One Cat Short of Crazy

Quite a while ago I came across this lovely t-shirt on Pinterest.

I just loved those cats! But being a minimalist I thought less could be more, so I enlarged the motif and used it more sparingly. Not that I don’t like the all-over effect of the original, and I will probably do a tee with smaller cats all over at some point, but for now let’s stick to one cat short of crazy!

To get there, I first enlarged the cat motif in photoshop, trying out a couple of sizes. Around the size of my hand seemed good, so I printed this out and then traced over the outline with a sharpie to transfer the image to an A4 size acetate stencil.

Put the motif under a transparent acetate stencil and trace, then cut out

I cut out my stencils with scissors whenever possible because it is so much quicker and easier than my blunt craft knife, and less fuss than setting up the hotknife. Fortunately my motifs are often very simple, but if you like intricate designs, scissors will probably not work for you.

Once I had my stencil cut out I started to think about where to place my prints. Because I printed on a t-shirt that was already sewn up, an all over pattern was no longer possible, not unless I wanted to take the shirt apart again. Normally I cut out and then print, but this time I had got ahead of myself with the sewing.

I mocked up the placement of the motifs in Photoshop, but you could just as easily wing it. I did both, mocking up first and then placing them freehand after I had got some idea of what I wanted. I moved the top right cat higher up and onto the sleeve to make a more irregular pattern. Still ended up with a cat’s bum under my chin!

Mock up

With a big motif it is easy to use a single motif stencil and then place it repeatedly for printing. You can see below where I placed the stencil, then masked off the rest of the shirt with newspaper and placed my button box on top to keep the spine of the newspaper I placed inside the shirt from sticking up too much under the stencil. You need the stencil flat on the fabric and the paper inside to stop any paint seepage from the front to the back of the shirt, or vice versa.

Masked with newspaper, stencil in middle, ready to apply ink

I dry each print with my hairdryer, to stop wet paint getting where it is not wanted, probably the number one problem with this technique. Achieving good paint coverage is not hard.

Drying after inking, with stencil and newspaper removed, or they will flap around

If I used smaller motifs and printed them all over like my inspiration tee, I would probably do a larger stencil with several motifs at once and tessellate. A larger stencil will need some adhesive, either spray-on or sticky tape, as the stencil will otherwise move. You can also use freezer paper, which will stick after being ironed on, but I only have A4 sized sheets. They are suitable for a small area such as a child’s tee, and you can re-use the stencil a couple of times, but not 10 times like I needed to with this shirt. Horses for courses, as they say.

But the exciting discovery I made this time was that a brush is a lot easier to use than a sponge to apply the ink! Duh! I don’t know where I got the sponge idea from in the first place, probably from using a sponge roller to ink blocks. But for the large, flat areas I like (no colour variation in the motif), a sponge does not do this efficiently, neither a sponge roller nor a piece of sponge. What works much better is a stiff, stubby brush, and you brush from the edge of the stencil inwards to get a nice sharp edge. Then I fill in the middle, making sure I get good coverage. You can spend ridiculous amounts of money on an artist’s brush, but mine cost next to nothing from Aldi.

I used screen printing ink for this shirt, but I could also have used acrylic paint, with or without a fabric medium. I tested both and there wasn’t a lot of difference in stiffness between both applications. The coverage was not as good as with the screen printing ink, but then the base fabric was lighter and I only did one coat. I could easily do two or use more paint. Both versions, with or without fabric medium, washed up the same. Any stiffness doesn’t bother me, as screen printing ink also stiffens fabric, so I’m used to that and don’t really mind.

Sample of acrylic paint with and without fabric medium

Once I had finished printing the motifs on my shirt I added the eyes with a cotton stick.

Cotton stick makes nice small round spots for eyes

And here is the completed shirt.

Motif printed across sleeve seam

The prints don’t look completely and evenly black, especially the last pic, but that is an artefact of the photos. I am pretty happy with the quality, which is the first time in ages.

Rocks in my Head

This is the painting that inspired my latest printing project. I could find no artist mentioned when I found it on Pinterest and no name. I call it ‘Rocks in my Head’ and you will soon see why.

