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Designing Something Different

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An idea has sprung up in my head, so I'm working on something different.

I've seen other screen printers print on fabrics and quilt blocks, but I'm hoping to pull off printing on a finished quilt top. Actually, it would be my husband Gregg making the print magic happen. He's been an independent screen printer for 19 years, and luckily for me I just talked him into this major project.

Screen printing is like stenciling, and it's a very simple process to use a screen and pull a print onto fabric or a t-shirt. However, making the screen is where all the work comes in, and before you can make a screen - you need a design.
I thought I'd walk you through my process.

Here is the finished quilt top I made using Anita Grossman's "Anita's Arrowheads" technique for making blocks.  This one measures 52" wide x 64" tall.
Finished quilt top 
I spent a few days laying out these blocks till I was happy, then sewed them together and added a 3" border just to make it a bit bigger. Once this part was done, I could play around with some of my images and see what would work best with this particular quilt top.

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design program, then I use Photoshop to overlay my design on the quilt top photo to check design size and placement.  The colors in this quilt made me think of mermaids, so I was stuck on making a mermaid image. It took a little while, but I made something I liked... unfortunately, I didn't really like it on the actual quilt top:

It was too busy with all that background pattern, so I took it off and got this:
Better... but maybe not the best image for this quilt. So I set it aside for another quilt some other day... I was getting frustrated trying to think of what I wanted to print on this quilt. The room I was working in had a really cool fan in it, and so I thought maybe a fan would look cool on this quilt. I took some photos, worked them up and got another design idea going:
Obviously still needs work, and I decided that it too was too busy for this quilt top - then I tried simplifying to a basic image within my busy mermaid background and this is how that looked:
Kinda cool... but still not right!  I was showing these images to Gregg and complaining about how I suck at being a designer or artist and that even though it's a great idea... I just can't come up with the right imagery.  I was telling him how I really wanted something super simple that wouldn't compete too much with the actual quilt top. As I was talking I started to draw circles on my mock-ups... and in just a few minutes my quilt top screen print design was in process - and a bit later, I had my final design:
It's thrilling to finally be at this stage!  Next up is to divide this image into bits that are small enough to fit on our screens.  The largest image area we can use is 11"x 12". This size works for us because our t-shirt screens are the same size - no new screens need to be purchased.

So... we are looking at dividing the image up into 20 screens and Gregg will have to work his magic to make the screens match up. That is where the real difficulty will come in. We plan to use a discharge ink actually releases the dye of the fabric, some fabrics may come out looking really white, others maybe not so much.
Circle Dot design by Gail Weiss
It's a big challenge for Gregg too - we would much prefer a large format press so we could print the whole thing at the same time... but we have to work with what we got. You can see the 20 divisions above. We usually get film positives to use to make our screens, but just like film negatives, this can get expensive. Instead we are going to use transparency sheets.

Next up in this project is actually making the screens and getting them ready to print. Depending on the issues we come across, we may tweak the design a bit... or we might just scrap the whole idea altogether. I'm just happy I have someone willing to try something new with me! 

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