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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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My desk is so happy… I hate to clean it.

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ImageThis is not me.  This is my hero.

Okay.

Here’s the deal.
My friend Sarah Bullock (from high school) is riding her bike from San Francisco to L.A. to fight AIDS.  Yep.  She’s getting on her bike and raising money to help AIDS prevention, and to help those who have AIDS fight it.  It’s a painful ride- and she knows this because this is her second time doing it.  She is not a glutton for punishment- she just wants to help people, and she has focused all of her energy on this one project.  See her pages for more info and inspirational stories, here. and here.  She is in the home stretch, but to reach her goal of $15,000 in 23 days, she needs to raise $3,500 more.
I want to help Sarah, but since I’m not a millionaire, I have decided to appeal to my friends and family, and some super cool blog readers who: A.) Care about people.  and B.)  Like homemade things.
So I want to make all of you gift tags, cause that’s something I’m obsessed with making right now.  See obsession here.
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For every $1.00, or 100 cents you donate to her AIDS/LifeCycle campaign at tofighthiv.org/goto/TEAMSARAH , I will make you 1 super cool gift tag!  If you decide to give $10?  10 gift tags for you!  How about $25?  Yeah, that would be 25 gift tags!
Better yet- you can tell me if you want Christmas tags or birthday tags, thank-you tags, a variety of tags, or really hipster ironic tags, and I will make them to your preference!
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Just shoot me an email, a WordPress message, or a comment, with the number of tags you want, the name you donated under, and I will make and send you your rightfully earned gift-tags!  No shipping and handling!  =)  It just needs to happen before May 17th!
Just think… with $20… all of these super-cool Alsn one-of-a-kind tags could be yours:
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Every dollar/tag helps fight AIDS, and my personal problem with hoarding craft supplies.
So what are you waiting for?  Christmas is less than 7 months away!   Donate now!
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My sister took my mother and I along with her on a recent scrap booking retreat. Three days of uninterrupted Scrap Booking! I loved it! When’s the next one?

One thing I enjoy most about these retreats is seeing what other folks are doing and being inspired. Also, they usually have good ideas, or better yet- great tools and products to share with you. I also got to share some of my plentiful supplies that I knew I’d never use all of, so I was a pretty happy camper!

I used so many new punches at this retreat- I couldn’t decide which one to buy at the end! Creative Memories has a neat line punch system that makes a picket fence. Well- I made my picket fence into a medallion with a few dozen fan-folds. Phew! Time consuming, but worth it! Also, I loved the paisley punch which I used in orange over on the side border. I ended up with leaf punches and a tag punch from my sister! It was like a pre-Halloween treat! =)

There are a few more pictures on my flikr site (button is to the left of this post) if you wanted to see more.

I have been busy carving a new rubber stamp for a project I’ve been working on for a month, now.
I needed a large bicycle stamp, and couldn’t find one I liked, so I made one! I’m almost out of the large sheets of rubber I bought in Japan. I don’t know where else I can find this stuff, so I’m getting a little worried.

While I was testing the stamp, I remembered that I signed up for a postcard swap over at ihanna, and I needed to make 10 art postcards. I realized this bike was the perfect size for them, so I went to town on a stack of old cereal boxes with sheet music and a few other hand-carved stamps I had around. Toss on some punched-out lilacs, go one round on the sewing machine and wa-la! Postcards everywhere!

Now to send them off- looks like most of them are going abroad. The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Canada, and a few in the US. I hope they find their homes!

I wrote on the back an excerpt from one of my Great Grandmother’s poems,
“I must have a lilac’s purple promise to tell my winter-weary soul that spring has come and all is well.” -Helen Lowrie Marshall
Those words always come to me in spring- and I’m always so thankful that she wrote them. I’m tickled to have the opportunity to share them with others.

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Nothing motivates me to sit down and craft than a clean and organized craft space. For the past few years, I haven’t had a really good “space.” In Japan, I couldn’t commit to any furniture or storage, and I’ve been rather transient since then. However, after a year of collecting storage pieces from thrift stores- I have finally made a space I love. Could it be bigger? Can’t it always? ^_^ Here’s what I love about my space…

rubber stamp storage

I love how I can finally see most of my rubber stamps with one look- and when I want a particular stamp, I know where to look for it. While I covet the way my sister organizes with her perfectly labeled drawers- I enjoy having everything out in the open, and I’m sure that drives her crazy. To each her own!

