Saturday, September 19, 2015

To Scale: The Solar System

On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Making of an LGBTQ Rainbow 'geek.' tee

Making an LGBTQ Rainbow 'geek.' tee

The plan

What I want to do is take a colored tee and put a screened 'geek.' on it, filled with the colors of the rainbow. I want to do this using a discharge process, so I don't have to put a base layer of white ink and compromise the feel (hand) of the tee. Discharge allows me to remove the colors that are already dyed in to the tee.

First, I need a screen

Why I have to make one

We're not a big operation, with 4-color or 6-color presses and flash driers. I literally do all of my screening on the island by the kitchen sink (hopefully, I'll be moving it out to the garage, once I work out some drainage). I register everything by hand, and air dry with the help of fans.  After I've pulled a screen, and it has dried, I heat set it with a household iron.

The fabric

I've decided to experiment with some chiffon that I bought at a hobby store recently. I was out of screen print fabric and it would take a while for any new fabric to arrive.  In addition, I'm all for saving money; if the chiffon works, then I'll be saving about twelve dollars per yard and shipping.  Of course, if it doesn't, then I'm out the money I spent for this, because I won't use it if it doesn't make high quality screens.

The frame

In this case, I decided to use an old metal frame that has been laying around for a while, rather than making a permanent one from stretcher bars like I normally do.  I grabbed some carpet tape and put it on both sides of the frame (very sticky affair).  I then hand stretched the chiffon as tightly as I could and pressed it firmly to the carpet tape on both sides. It will still eventually loosen this way, so if I wanted to make it permanent, I'd add a couple of dabs of super glue in various places (not on the tape, because that would just pull up the adhesive.  I'd then cover the fabric on the tape with aluminum vent tape.

Prepping the screen

Now I get to see if my photo emulsion will work on the chiffon.  I apply a nice even layer on both sides of the screen, and put it in a dark area with a fan - to allow it to dry for five or six hours (Corpus Christi is pretty humid, it takes a while sometimes). 

Checking it after it has dried, it seems to be adhering to the chiffon quite well.

I need a design of course

Sometimes, this is the most time consuming part of the process.  In this case, it's just a matter of firing up GIMP and printing out 'geek.' in a Courier 10pt Bold font at a size that will fit landscape on a piece of letter sized transparent vellum; that would be approximately 278pt in this case.

Burning the screen

This part went pretty well.  It turned out that my standard exposure was a little long.  I had to scrub quite a bit and use a high pressure (let's not banter semantics - it wasn't really 'high pressure', but the stream was narrowed considerably in one of those jet things) nozzle to try to get the unexposed emulsion out and have a nice clear design on the screen.

On to the shirt

A discharge tee

I actually did three shirts, just to test how well the chiffon would work. The first one I did was a discharge tee.  In a discharge tee, I'm basically bleaching the color out of a tee.  That gives the impression that it bleaches all of the color out, and leaves white; however, that is almost never the case. It's generally some shade of tan or red that remains.

To make one of these, I have to do a bleach paste up.  I have some Pyrex measuring cups (more like small tumblers). In this case, I decided that I wanted a really distinct discharge, so I did a 1/1 mix of bleach and water, and then I stirred in a small amount of sodium alginate.  Sodium alginate is extracted from brown seaweed and is used for many things, but for my purposes, as a thickener; which allows me to create a paste which I can screen and won't spread all over the place. 

After the mixture has tickened, I screen it on to the shirt, and let it sit for about fifteen minutes.  I then take the shirt and dunk it into a bucket with a mixture of vinegar and water, which counteracts the bleach.  I follow this up with a rinse and spin cycle in the washing machine.

After drying, the discharge tee looks like this (a quick smartphone shot, not color corrected):

A tee with opaque blue ink

This is the standard way that I screen shirts. Many times, I have to use a white base coat so that the colors will stand out.  However; my opaque blue covers pretty well.

This is what the shirt looks like with ink (again, a quick smartphone shot, not color corrected):

And finally, the rainbow tee

For the rainbow tee I have to take a few steps.
  1. Screen a discharge tee
  2. Wash and dry it
  3. Make a rainbow of colors and screen them over the area where I had discharged the ink.
For the colors, I have these convenient tubes made up, where I just squirt approximately equal amounts of color to cover the whole area with a rainbow, and then pull the colors with a single swipe of the squeegee.  Due to the nature of this process, each rainbow is unique.

I'm not going to show a photo of the finished shirt in this post at this time (I might add it later), but here's a photo of the screen and the inks that I used:

Check out what we available atThe Wits' End, visit

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Henceforth, I shall refer to you as Pi tee

There's a new tee up in the store

A little humor, a little math, and a lot of attitude

We all know these types.  You get involved in a discussion with them and they start spouting irrational nonsense.

That's bad enough, but once they start, you can't get them to stop.  They go on and on and on....

Tell them how you really feel

Using the symbol for Pi, this shirt will let them know what's on your mind; even if you don't want to vocalize the thoughts.  It states: "Henceforth, I shall refer to you as Pi, as you are irrational, and you go on and on forever."
This tee is hand screened on demand, and is available for $15.99 - bulk rates are available if you want to pick up more than one.

You can get it here

Monday, September 7, 2015

Looking for some feedback on The Wits' End

I'm looking to improve my shops. If you have ever visited either of them, or would care to visit now, I would really appreciate some feedback. Anything you provide at all will be useful. How I might improve designs, new designs I should offer, what you think of the pricing and discounts, color scheme - anything you want. Also, any thoughts you might have on how I can get the word out and start actually making some sales would be appreciated too.

There are two different stores, if you desire, you can comment on one or both.