Outsource Whenever Possible

comments: 39

Silkscreen4Hi, girls! I'm Andy and I've been subcontracted to do some work for your friend, Posie. First, she had me print the pockets for her soon-to-be-made Alice Aprons. Now she wants me to write this post about the experience!

Prepare yourself. Changing out of pajamas: Optional. Coffee: Essential. The single most important thing about silkscreening, in my opinion, is choosing the right music to listen to. It should be something new, and preferably something local. Perhaps a compilation of new local music ? (Failing Records puts out freaking awesome compilations. And, my band, Emesis Basin Paulson, is on Volume 2 with the deep, deep-underground hit "Keiko Finally Encounters a Pod Only to Find He Has Nothing in Common with Wild Orcas.") The right music is important because your hands will be busy while your mind will be free to drift around. You are in the perfect state to check out music. You crafters already know all about this level of enlightenment, of course.

Silkscreen3 Prepare your screen. I guess the second most-important thing is the art that you will be transferring. For this project, Alicia drew an image of a house inspired by this book and formatted a quote she liked from this book on her computer. Then she printed them out. For transferring purposes, the artwork has to be high contrast, which means there shouldn't be shading. Line drawings work best. Then you take these papers to a local, independently owned print shop where you can have them transferred to a transparency. In order to get these images onto whatever you will be printing (in this case, pockets for the aprons), you need to "expose" a screen. You do this by "burning" your image onto a properly prepared screen. Screens come in a variety of sizes and are available for about 20 bucks at a local art-supply store. You can prepare your screen by spreading a photo emulsion (about 25 bucks; will last 4 months and dozens of screens) onto your screen and set it up to dry in a dark place. We have a dark corner in the basement, where the old paint cans and stuff are. Before I spread the emulsion onto the screen, I take packing tape and tape both the top and bottom of the screens over the edges, to avoid getting emulsion (and then, later, ink) into the corners and edges. Lost a few screens that way.

Silkscreen5Expose your screen. So you have your transparency and your emulsion-prepared screen. Put the transparency on top of the emulsion and hang a 200-watt bulb in one of those cheap pie-tin shop-light things (10 bucks at a hardware store) about 20 inches above it and expose for about 40 minutes. The design on the transparency prevents the light from getting to the screen beneath it. Take this exposed screen to the sink and rinse with a sprayer. (I have a hose and garden sprayer hooked up to the basement faucet.) Magically, the design rinses out!!! Oh, that feels good. I put in some ear plugs for the rinsing part because it is really loud!

Prepare your screen more. Look at the screen with a light behind it to see your design. If there are parts that washed out that you didn't want to, you can fix it with a screen filler (7 bucks) or some more packing tape on the bottom. You will need some hinges (25 bucks at art supply store or 10 bucks and some ingenuity at the hardware store) on your work surface so that you can lift and place the screen onto the same spot again and again. Dry the screen and place it on the hinges.

Silkscreen6 Print! Put a piece of paper under the screen and spoon some ink (about 8 bucks) onto the hinged edge of the screen. I usually thin the ink with some "screen retarder base" (about 8 bucks) so that it flows easily through the inevitably skinny parts of the design that Alicia comes up with. With a squeegee (4 to 10 bucks), pull the ink across, filling the design with it, and then back, pushing the ink through. Paper and non-t-shirt cottons require once across like this. T-shirts require two backs and two forths. For this project, I printed on lengths of fabric. This printing is the bulk of what you will be doing for the next couple of hours.

Silkscreen2 For me, this is the best part. It sounds strange, but while I am printing I feel so USEFUL! I feel very connected to what I am doing and what I am creating. These printed things didn't even exist mere moments ago. I made them! I put up parallel clothes lines across the basement and hung those black-and-silver office-clip things on each line to hang the printed fabric (or posters, or t-shirts) to dry without them touching. Satisfaction.

Set the ink, if necessary. I will iron these babies tonight, probably, after Alicia embellishes them with fabric paint in the shop today. This will "set" the ink, so it won't wash out. Then I will throw them in the dryer, to further set them. I'm into overkill. Okay, bye girls!


