits… so do you print the image off from your computer? Sorry if that is a dumb question. You don’t even want to know the pain-staking process I used to make “screen printed” shirts that said “Today Matters”. (Not to mention I cut up some of my curtains for the screen fabric.) They turned out pretty good, but I can’t beat the 1 hour process you describe here!

  5. Yeah, you print a positive image (basically a normal B/W) onto a transparency. Then you lay it onto the dried photo emulsion and use a light (we use a full spectrum light, because it’s quicker) to “burn” the screen. (The parts you wash off—and then print—are the parts that are black in the transparency.) The kit actually has really good instructions. It’s fairly simple, once you get the hang of it. (But don’t over expose your screen! Ask us how we know.)

    Like the “re-purposing” of your curtains, though…

  6. Pingback: Sewer-Sewist » Custom Fabric

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