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At our family reunion this summer there was only one thing I was absolutely adamant about, and that was the T-shirts.  I wanted hand-silk-screened shirts.  I thought it would be more memorable, more important, more infused with family-ness if I printed all 20 T-shirts myself.  (doll shirts not pictured)  PHEW!

While it was a lot of work- I don’t regret a moment of it.  However, I learned a lot that I wish I had read on a blog somewhere, so I wanted to share my process.

Image(Our family roots are Scottish and we were apparently horse thieves, so our shirt has our Scottish Clan crest with a horse head on top for good humor, and three stripes of the tartan colors below.  I did an alternate shirt for people who didn’t think the horse thing was funny. )

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Materials I used:

T-Shirt

Black and white design printed onto Acetate (overhead projector

Picture frame minus picture- but with glass, from thrift store

Speedball Photo Emulsion, plus primer, usually sold in a kit, and Speedball Fabric Ink

Old silk curtains from thrift store, preferably with a very fine mesh

Staple Gun

Squeegee

Big cardboard box

Sun

Step One “Make the Screen”:

Set glass from frame aside.  With a helpful friend, staple the silk to your empty frame.  I suggest starting on one side, then do the opposite side, then do the top and bottom, starting always in the middle, pulling the screen super tight every time.  The tauter/tighter your screen- the better it works.

Step Two, “Prep the Screen”:

Mix the photo Emulsion and Primer really well and write the date on the bottle so you will know when it will expire.  You will store it in the fridge after pulling your screen.

It an almost black environment (I had the lights on in another room while I was in the kitchen at night), generously spoon the emulsion all along the edge of the squeegee, careful to hold your squeegee horizontally, but at a 40 degree angle from the sink so it doesn’t fall off.

In your other hand, hold the screen vertically.  Touch the edge of the squeegee to the bottom of the screen and change the angle of the squeegee upwards so that the emulsion all slides to the screen’s surface.  Pull your squeegee upwards while exherting pressure against the screen.  Pros can do this in one pull- but with homemade screens I usually have to do this a few times to get the screen evenly coated.  You don’t want this to be thick!  Some people coat the back, too.  I did because someone told me to, but I never did this in a professional environment, so I dunno what the deal is.

Step Three “Hide your Screen and Wait”:

The hardest part.  Get a big box that is lightproof to hold your screen.  I suggest duct taping any holes to keep light out, and write a note on the box so curious people you live with won’t get in there.  Set two blocks in the box where the frame’s edges can rest so that air can flow under your screen.  (I used old VHS tapes, ha!)  Put your wet screen horizontal and flat in this box immediately after squeegee-step, and close the lid.  Put the box in the basement or in a closet- somewhere safe from light.

If you have an exposure lamp, you can wait 6 hours to expose, but if not- just wait overnight and continue in the morning.

Step Four “Expose”:

The next day, while in your dark place, look at your screen to make sure it is dry.  There might be big dots of emulsion where you were a little too generous- as long as these aren’t in the middle of the screen where you are printing, no big deal.  If they are- you will have to start over since the blob will ruin your print.  This is one reason I suggest making at least 2 screens at a time.

Place your black and white copy on acetate of your screen print onto the blue/green surface of the screen, careful to think about how it will print (words facing the right way?).  You will put ink in the “well” side of the screen, so consider that the flat side will be on the fabric.  Tape the acetate on the top and bottom to the screen.  Now take that piece of glass from the frame and sandwich the acetate between it and the silk.  This will keep your acetate from moving or creating a shadow exposure.

Take your screen out to the beautiful sunlight.  And put it glass-up onto a flat surface like concrete or a table- preferably a black surface that will absorb light and not reflect it onto the back of your screen.  Do not let any light between the frame and your flat surface or it will expose the back of your screen.

I baked my screen for 6 minutes in the morning sun.  How did I find this time?  It took me 5 attempts to figure this out.  The first one I did for the 45 minutes that one blog called for- and it was so overexposed that nothing washed out.  However- I live in Colorado and we have a powerful sun.  Still- 6 minutes.  Awesome.