It’s a while since I have created a serious wadder, mostly some remedial work improves matters, or maybe a turn in the ‘magical cupboard’, meaning that I hang it up somewhere out of the way, and when I look at it again in a few months’ time I have forgotten what bothered me so much and think that it actually looks pretty ok. Try it sometime, unlikely as it sounds it really works. Sometimes.

Every maker has their idiosyncrasies, and mine is that I concentrate on the whole, not the parts. What is important to me is the design and overall look, or the Gestalt, if you want to be fancy. This has the advantage that I don’t sweat the small stuff all that much (good). But the disadvantage is that the quality of my work isn’t always top notch either (bad).

Just look at the inside of my garments and you will see what I mean. Or the outside, as I routinely topstitch hems and don’t care if you can see where I started and finished the topstitching because it overlaps. My rationale is that very few people go down on their hands and knees with a magnifying glass to inspect my hems. So I am a sloppy sewist. Deal with it.

But I am less relaxed about the quality of my printing. I would dearly love it to look perfect, but I just can’t seem to get there. Some of the reason is the techniques I use. Block printing makes it easy to create a pattern on a whole garment, but it does not produce a nice, fat, even print. It is just the nature of the beast, the block does not carry enough ink to saturate fabric. Stencilling does this better, especially on the large motifs I like. But at least on fabric the paint is not completely even. As the fabric soaks it up, you get variations, not in the colour but in the surface of the print. It looks a bit like suede, with the nap going in different directions. I have tried to do 2 applications, and dry in between, which is better, but still not a nice even print, like a screen print. Never mind that my inspiration painting has exactly the same translucent, uneven look, I was going to get a nice, even, flat application of paint from one end of each shape to the other, or else.

That meant screen printing. It’s not hard and I did quite a bit of it years and years ago. But printing a single motif on the front of a t-shirt is very different from printing a garment all over. With this project I thought I could put my toe in the water, printing two iterations of the abstract motif side by side, front and back.

The result was a disaster. I had lines going right through the middle of my shapes, too little ink on some of the rocks and much too much on others. I tried to remove some of the surplus ink with a tissue, to find the top layer of the tissue coming off and sinking into the paint. It looked horrible and I felt totally depressed. The problem was that the screens I had were too small to allow me to pull the squeegee nicely across the whole length of the print, and then the squeegee! It is probably 25 years old and my husband had used it at some point to grout tiles, without cleaning off the grout afterwards. It was also too small to fit across the width of the motif. No wonder the print was a mess.

But — I loathe giving up. I had already cut out the shirt, so the whole lot would be wasted. I hate waste, even if I have enough fabric to last me for the rest of my days and we’ll into eternity.

Fortunately the fabric did not have a defined right side, and the ink had only bled through a little to the wrong side. I thought it would be possible to turn the fabric over and print again on the wrong side.

No, I wasn’t game to wrestle again with the too small screen and ancient squeegee, but I thought I could use the stencil I had cut for the screen as a hand stencil and dab the ink on with a sponge. I also wasn’t that thrilled with the look of white on gray, and thought black would be better.

And what do you know, it turned out alright!

And below is the modified front, with one of the shapes enlarged to improve the gap in the middle. I’m much happier now!

I will still have to get my act together and set myself up to screen print properly. The first step is to get a screen big enough to print the whole front or back of a top in one go, and a decent squeegee. Expensive, but not rocket science. While searching for the larger screen online I came across instructions for using vinyl as a stencil for the screen. That is a great idea because it allows for more creative freedom than an acetate stencil, without having to use a photosensitive emulsion. I always hated the thought of that, because it looks messy and needs chemicals and a darkroom.

So watch this space for more screen printing disasters. I must have rocks in my head.

Matisse in Brown

I still have a crush on Matisse and Fauvism, the colours are so bright and cheerful, they just light up my day. Great to hang on a wall, but not quite so great for clothing. One day I might attempt to copy that curtain, but for now it is well beyond my skills.