Hi Andy! Thanks for the lesson! I like your cute shorts! Or, are they cowboy boxers? Can't wait to see the finished product (the aprons, not your boxers.).

Hi, Carrie. Thank you for your comment. That is a great question about the pants. They are, actually, pajama pants which I made from cowboy fabric.

You make it all sound so simple-not!!The results will be stunning I'm sure!

Hi Andy, thanks for the tutorial. My husband also screenprints and would kill for that space you have! He's always threatening to take over my craft studio with his screenprinting!

Great post!!! Thanks Andy!

Honey, you are a brilliant musical genius and a kick-ass silkscreener! The aprons will be so great because of you. Thank you, lovey. XXOO

Thanks for the tutorial, Andy. Your work looks great.

And thanks to Alicia for inviting such a clever guest. I can't wait to see what your aprons look like.

Have a happy weekend!

You guys are such a cute couple. I just cant wait to see these aprons to add to my order, its almost too exciting to think about. Thank you!

Wonderful tutorial! I love guest appearances.

Thanks for the tutorial. My husbands out now but when he comes home I will introduce him to his new pastime project!

Thanks Andy,
I bought a screen printer kit and I havn't been game to use it.
Jeremy my partner helps me with my linocuts and I took a photo of just his hairy arms and hands printing for my blog and someone said they hoped they weren't MY hairy hands.

That t-shirt is hot, fella!

Andy, I agree, you make an excellent guest artisan. Plus its so nice to have a break from Alicia's ramblings on and on about pretty things, yadda yadda yadda.

Alicia, I'm entirely kidding, you know. xo

Wow, Andy, what a wonderful tutorial! I'm not sure what to say is the best part: the fact that just yesterday I asked my husband if he knew what went into silk screening, or the fact that we got a real glimpse into this wonderful partnership we keep hearing about!

You guys! Grrrrr (that's a hug)

Thanks, everyone! I forgot to talk about how to bill for services. Looking back at Alicia's comment, I see that I've been overpaid. The compliment about silkscreening was payment for this job and the bit about music was a downpayment for the next one!

Hiya Andy,
I have been waiting patiently for the Alice aprons and now it's nice to know their creation is a family affair.
You're the cutest help-mate and you can guest blog anytime.

well shoots, i have spent the last decade convincing myself that men like Andy didn't exist... this is like finding out after 43 years that the sky is actually green and the grass is blue... i am going to have to think on this one for a while.

alicia, while i do that i want to express to you how enjoyable visiting your site is. the joy and love you so beautifully articulate in your writing is inspiring, guest artist included.

Yikes...I'm away from my computer for one day and look what happens. I'd know those pj bottoms anywhere, and the coffee..an entirely genetic craving, I'm afraid! The little houses look perfect- can't wait to see the finished product. I love you guys (read with a Chi-town accent). By the way, your sister played a beautiful,inspiring recital today.You would have been so proud of her. We could feel your loving spirit there with us!

hi andy!! i was screen printing on a much smaller scale today. i wish i could have hung with you and watched you in action. lisa in SF

Thanks for the tutorial Andy, welcome back any time! This is one of those blog posts you keep coming back to for reference. So good.

That was an amazing post! So impressive! Your process is far superior I have no doubt...but I will say I'm thankful for my little Gocco. Whew. I'm just a screen-printer wanna-be.

Confession: I did click on the photo to enlarge it so I could get a closer look at those cowboy pants ;)

Alicia, Where did you find this guy!? He makes his own PJ's too?

andy - such a great storyteller and lovely how to post! I guess not lovely but very imformative and solid!

what a good pair you are.

Andy, you did a great job! What a talented household, I tell ya!

Wow Andy! Not only was that a fabulously well written and interesting post but it was so incredibly informative!! I am considering screen printing, but I was not at all sure about the process or the costs. You answered all of those questions and more in an article that was also a great read! I know you are busy but I think if you ever wanted to teach some classes for a little fun on the side that you would be a prefect teacher!! Thanks for all the info!!

I was so inspired that I said to my husband that HE should definitely take up screen printing!

Best Wishes!!

hehe, awesome! You guys are like the coolest indie, well writing, cute couple. Can't wait to see 'em when they're all complete! ♥

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com