Monday, April 20, 2015

DIY Bootleg Screen Printed Onesie (with tutorial)

This month, my mom threw a baby shower for my sister. The planning had really been uneventful until she attended the shower thrown by the baby-to-be's other grandmother. And it was beautiful. Mom, who is a bit competitive though she wouldn't like to admit it, threw party planning into high gear. Each guest received a onesie in a bottle in the mail along with their invitation with a bid to decorate it and bring it to the shower. Then, at the shower we all voted for the winning onseie. Well, although I don't like to admit it, sometimes I get a little competitive too. I had my heart set on making the cutest onesie of them all!

I considered just stitching on a little tie and suspenders like I see all over pinterest, but that, I decided, was aiming too low. I wanted to go big for this project. It needed to be impressive. Clearly, I would learn to screen print. 

After many hours online reading tutorials that involved cutting out your template with an X-acto knife (which is really not my forte), I found this tutorial on instructables that allowed you to first paint your design, then turn it into a screen print. The author, as always, suggests starting simple. But then, I know I've already mentioned my pension for starting big rather than small. So, I decided to go with this design for my first project.
My first attempt at following the instructable didn't go so well, but after a couple hours of cursing, and a number of failed attempts, I finally had something almost good enough to bring to a shower (although, I still wish there had been time to redo it once more). I'll spare you the mess and just get down to the tutorial. But, let me warn you, as I sometimes do, that this not a good idea. Try it if you must, but I'd strongly recommend only doing this if you sincerely want to make multiple items with the same exact design on them in the same color, and if you're extraordinarily patient. If that doesn't sound like a description of you, might I recommend puff-paint?

Supplies you'll need:

Embroidery hoop
Voile (fabric for curtain lining, or other "screen like" fabric)
Screen Drawing Fluid*
Screen Filler*
Squeegee (small is better- aim for 4" to 5") 
Small Paintbrush
Something screenprint (e.g., a onesie)
Screen printing paint*

*In a very small town in rural Wisconsin, finding the screen printing supplies was a challenge. I used Speedball brand products, as they're available online from amazon and also Nasco. 

Step 1: Create your design.
I used InDesign to put together this little bit of typography and printed it out of a laser printer. Really, anything that you can trace, you can screenprint. Go nuts. 
Step 2: Paint your design onto your screen. 
Cut a piece of voile just a bit larger than your embroidery hoop. Place your printed design face up on your work surface then cover it with the voile. Centering your design under the fabric, tape the fabric to your surface to secure it in place. With your small paintbrush carefully trace over the design with the screen drawing fluid. Let the fluid dry partly before pulling up the voile and securing it in the embroidery hoop with the design centered. Paint over your design a second time with a generous coat of the drawing fluid. If you don't do this, you will regret it. Trust me. Let the fluid dry completely, helping it along with a blow dryer if you're impatient. 
Step 3: Fill your screen.
Once the drawing fluid is completely dry set the hoop on a prepared surface that you are okay with gunking up (might I recommend newspaper, plastic sheeting, etc). Spoon or pour a couple of tablespoons of screen filler onto your voile. Using your squeegee, spread the filler around using as FEW strokes as possible and clearing as much filler off of your design as possible. Then, wait for it to dry (this will take a while). 
If you did a good job, your whole hoop will be filled with opaque red goop and the blue design will still be clear. For me, this was not the case at all. Once the first coat was just about dry I dolloped another few tablespoons of screen filler, swiped it around a few times, again trying to clear off the blue design as best I could and then waited for it to dry, again. 
Step 4: Rinse out the drawing fluid. 
Once the filler is dry, rinse off the blue drawing fluid with hot water. I used a little bit of fingernail scrubbing to get the last little bits off. Screen should now show through your design. And now, you get to wait for the dumb thing to dry one more stinking time. 
Step 5: Do a sample print. 
After all that, it's finally time to print. But, god knows that you don't really trust this thing. I recommend starting with a sample print on something you don't care about to get the feel for it. I used a cami that had seen better days and was ready for the rag bag. 
Place the screen directly on the sample fabric. Run a line of paint across the top of the image. Using substantial pressure and holding the hoop in place with your other hand, drag the paint across the image with your squeegee about 3 times, or as few strokes as you can use to thoroughly cover the image in paint.
Carefully pull the screen from the sample fabric and set it aside on paper/plastic/something disposable. If any ink came through places you didn't want it, add more screen filler to those spots with a paint brush. DO NOT wash out your screen. Once you wash it, the filler will start to loosen and you'll end up with a less crisp image. To be totally honest, my "sample" was the most crisp image I got. 

Step 6: Print your items. 
Repeat the process that you just mastered on your sample now with your actual items. Be sure to place something inside of any shirt/onesie/bag that you print to be sure that the ink doesn't leak through the second layer of fabric. I found waxed paper worked well, but a few layers of newspaper would do it too!
Step 7: Curse
Swear a blue streak when whatever you printed doesn't turn out like you wanted it to. Don't quit your day job.

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