Fortunately Matisse’s cutouts are also great for my fabric printing and a whole lot easier to achieve, even if the colours are dialled back rather severely.

This is a dress pattern I have made a few times, the last version was for Christmas Day last year and this one was made for a recent family wedding. (Yes, we still are allowed to have weddings in Australia, my heart-felt sympathies to you if things are very different where you live.)

The print looks like one of the many cutouts from the ‘Jardin des Plantes’ series, or it could be just Matisse-inspired, but in any case it is just right for what I had in mind. The fabric is another silk/cotton sheer, like the green with the grey print (see link in the last paragraph), this time a light brown. The thinness of the silk/cotton makes it ideal for block printing, as blocks don’t transfer a lot of ink, not anywhere near as much as screen printing. This can be frustrating when using fabric with a rougher surface where more ink would be needed to make a nice fat even print. I really must do more block printing on silk seeing it is so rewarding, although it can be a bit scary to print on $$$ fabrics. I have only just stopped hyperventilating when printing on linen.

The dress makes a nice formal outfit with a pair of black pants underneath (use your imagination to add the appropriate shoes) and the big black hat is great for camouflage. I can people-watch and chat with members of my extended family to my hearts content without anyone being entirely certain what I look like these days.

The sewing details are on PatternReview.

Nothing like a comfortable outfit to have fun at an outdoor wedding, held on a warm and sunny afternoon at beautiful Church Point.

Remember Burnt Orange?

Of course you do if you are reading my blog. That icon of the seventies, when not just clothes were that colour but everything from kitchen cupboards to shagpile carpet. In Sydney there was even a high rise office building with burnt orange plastic cladding. It has long since been re-clad in beige, but the memory lingers…

Well, it appears no fashion insanity is too insane for a revival, once enough time has passed, even if in this case it has taken 50 years. Look what I found on Pinterest.

I knew burnt orange was back in the real world too and not just online, when I found a linen curtain of that colour in the ‘As Is’ bin at Ikea. And here it is, slightly modified.

I used the same pattern for the pants as in the last post, a Marcy Tilton Vogue, leaving off the bottom part and the pockets. The weave of the linen is a little loose and I was worried the pockets would show through.

The top is another version of the Tessuti Mandy, with the armscyes widened to suit a woven and cuffs instead of sleeves. I have described the sewing process on PatternReview here.

My black and white Ikea print jacket, based on the Tessuti Jac shirt, works quite well with this too. So well done, Tessuti, Ikea and Marcy!

When Brown Comes Roaring Back…

For the last five years I have been avoiding brown. All my neutrals were black, navy and my favourite, grey. Now all of a sudden, brown somehow seems to be all wonderful, new and exciting. Well, a change is as good as a holiday, they say, and holidays have been hard to come by lately.

So last weekend I sat down and made myself a brown outfit. Brown jacket, brown top, brown vest and brown pants. I dug out my brown loafers and a brown silk scarf I bought in Cambodia in —oh— about 2008. Coming in handy now!

The jacket is a modified Lyn Mizono Vogue pattern. I ditched the back ties and made normal cuffed sleeves, as the designer extravaganzas as per pattern would have been annoyingly impractical for me. Imagine tucking into your lunch wearing those.

Not as pretty as the model, but here is my version, made up in a furnishing fabric with a lot of body.

And again unbuttoned and with a scarf, as I would normally wear this.

The pants are a Marcy Tilton Vogue design, now sadly OOP. They are a bit shorter and slimmer on the model than on me, but they are very Oska and my go-to for wide-leg pants. If you can get the pattern online, I definitely recommend it. I used a dark brown Australian bengaline, and because the fabric is very stretchy, I omitted the zipper and waistband, and added a yoga pants-type wide band instead.

The top is crinkle jersey, using my current favourite for everything, the Tessuti Mandy pattern with an added cowl instead of the boat neck. I shortened it, but I think now that I shouldn’t have. The hem is quite wide and I might lengthen it by 3-4cm, or maybe add a band to make it even longer.

