Friday, 20 September 2013

Super screenprints!

It's always great when I get to work with textile students and this summer I had the opportunity to work with two enthusiastic groups of Year 10s.

We had two topics to play with, screenprinting and felt making. The students produced some great pieces and it was great to see them experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what they could do with multi-colours, layering, multiple prints and positive/negative printing. Although the first prints were a little tentative, the students quickly developed confidence and their prints were soon bursting with colour and life. By the end of the sessions there were some stunning results with students making their own stencils and really developing their understanding of the processes.

Screenprinting can be expensive but I thought I'd share a few tips on keeping costs down...

Cheap stencil materials
For anyone who fancies having a go at screenprinting without investing a lot in materials and equipment, we used old plastic document wallets to cut out washable, re-useable stencils. The plastic was just thick enough to give great definition to the prints but was easy to cut accurately with a craft knife and was quick to clean and re-use. You can also buy cheap packs of document wallets from £1 shops, Wilkinson's and stationery shops. One pack is enough for quite a few stencils.

I found plenty of interesting images by searching for "silhouettes" or "free templates" on google. Simple designs with bold outlines are ideal for this technique and once students have had a bit of practice it will give them lots of ideas for their own designs.

Cheapy squeegees
As some of our designs were quite small, the squeegees were a bit too big to allow small images to be added to a print. And the answer? Old credit-card style plastic loyalty cards! (I don't recommend actual credit/debit cards even if they are out of date!). The bendier cards are best and they proved very effective at giving good ink penetration whilst being easy to manage and get the pressure right, too.

Printing inks
We used screenprinting inks on cotton fabric, but you could use thickened procion mx dyes as an alternative. Any leftover dyes will then double up for later dyeing experiments such as tie-dye, shibori, shaving cream and snow-dyeing.

Old cotton t-shirts or shirts are great to print on. Use as they are or upcycle by cutting them up to make smaller pieces that can be used to embellish bags, clothes, accessories etc.

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