A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Technique for June--Screen Printing

The technique for June is screen printing. I don't know about you all, but I'd like to add some further layers to some of the great fabric I've created the past few months.

I've listed some supplies you will need (many have been used for some of the other techniques we have done these past few months). I've also listed some sources of information about screen printing. I hope you find the information helpful.


If you already have screens made (and don't want new ones) use those. If you have a drawing or picture that you think might make a nice screen, send it off and have a Thermofax screen made. (Lynn Krawczyk will make one for you. Contact her at her Etsy Shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/FibraArtysta. You can find other people that make them for a fee also.) You can get a Thermofax screen without a lot of cost. You can buy a pre-stretched screen from places like Dick Blick or most art supply stores and make your own prints using materials such as flour paste, interfacing, masking tape, freezer paper, blue gel school glue, adhesive shelf liner, leaves, feathers, mesh, newsprint, etc. You will need duct tape to seal the edges of the frame and create a well around the edge of the frame.

You can use textile paints or thickened dyes with these screens. The big caveat is that if you use textile paints you must clean the screen as soon as you are finished. If you don't, the dried paint can ruin the screen. You have a bit more time to get the job done with thickened dyes. It makes the cleaning go a bit faster to use a soft brush (like a brush you might use to clean your nails) or a sponge. Also, textile paints change the hand if the fabric.

If you choose to use thickened dye, you will need--Procion Dyes, sodium alginate, urea, and soda ash. Be sure to soak your fabric in soda ash solution and air dry before printing. (There is a product called "Superclear" that sounds like it would be easier to use than sodium alginate. I think it is more expensive, though. I'm definitely checking it out. If you choose to use that, you won't need the urea either. It is available from Dharma Trading Co.--http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/2052-AA.shtml.)

Squeegee--approximately the size of your image. (You can pick these up at the art supply store. Some people buy them at an auto supply store or automotive department. If you use a small screen, you can use a credit card as a squeegee.)

Printing surface--I use a double layer of felt covered with scrap fabric. It is best to be able to pin your fabric (that you intend to print onto) to this surface.

Miscellaneous--drop cloth, containers for mixing dye and alginate, plastic spoons, rubber gloves, apron, dust mask (to use when dealing with dyes), pins, scissors, cutting mat, Exacto knife, rags,  brush or sponge and dishwashing soap for cleaning screen.

You can find lots and lots of tutorials and blog entries about screen printing on line. Here are just a few.

Thermofax screen printing YouTube videos...

"Regular" screen printing YouTube video (this video is short but does show technique)

A good on-line screen printing tutorial can be found here--http://www.harmonyhanddyes.com/InstructScreenprinting.html. I copied it into word, deleted the tables and have copied it to keep as a reference.

There are lots of books that discuss the process, but there are two I particularly like. For a simple guide, Rayna Gillman's "Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth" is a good one. It is available through Amazon. The other, if you are lucky enough to have it or can find one, is Jane Dunnewold's "Improvisational Screen Printing" (now out of print). It is a wonderful book.
If you are more of a visual learner, Jane Dunnewold has a DVD called "Improvisational Screen Printing." It is available through her website--http://www.artclothstudios.com/ (in the "store" there). The DVD is also available through the Dharma Trading Company and ProChem websites.

While I was doing my search for information on screen printing, I found that Lynn Krawczyk has an article about screen printing in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of "Quilting Arts." You might find that interesting too.

I hope you will give this a try. I'm sure we'll see some fabulous results from you all.
Quilter Beth          


  1. I LOVE screen printing and as a matter of fact I am teaching an all day workshop on making a silk screen, a portable printing surface and many of the uses you have mentioned. The course will be at Fiber College in Searsport, Maine. http://www.fibercollege.org/
    Can't wait to see all the wonderful work the "fire" people do as well as our followers.

  2. I have always wanted to try this but I have been intimidated by the equipment needs. My local craft store sells screens and screen-making supplies... hmmm...

  3. I've always wanted to try this, too, but have been kind of scared to. The book Committed to Cloth by Claire Benn & Leslie Morgan has a DVD with it that goes over screen printing in detail, it's another great resource--I bought all the stuff to do this a while ago after getting the book at my library, but haven't used any of it yet.

  4. Whoops, not Committed to Cloth, but Screenprinting is the title of the book/DVD, and I see Beth has already linked to a youtube video from it!

  5. Could one of you "experienced" people here help with this question--
    I finally got some screens ready to start my screenprinting project, and I wanted to use the thickened dye. Yesterday I made up the sodium alginate gel and it's in my refrigerator at home. I was wondering, though, if I want to paint or squirt some dye/gel mixture onto the screen in some pattern or design and let it dry overnight, then go over it with the gel mixed with other dye powders (as Leslie Morgan & Claire Benn, and Kerr Grabowski do), when do I put the soda ash in to activate the dye?? I was trying to get that information from the various posts on this blog, but couldn't find it anywhere.

  6. The thickened paste can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time. When it goes bad, it will smell like rotting seaweed and probably have mold in it. I've had mine over 6 months. If you put dye powder in some and squirt it out of an applicator or paint it one your screen with a paint brush and let it dry, it may take longer than a day to dry depending on your weather. In heavy humidity, it can sometimes take a few days. When you are ready to "use" this screen, you mix up some previously made print paste from you refrigerator with an appropriate amount of soda ash. Stir until pretty dissolved (a few minutes) and use THAT to re-wet your dried colored print paste on your screen. Place some soda ash/print paste in the well and screen it across the screen with a squeegee. Whilst holding down the fabric (which should have been pinned down anyhow) lift the end of the screen a bit and peek under to see the depth of color. It may take a few pulls to re-wet the dried on colored print paste enough to release. Keep using it for as many "prints" as you can get. As it starts to dwindle, you can add a tad of color to your print paste/soda ash to get a better print. I'd mix up just a few spoonfuls with a few grains of dye for that last pull. Hope I've been clear.

  7. Yes, very clear, especially after watching some youtube videos from Kerr Grabowski and Leslie Morgan/Claire Benn showing the process you're describing.

    It is SO dry here in NC where I live that the screen will probably dry in an hour or less--absolutely no rain for almost 4 weeks now.


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