Last but not least I made a vest using the same Tessuti Mandy pattern as for the top. It is a better length and maybe I should make the crinkle top an inch or so longer still, to show underneath. I omitted sleeves due to lack of fabric, but changed front and back slightly to a straight rectangle without the armscye. The fabric is a thin boiled wool. Nice and cosy as we are getting further into autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Sewing Studio

Every hobby sewist, and probably professionals too, started with a sewing machine on the kitchen or dining table, or some equally multi-purpose place that required cleaning everything away frequently, if not every time they sewed a stitch.

I have vivid memories of cutting out on the floor of the living room, with kids and animals having fun with the tissue paper, me cursing inwardly every step of the way. I had fantasies of a ‘cutting out service’, or of paying a friend. Needless to say the friend hated cutting out as much as I did and there was no such thing as a cutting out service. Desperate to save sanity and my knees, if not my back, I graduated to cutting out on my bed, only a marginal improvement which came to an abrupt halt after I accidentally cut into the sheet. Ouch!

Then rotary cutters and self-healing cutting boards arrived in my life and cutting out on a table became quick and simple, no longer the most hated task of the whole sewing process.

And thankfully things kept on improving, when in the last 10 years or so I actually had a spare bedroom which could be used as a sewing room. Yay! Except that the sewing room in the last house was a black hole, full of surplus furniture and other junk, which left very little room to move once my sewing gear was installed. On top of that I am super messy when I create, much too much in a hurry to bother to stop to clean up after myself. Some people say they can’t start a new project until they have cleaned up after the last one. Well, I certainly can.

But things are looking up. We bought a new house early this year and it has a self contained granny flat attached which we don’t actually need except for holiday times when we have a house full of visiting family. The kitchen and eating space of the granny flat is ideal for a sewing studio. I don’t even have to move anything out when people are staying, because we cook and eat together in the main part of the house. Outside visiting times I have the whole space to myself. Perfect, isn’t it?

I put a fair bit of thought into my new studio before we moved in. The kitchen area with its many drawers and cupboards is ideal for storage of sewing stuff, fabrics, art materials, my jewellery making equipment and a thousand odds and ends creatively inclined people tend to collect.

The breakfast bench is great for my machines, with the added bonus of a big window that lets in lots of light. Because it is kitchen counter height it is too high for a normal chair, but that is easily fixed with a drafting chair and a foot stool for the sewing machine pedal.

The drafting chair has the added bonus of wheels, which lets me roll back and forth from my sewing machine to the overlocker or to the drawers on the other side, as needed.

I have three overlockers (thank you Aldi!), threaded in black, white and grey, which do most of my garments. To change colour, I unplug the overlocker on the bench, take the one with the appropriate colour out of the cupboard, and plug it in on the bench. They are all the same model, re-badged Janome, so I don’t need to change the power cord or foot pedal.

The other side of the room contains my cutting table and a newly installed built-in for my fabrics and anything else that does not fit into the kitchen cupboards.

Having got to really appreciate the benefits of drawers when we renovated the kitchen in the last house, I opted for lots of drawers in the built-in. Unfortunately they only make sense up to a certain height, once you can no longer look down into the drawer you need to revert to shelves. Being a short person is a disadvantage there, but it balances out because normal table height is fine for my cutting table without giving me a back ache. Win some, lose some, as they say.

I keep my PDF sewing patterns, clipped together, on the bottom of the built-in, below the first drawer/basket. So far that works fine, because I use only a small number of TNT patterns, so don’t have a lot I need to store with easy access. Any I use only infrequently can be folded and put into a drawer.

The glass fronts and open baskets make finding a specific fabric easier.

And the view is fabulous, what a bonus!

An Oldie but a Goodie

I made this Vogue 8659 a few times when it first came out around 2012. — Gosh, is it really 8 years old? Well, I still like it a lot and hope it doesn’t look too dated, even though it is now very OOP. It is still around on Etsy though, so someone must think it is still worth buying and therefore making.

