My adventures in Silksceening – Part 1

The Motivation

It’s nice to have a souvenir when I come back from vacation: a shot glass, a knick-knack, a T-shirt; a little reminder helps the trip last longer in my mind.

On my last vacation, I realized how much buying souvenirs grates on my diy sensibilites. I wanted a T-Shirt, but I didn’t want what they were selling. I wanted something simple. I wanted the design I had unconsciously completed in my head.

Something clicked. I decided that instead spending $20 on a $5 cookie-cutter T-shirt, I would make my own shirt as soon as I got home.

Attempt #1

Unfortunately, I was travelling for business the next week. Still, I would not be denied! I had found an Instructable that seemed doable. I ran out to a craft store and pick up my supplies.

Because I was traveling, however, I cut a few corners. I didn’t want to spend $8 on modge-podge, just to have to throw it out (>3oz.) So instead, I used watered down glue on a cut-up stocking. What could go wrong?!

Answer? Everything. While I thought the stocking’s stretchiness would be an asset, Tt allowed the entire pattern to move around. The watered-down glue also failed. Capillary action made it want to fill each opening, leading to a pixellated effect.

Attempt #2

When I got home from my trip, I experimented a little more. Instead of a stocking, I used an old sheer window curtain. To keep the letters nice and crisp, I tried JB Weld as a masking agent. And, just to see if it was the water that was messing me up, I used undiluted glue to mask the perimeter.

I actually had enough confidence to ink this screen. It didn’t look too bad, but this method had some clear drawbacks:

  • Laying down the JB weld was a huge pain. I needed to mask the area with tape, apply the epoxy, let it set, then remove the tape before things fully cured
  • The glue still didn’t work all that well. There was still a pixel effect, and in some areas it failed to stop the ink from getting through.

Final Attempt

Mulling things over a bit, I wondered if I could just use something like tape for my mask. It worked for shaping the JB Weld, maybe it would work for ink as well.

Some searching in this vein led me to a different Instructable, by Chris Connors. (Oddly, I know Chris.) He doesn’t use tape, but adhesive vinyl for his mask.

This vinyl mask, combined with the fabric hoop from the first Instructable, wound up being a winning combination.

To Sum Up…

Oh hell yes. I just discovered that I can make my own custom T-shirts for <2$ in consumables. The total bill at the craft store was probably 15$ but that was for enough material to make / ink a dozen different designs. And it can travel! Apart from the cutting tool, everything will fit easily into a carry-on. Maybe next time I'll make my vacation t-shirt while I'm still on vacation. Oh, one last thing: I've detailed my entire method in my own Instructable, if you’d like to try this for yourself.

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