Step Five  “Wash Out”:
When the time is up, quickly take your screen to a powerful hose or a sink with a good attachment.  Remove the glass and the acetate and tape.  Spray that screen good.  It will take a while.  I scrubbed mine with a brush, but sometimes you can just brush it gently with your finger tips.  The parts of your acetate that were black should run out of the screen and be left white, while the rest stays green.

When all of the parts you wanted to wash out are washed, your may choose to patch holes in your screen with more emulsion, or tape over these parts later with painters tape.  Either way, put your screen out in the sun to dry and finish baking so that everything is well hardened.

Step Six “Pull your Screen”:

People have fancy ways of doing this.  I do not.

Lay a doubled up towel on the kitchen table.  Put your fabric down on the towel.  Smooth with your hands so there are no wrinkles.  Place your screen flat-side-down onto the fabric.  Spoon some fabric-screen-printing ink onto the topmost part of the screen where there are no white spaces.  Set your squeegee into the ink and make sure that the line of ink will cover your entire surface in one pull.  Putting pressure down on the frame with one hand, and the squeegee with the other, pull the squeegee towards you in a smooth motion.  Pressing very hard will only allow a little ink through the screen- pressing only a little will allow more ink through the screen. Your choice.  Again- this should be done in one pull, but some people (guilty!) swipe a couple times to be sure.

You can repeat this process over and over again with the same color.  I advise washing and drying if you want to change colors on multiple fabrics/shirts.  I also advise washing out your screen if you take a break because if the ink dries on your screen it will be as strong as the emulsion and ruin your screen.  Let the fabric dry between printings if you want to print another screen on top of that one.  Otherwise things get messy and it’ll pick up wet ink and transfer it to your next piece.  Oops!

Anyway, when you are all done you can either try to use the store-bought stuff that hypothetically dissolves emulsion so you can use your screen again- but it almost never works for me. I usually rip off the screen and put a new on on instead.  Then again, using cheap curtains, I can afford to do that.

I hope this helps someone out.  Printing your own designs is very liberating and I think everyone should try it once!

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I don’t know how this happened.  A year ago, this wall above my bed was a blank wall… and then…

I read a blog where a designer said she only kept empty frames in her bedrooms so that she wouldn’t have nightmares.  I can’t remember the reasoning behind it, but it seemed to make sense at the time, so I started collecting old frames from antique and thrift stores.

Then posters started creeping into my frames…  I was recently given the print of the girl with the umbrella for Christmas by a good friend.  It is by artist Kristin Kemper, who I think is genius.

I also have that sick affinity for paper that most artists do.  Those big drawers at art stores that you can pull out and leaf through expensive swaths of paper, like fabric in their patterns, always call to me, even though I have no plan for their use.  I finally just stuck some up on the wall because I couldn’t bear to stash them away somewhere.  Now it’s growing!  My new favorite place to buy paper is here:  Kozo: Fine Art Materials  in Denver.  But Meininger is always great, too.

Covering a whole wall like this would be fun!  Image

P.S.  The decaying wood on the wall is the guts of an old piano that had been left outside.  I love how it looks like a fish skeleton… since you know how much I like the beautiful macabre of the skeleton.

I’ve never been a fan of “cork crafts.” You know, the kinds of things you can make with your collection of corks- kind of an ego trip concerning the amount of wines you’ve consumed, and absolutely a hoarding problem.

But what’s a girl to do when she opens, on average, ten bottles of wine a week? Corks are cool- but there are only so many you can have in glass jars or piled up in corners. Finally, I decided to break down and make my father a cork board! However, since I didn’t like the “normal” styles of cork board, where one cuts the cork in half lengthwise, I decided I wanted to see the wine-end, which to me, is far more interesting.