My early versions have now passed on to the great wardrobe in the sky and I feel ready for a couple more. It is a particularly good pattern for semi sheer fabrics if worn with pants underneath and I have some silk/cotton voile which is too transparent on its own. I suppose I could make it into a lined dress but this maxi dress/tunic idea appeals much more to my quirky taste.

I am also always on the lookout for a back drop for my fabric printing and it ticks that box too. That said, I had some trouble with my colour combination initially, thinking for some weird reason that light olive green would pair well with a mid grey. Well, it didn’t. I knew this as soon as I pulled the block off my first print, but at that point I felt I was committted and couldn’t change to black, which would have looked so much better. Ever heard the Einstein quote that the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing over and over and think you are going to get a different outcome?

>Blush<. Not sure how many leaf prints are on that garment, but with every one I kept hoping that somehow, when it was all done, it would magically turn from an ugly olive-grey duckling into a swan.

Well, it didn’t.

So it languished in my wardrobe, waiting for my next bright idea. Which was a long time coming, a couple of years to be exact. At one stage I made a half-hearted attempt to overprint the grey with black and that was a bad idea too.

But I don’t give up easily, especially not on expensive fabric, and in the end I decided that a darker background colour would suit the grey prints much better. Fortunately the screen printing ink I used to block print does not take the dye at all, and the colour of the leaf motifs would be unaffected while the rest of the fabric would take the dye. So off it went to the dye pot, to go from a light olive to a dark blue-ish green.

And would you believe, it worked, and now looks so much better!

Adventures with Seaweed

I have been stencilling for a while now using screen printing inks. All good, except that these inks are totally opaque, and they don’t blend or flow. So they are not that suitable when you want to do something like this.

Screen printing inks are also expensive. My fibre reactive dyes (Procion, Drimarene K) go a lot further for the same outlay, produce vibrant colours, plus they are transparent if thinly applied and flow into each other for soft transitions. The problem is how to stop them from flowing in an uncontrolled fashion like a drop of ink on blotting paper. To achieve this the dye needs to be thickened with guar gum or some such. I have lots of xanthan on hand, which is a similar seaweed based food grade thickener (very suitable for a seaweed stencil, haha, although it works for everything), so I used this to experiment with.

My initial recipe to thicken the dye was 500ml of water, a splash of methylated spirits and a level teaspoon of xanthan. Both xanthan and guar gum lump like crazy, so I used my blender. It worked well and the food grade thickeners won’t poison me. (The meths will hopefully wash off my blender well enough not to send me blind.) In any case, I think meths is probably not needed when using a blender, and was only recommended to paste the thickener before adding water, so the mix won’t get as lumpy.

My idea was to mix up a batch of thickener, keep it in the fridge and mix it with dye when needed. Fibre reactive dyes also need a fixer like soda ash solution to bind the dye to the fabric. But once you mix the soda ash with the dye it deteriorates really quickly. After 20 minutes it loses potency and by 60 minutes it is pretty much gone. That is not enough time for stencilling, so the soda ash can’t be mixed with the dye before painting but needs to be applied to the fabric before hitting it with the dye. The fabric needs to be at least damp with the soda ash solution for the fixing reaction to take place.

I used one of Matisse’s cutout shapes for my stencil. Possibly it was meant to be a plant, but it fits my idea of seaweed pretty well.

Coming from a block printing mindset, I am always tempted to cut a single motif stencil and build up a pattern one by one. But a larger stencil with several motifs speeds up the process, because the stencil does not need to be re-placed as often. So I cut a triple on clear acetate. There is also a opaque white stencil medium you can buy, but when building up a pattern I need to see what I am doing.

I tried out the stencil on paper first, which is a good idea because you get to see the finished pattern. If you barge ahead on your fabric and then discover that you need to make changes once you see the result, like placing things further apart or closer together, it is way too late to rescue your fabric. I like to use linen and spoiling it hurts. A lot.

Below is my paper trial, with also a small sample on the linen I intended to use. I set accents with more concentrated, darker dye on some of the shapes once I had pulled the stencil off. I like the result, but when I started printing for real on my linen I liked the plain stencilled shapes as well. I can always do these accents later if I want. Leave well enough alone, I say.