I love my ribbon storage- though re-pining my spools after I cut off a length of ribbon is a weak spot of mine, so they start to get a little crazy after a month or so. I also love the spice rack I’ve got to hold odds and ends for me, it’s perfect for the Martha Stewart punches and bottles of flowers.

I love my pine wood desk because it came from my favorite store, Mujirushi, and I brought it back from Japan with me all folded up. It’s shorter than most desks, and a little small, but I’m making it work because it means a lot to me.
Speaking of sentimentality- my paper storage box is awesome. I never liked the ones I saw it stores- so I asked my brother off-handedly to make me one. So what did I get for Christmas? This! I own a few Marshall originals, but I get to use this one! It always makes me think of him while I’m crafting.

pens

Ah, my pens! Where would I be without them all? When I lived at home with my parents, I had a very long desk, and they were displayed across the back wall of it- which was nice because every mug and container is something unique that my mother and I found in a thrift store along the way. They’re all beautiful- some more than others, but I’m a little sad I don’t have that space to see them now. Instead- it’s my pen forest. Is it organized? It is to me! I’ve got drawing pencils, markers, sharpies, pencils, ball points, felt tips, Copics, scissors, paint brushes, colored pencils, crayons, and the random-nothing-fits-mug. There is also a drawer full of marker sets somewhere, but maybe I shouldn’t mention that…

Mostly what I love about this space is looking at the little pieces, remembering the happy times they evoke, and getting that little inner-smile you get when no one is watching you. Sure, I could have gone out and bought a pre-designed scrap-booking storage unit. But I didn’t. And I’m happy.

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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!

Howdy folks!
Been a long time. I’ve seen my way back across the ocean, then around the US by car, and now I’m settled down in Maryland and ready to start up on all my long-missed crafts. Today I’m going to show you how to make your own rubber stamp. This little trick will save you a great deal of money when you realize how many stamps you can make all by yourself.

If you like the idea of handmade stamps that are one of a kind and you don’t feel like making them, stop by my talented friend’s Etsy site: Metronome Circus.

Step One:
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Here are the materials you needs-
Stamp Ink
Graphite Pencil
Scrap Paper
Exacto-knife (Fine blade for detailing)
White Rubber Eraser

As for the eraser- I’ve used just about everything from dollar store to Staedler, and they all work. Some last longer than others. The best material for a long-lasting stamp is a brick of white rubber actually meant for carving stamps. Mine were bought in Japan, so I’m not sure where you can buy them here.

Step Two:
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Draw out your design. As you draw, press hard with a graphite pencil to give it more transfer capabilities.

Step Three:
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Lay your design face-down on the white rubber eraser. Take out your pencil and rub it over the back of the paper, transferring the design to the eraser.

Step Four:
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Begin by cutting away the outside areas of the design. You will be cutting away everything you don’t want to show up in your final stamp- all white areas.
**Always cut at a diagonal away from the design. You want to leave the remaining rubber in the shape of a sloping mountain to allow for a steady base, otherwise you will cut into the integrity of the base.

Step Five:
You can chose to cut the stamp itself into the shape of your design for efficiency, and so that the corners of the stamp don’t ink the page by accident.

Step Six:
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Cut out all remaining interior design elements. Remember to cut at diagonals. I tend to work in small sections to remove the rubber one piece at a time in triangular shapes.

Step Seven:
Check your work. Ink your design and try it out on some scrap paper. Sometimes you’ll find a snag or a part you forgot to cut. Go back and clean up your mistakes with your knife.

Step Eight:

Decorate! Stamping can spice up anything, but I love it for making ordinary lined paper into whatever the season demands. I like simple shapes for repetition, and I especially like how this one petal stamp can either be a chrysanthemum or a cherry blossom depending on how I chose to stamp it. If I change inks I could make dandelions!

When you practice enough you’ll start to find you can do extremely fine work. Try printing out your name on the computer, go over the ink with graphite, transfer it to rubber, and start carving! You can personalize things and get good practice following lines.

Good luck!