Materials:

Corks (the number is dependent on your frame size. I included champagne corks)
A Shadow Box that’s depth is less than a cork.
Tacky Glue (I used Aileens)



Step One:

Remove the glass from your shadow box- you won’t be needing it.
With the back still in the frame, set on a hard surface like a table, or the floor, collect your corks and start lining them up inside your frame, careful to arrange them so that the reds are evenly distributed among the whites, and the large champagne corks are scattered. Make sure your corks are so snug inside that if you picked up the frame, they’d magically stay in there.



Step Two:

Place the piece of glass on top of the corks once you have them where you want them.

Holding the glass against the corks with one hand, flip your whole frame over onto the glass, with the back of the frame now facing upwards. The glass should ensure that none of your corks fall out!

Step Three:
Open the back of the frame- it should be all the “backs” of the corks you just organized. Now the glue begins. With your tacky glue, place a liberal amount of glue on each cork. I also ran lines of glue along the back of the frame in random squiggles, too. I used tacky glue because of its slow drying time and at its price I don’t mind using half a bottle of glue!

Step Four:
Replace the back of the frame, and re-turn all the mechanisms that hold the frame in place. This next step may not be essential- but I decided to glue the back of the frame in to place. I actually glue all along the seam and flattened it with my finger.

Step Five:
Pressing the glass against the corks from the bottom to assure corks down fall out, flip the cork board back over so that the cork is now facing up again. Remove the glass.
Run your hand over each cork and press them firmly down, making sure the back of the cork makes contact with the back of the frame, so it can be well stuck with the glue you just applied.

Step Six:
Wait. I waited two days before moving my cork board- but it might only take one depending on your climate. Affix any wall hangers you may need; note that since the cork board is frequently touched, two wall hangers on opposite sides of the frame is ideal to keep it from shaking on the wall.

Now wrap it up for your loved one with a lovely wine note like: “I’ve met a lot of Moms, but your my favorite vintage.” or “Dads are like good wine- they get better with age.” How about, “Cabernet pairs well with steak, and Sauv Blanc pairs well with chicken. But my absolute favorite pairing is you and me.” or if you want to get really technical: “My favorite appellation is Home, and you’re my favorite label.”

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The joy of scrapbooking is priceless… until you don’t have any money to spend on those gorgeous embellishments at the store. Then the price looks pretty huge! My two years in Japan taught me to be resourceful (since there were no scrap stores!) and I found easy ways to add texture and depth to my books.

Here is a tutorial on how to make a rustic fabric embellishment. Enjoy!

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Supplies:
*piece of fabric (recycled from clothes is good!)
*ribbon
*brown bag (I used an old Chipotle bag)
*thread
*needle or sewing machine
*stamp (letters and words give focus to the piece)
*stamp ink (I used brown and black to make it motley)
*brad, grommet, etc.
*patterned paper if desired (I used old sheet music)

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Step One:
Stamp your image on the brown bag. Crumpling up the bag helps to make it rustic. Frame and distinguish the paper by dragging the inkpad along the edges of the paper. This makes it look aged.

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Step Two:
Crumple the patterned paper and ink it up along with the edges. Ripping is okay!

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Step Three:
Sandwich the ribbon between the layers and stack as desired. Putting the top layer at an angle adds interest. You can pin it if you feel uncomfortable keeping it together at the sewing stage.

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Step Four:
Sew around the edge of your paper. I tend to go off the edges because I like the threads that hang out when I clip them.
Add a brad or grommet for something shiny. I tend to put mine where the ribbon intersects with the paper to make it appear as though the brad has a purpose.

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Step Five:
To adhere your embellishment to your page you can use glue (if it’s heavy) or double-sided stick tape to hold the whole thing down solid.

There you go! Fun embellishments that cost very little compared to store-bought ones, and use up scraps at home! Yeah for recycling!

If you have any ideas, tips or techniques concerning embellishments, let me know, and be sure to tell me how it goes for you! I love seeing your pictures.
Good-luck!