Once the pattern started to emerge on my fabric I soon got impatient and slapped on the dye quite heavily with my stencil brush, which is a thick, stubby brush capable of picking up a lot of paint. This resulted in a fair bit of bleeding under the stencil line in some places, but with such a wibbly-wobbly organic shape it didn’t matter. If I wanted a clear outline I would have to be more careful and I would also probably need to increase the amount of xanthan in the thickener mix to make my dye less runny. Runny dye is faster to paint with, so there are trade-offs.

I always cut out my garments before printing, as printing the uncut fabric is a lot of extra work. When you have all the pieces of a garment cut out, you also have more control where your prints will be once the garment is sewn up. Below are some photos of the garment pieces drying on my lawn after printing.

I was absolutely champing at the bit to wash the fabric after printing to see how it would turn out, but was worried the loosely woven linen would distort in the wash. So I sewed up most of this shirt except for the collar (the most time consuming part) and put it through the machine and dryer. It turned out so well, I was really thrilled!

So here is the finished shirt. I will write up the sewing process in PatternReview asap.

Could to with darker accents, but not too bad for a start.

Stencilling notes

  • Drimarene K fibre reactive dye, thickened with Xanthan paste
  • Soda ash solution for fixing the dye
  • acetate wet mixed medium stencil, cut with fine tipped soldering iron
  • Stencil brush, short, thick
  • Linen, pre-washed
  • Metal ruler, 1m, or anything that can be used as a stencil guide
  • Newspaper to protect my cutting table
  • Cut stencil with hotknife or soldering iron. Many repeated shapes on one stencil require less re-placing thereof, making building up a pattern easier, but large stencil is harder to handle, especially once wet with dye. Fewer shapes result in a smaller, easier to handle stencil, but it is harder to get an even pattern. I used a triple shape as in photo above.
  • Cut out garment pieces and lay each flat onto printing surface. It may be necessary to iron fabric and newspaper to lie completely flat, otherwise bleeding under stencil outline may occur where the fabric is not completely flat under the stencil.
  • Lay ruler across fabric, evenly from bottom of each garment piece being printed. Butt bottom of stencil against ruler and slide along as you print. This will produce a straight line of the pencilled shapes, parallel to hem line.
  • Get dye ready, mix with thickener.
  • Fill soda ash solution into spray bottle.
  • Wet fabric with soda ash where you intend to stencil. You have the choice of only wetting the shape itself, spraying through the stencil. This will leave a lot of the soda ash on top of your acetate which needs to be wiped off. But the advantage is that any dye smudges/drips on dry fabric may wash out (which may be a fond hope). Alternatively spray fabric before placing stencil.
  • Start stencilling, using only 2 out of the three shapes cut, namely top and right bottom. Leave the left bottom shape clean to act as registration mark by placing it carefully over the previously painted right-bottom shape. Careful not to transfer dye where you don’t want it by doing this, blot with paper towel if necessary.
  • Fill in stencilled motifs with dye on stencil brush, brushing carefully not to go under outlines. A sponge could also be used? Must try next time.
  • When one double row is finished (upper and lower motif of triple are stencilled together, producing 2 rows), measure carefully where to place the ruler for the next double line. Stencil next line and so on.
  • Fill in any holes with a single shape, masking the stencil shapes with paper where you don’t want to print.
  • Spray finished garment piece with more soda ash and lay flat to dry.
  • Repeat with next piece until all pieces are done.

Leaves, Frogs and Lightbulb Moments

This tee is a departure from the usual in a couple of ways. First I used a different pattern, the Love Notions Laundry Day Tee, which has a different shape to the classical tee pattern I normally use, the Burda Lydia, a very old pattern that now seems to have disappeared from both the German and English-speaking websites. Probably time to move on, and I rather like the more defined waist and swing hem of the Laundry Day Tee.

The LDT has a lot of variations, and the details of which version I picked and how I modified it are on PatternReview.

