Screen Printing

Little Bee Eater Outline

I think we all agree that having a pre-printed design outline on our fabric is just soooo much nicer than a wobbly pencil line but how many of you actually realise what is involved in getting that outline there?

Well I can tell you that from my point of view it is not a simple task.  Although it does not require copious trips up and down the stairs it does involve many trips to the screen printers, on my hands and knees trying to explain the validity of my request to have the job done yesterday!  You see my screen printer is one of those arty farty surfer dude types who would rather be down at the beach on his surf board than doing the job, and although charming with is long hair and surfer shorts has a very relaxed and laid back attitude.  You know why they call Cape Town the “Mother City” don’t you?  Well its because everyone is always expecting – “expecting it to be ready tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”!!  So you get the jist?

To get the outline printed onto fabric, I have to first trace it onto tracing paper, with a fine micron black pen and steady hand (?) – scan it into my computer and save it in a compatible file for the printer.  I then email it to him about 5 times before he finally acknowledges that he has received it and he then makes a film positive which is similar to a transparency with the design printed on.

This film is then coated with a photosensitive emulsion.  When the screen is dry it is placed on a vacuum light table and exposed to a special light.  This screen is now blocked  and taped ready to be used for printing – to put it simply the outline is burned into the fabric. 

This is where Lorna comes in – Lorna is the lady who actually processes the printing.  She is an absolute star and the (real) boss of the company.  I always go armed with a box of biscuits or something to charm her up and get my work pushed ahead of all the others that are “expecting” their jobs done tomorrow:)

I should probably mention that each piece of fabric has to be the exact same size otherwise the print would end up all over the place – so I import the fabric from the UK ready cut into exact sizes ready for print.  Initially it took a few weeks to get the exact grey colour line that we needed for the outline – at first it was too black (hard to cover with stitching) and then it was too pale and after many tries we finally got it just right.

And there you have it from design outline to screen printed fabric!

Best wishes Trish

21 thoughts on “Screen Printing”

  1. I sure appreciate and admire all your hard work !
    Thanks for the information on all the process involved.
    How you ever considered making your designs for the kits on iron-on paper transfers? Just a thought ;-).

    1. Hi Trish,
      A fellow embroiderer here. Embroidery transfers are a brilliant idea. There is a firm in England/Ireland who used to manufacterembrodiery iron on transfers. They are a traditional family firm who are so helpful and very curteous. I have cut and pasted a link to their site which I hope will help. They also supply the best quality linen for embroidery – in fact, it is real irish Linen and just about the best in the world.
      You could also contact the Royal School of Needlework in England who are helpful and are only too willing to give advice.
      I would definitely buy sets of your embroidery iron transfers. Just about to try the Green Bee Eater and I am so nervous about transferring the design onto 55 count irish fine linen. A transfer would have taken all the anxiety away !
      Please do let me know how you get on with the iron on transfer idea
      Angela (surrey)

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for directing me to Spoonflower – it is a great service but I think the cost of sending the fabric over to be printed and the postage costs to get it back to South Africa may be a bit costly.
      Thanks for your suggestion it is appreciated. best wishes Trish

  2. I didn`t realize the process of printed kits was so elaborated. Thanks for enlighting us. I am really looking forward to get your new book.
    Bye, France from Canada

  3. Thanks, Trish! I do like having the design pre-printed on fabric when I’m working from kits….. because I’m so darned lazy! Your run-down on the behind-the-scenes work to get those designs screen printed gives me a whole new appreciate for pre-printed designs!

  4. Not to mention that something that is mostly unprinted means that the blocked bits of the screen have to be really thoroughly blocked, with no speckles…

    Quite a challenge, what with one thing and another.

  5. Hi Trish,
    No wonder Pietermaritzburg folk settle so comfortably in Cape Town – they have the same outlook regarding time and urgency! Seriously, thank you for this insight into screen printing. It makes me all the more appreciative of ready to go kits!
    Looking forward to your books…….

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.