A while ago I came across this tutorial for cheap silk screening from Craftgrrl. I stowed the URL away in my “Crafts to Make” favorites folder and kind of sort of forgot about it. Then it fell to my mom to be in charge of our HUGE family reunion this summer. At one of our family meetings to plan the thing, I apparently volunteered to take care of the shirts. Then totally and completely forgot until my mom asked how they were coming along just weeks before the reunion. Oops. But then I remembered the silk screening tutorial and holy cow!
IT IS GENIUS!
We do a reunion theme every year. Since the great-great grandfather that we all share (I told you, huge reunion—it spans five generations) hailed from Scotland, we chose a Highland Games theme this year. I used a Celtic knot image I found online, and then printed out a Celtic-inspired font and traced out the image I wanted using my light box.
Then, following the tutorial’s instructions, just traced that onto sheer fabric, painted decoupaged (we used this) all around the image and letters/numbers. The painting did take quite a while, mostly because of all the small details in the knot and letters (when I made the pirate stencil for my son’s hankie, it took no time at all). But, once it was done, we had a reusable, awesome stencil. We just passed out the paint and brushes, and let people screen the shirts they had brought themselves.
It was a huge hit. I figured it would be fun for the kids, most of whom were able to make their own. But it was the adults that really got into it. Everyone commented on how fun it was to make their own shirts, and have them actually look good. I think I explained the stencil making process apx. 50 times in one hour.
Now, I’ve done freezer paper stenciling quite a bit. But this technique pretty much kicks freezer paper’s trash:
-Easier to use a brush than an Xacto knife.
-You can see what you’re placing the image on through the stencil, so you get a better placement.
As long as you’ve used the non-water soluble decoupage, all you do is rinse the stencil under water, dry, good to go.
We made close to 100 shirts, maybe more, using the same three stencils. And they were still going strong when we ran out of shirts.
-Thanks to to the reusable factor, you can test the stencil out on scrap fabric first.
-And again, because they’re reusable, you can store them. Just remove the stencil from the frame and store flat between wax paper until you need it again.
-You can use it on anything, not just things that fuse with freezer paper.
You could totally use the same stencil to print matching images on shirts, backpacks, curtains, walls, telephone poles (if you happen to be a delinquent into that sort of thing)—anything! Think of the possibilities!!
And it’s just as cheap as freezer paper. We used a 40% off coupon at JoAnn for the sheer fabric, so one yard cost $4. We barely put a dent in it with the few stencils we made. Some silk screen paint can be pricey, but the Tulip brand we used is inexpensive to begin with, and JoAnn had it on clearance for less than $2/bottle (we cleared the store of every bottle they had at that price). I am guessing you need silk screen specific paint because it may be thinner? We bought the fancy-schmancy plastic embroidery hoops, at a whopping $3/each. The decoupage was $4.50 after 40% off. Again, we used very little. And all of that was more than enough for hundreds of screenings.
Some tips I learned while making our stencils:
-Don’t lay the framed fabric down to paint the decoupage. Hold it at an angle and paint that way. If you lay it down, there is a HUGE chance of it moving even very slightly, smearing the decoupage onto the image and ruining the stencil.
-When you need to set the stencil down, place it so the fabric is on the top side of the frame (leaving a space between the image and whatever you place it on)
-Hold the stencil to the light periodically, to make sure you’re getting the negative space nice and filled in.
-After it dries, hold it to the light again. The decoupage can clump as it dries, leaving blank spaces that need to be filled back in.
-Remember that you’re pushing the paint through a screen. Don’t just paint across the image, PUSH it through. Use junkie brushes, so it’s not so hard to see the bristles get all splayed out.
-If you pull the stencil off, and see that you didn’t get the full image painted evenly, rinse the stencil, let it dry, then reapply. Because you can see through the decoupage, it’s actually really easy to realign the image.
So yeah, new favorite thing ever!
I think I may have to try out designing my own printed fabric ala Prints Charming next.
Seriously giddy about that idea.