The more exciting innovation is that I tried a new block printing technique after coming across ApartmentTherapies ‘How to block print the easy way’. What a great idea!. Instead of carving the block out of Easycarve (a medium similar to the white erasers used to erase pencil), you cut your shape from an adhesive-backed foam sheet. You can use a craft knife like she did, but for simple shapes it is even faster to use a pair of scissors to cut around the outline, stick it to a backing — and done! Below is an example I found to illustrate what I mean.

Wow, that idea was a lightbulb! In my case I started with a leaf outline and perspex as a backing. You can cut a simple shape in a jiffy because instead of digging away all the superfluous medium with your carving implement you simply cut around the outline with scissors. So much easier! And printing is fast too.

The perspex is great as a backing because you can see where you place your motif on the fabric. I beg my perspex pieces from a a friendly business acquaintance who is left with small scrap pieces in the course of his work, which I am only too happy to take off his hands. Nothing like a win-win!

The second improvement was that I finally started to use a brayer, as recommended in the ApartmentTherapy blog. This is a hard rubber roller like this:

Previously I used a foam roller, which deposits less ink on the block, but has the advantage of not clogging up intricate lines. Horses for courses. If there are no intricate lines a brayer works much better, because the ink sits on the surface of the rubber and after rolling the ink on the block there is a thicker layer and therefore a better print.

After my first try with the leaves I made one discovery, however: it is quite difficult to get the ink evenly on every bit of your printing block, but nothing on the backing. You have to be so careful, and sooner or later there will be an oopsie or two which will spoil things. Darn! There are a few right on the front of this shirt.

Using the foam shape without a backing is not really an option, it is too soft, and neither is cutting the perspex around the outside of the shape, it is too hard. So finally I decided that instead of cutting one shape of the foam, I would cut three and stick one on top of the other. That makes it easier for inking and doesn’t take too much work cutting out. The lower layers don’t have to be too precise, just enough to lift the top layer higher off the backing.

I was also very careful to wipe any extra ink off the backing with a cloth before printing each motif.

So here is the result, my froggy shirt. Ribbip!

Making a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear

Well, sometimes it works… possibly often enough for me to keep trying. Intermittent reinforcement, as they say.

This wool double knit was ordered on the interwebs and shipped at great expense from the US, only to find that I really hated the colour. Don’t ask me why. Sometime you just do. I tried to dye it, but found that it must be a wool mix, as some bits dyed and others didn’t, which meant the dyed version wasn’t much of an improvement.

So after much wrinkling of brow and using words best not repeated, I decided to make a jumper and print it with a combination of abstract paintings I found online. It looks like a burnt landscape (quite topical for bush fire ravaged Oz in the middle of an epidemic) with a moon, or sun, or whatever. I didn’t manage to get the heavenly body quite in the right place on the front (b*gger!). That’s what happens when you print it before the rest of the stuff, which unfortunately is necessary if you want it behind the burnt timbers.

Much better placement on the back.

So here are some more pics. You decide if Operation Silk Purse was a success. 🙂

For the print I combined two abstract paintings. This is the first one. Unfortunately the artist was not mentioned on Pinterest, only that it was from Thepaintart.

I turned this upside down to reassemble charred logs and cut a stencil which i printed on the back of the top. I like starting on the back when I print, because I can learn from any oopsies and avoid them on the front, plus they don’t stare me in the face every time I look in the mirror.

The colours seemed a bit dour after the first print, so I added a white circle. Then I thought the top still needed more black to dominate the brown and some extra trees would be nice, so I overprinted with a stencil cut from this painting. Again no artist, only that it is sold by CZ Art Design.

I used to ink my stencils with a foam roller, but found that a bit cut from a cheap plastic sponge works better. I use waterbased Permaset screen printing ink and work from the edges of the stencil towards the middle to avoid getting leakage outside the stencil lines. Usually I need to let it dry and do a second coat, especially if the fabric is not perfectly smooth and quite thick like this wool double knit. A hair dryer helps to speed the drying process.

The pattern I used for the top is the Tessuti Mandy, which has proven to be such a great canvas for my printing. This time I kept the long sleeves. The sewing details are on PatternReview.