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There's Got to Be an Easier Way!!

In June, I was excited to be able to take a workshop with Claire Benn in Calgary. She covered a lot of ground over the four days!! I decided to work further with one of those techniques and that is what this article is about.

Screen made with matte medium and paint.

Claire taught us to make large screens - basically as large as you want, whether 4 feet by 6 feet or any other dimension using a process of paper lamination. This method give you a negative image, leaving the positive portion uncoloured, to be coloured in later or left to expose the fabric underneath. This involved adding matte medium to any curtain sheer fabric as it lays on newspaper. It is then soaked and the newspaper scrubbed off the back. These screens are flexible and can be used many many times. Well, in my typical fashion, I decided to see if there was an easier way to make these screens. I found the scrubbing of the newsprint off the back of the screen to be difficult and very time consuming, especially as I have an allergy to newspaper ink, so the paper I used was a bit thicker and did not break down as easily. So, I thought, why can you not do this on parchment paper and avoid all the scrubbing. I am happy to say that this worked, so now I can create screens without that messy step of soaking and scrubbing.

Here is how to do this:

Thermofax screen for printing on polyester fabric.

Decide on the size of your screen and cut parchment paper to a slightly smaller size. Lay down the parchment paper and then lay the curtain fabric on top. Pin down the fabric so it does not move. I use T-pins to do this and pin it onto a padded table.

The next step is to add the images, text or design to the screen. I use a matte medium with a bit of acrylic paint mixed in so you can see the created design. (This was a great hint from Claire!) You can use a needlepoint bottle to write text, or create line drawings, or you can use stencils and thermofax screens to add images. (Important note: When using a thermofax screen be sure to soak and wash immediately to get the matte medium out of the screen or you will ruin the screen!)

One of the great things about creating these large screens is that you can eliminate a lot of steps that would be necessary to print the same thing onto the fabric. For example, you can add one image to your fabric, then let the matte medium dry overnight. Create masks for these images by printing one onto freezer paper and place these masks over the images you have printed. Now you can lay another thermofax screen overtop and apply matte medium, or use the needlepoint bottle to draw designs. This process can be used to create many layered images or combinations of images and text.

Scraping thickened dye over screen.

Let your finished screen dry 24 hours at least. When dry, Heat set the medium with an iron using more parchment paper over the fabric. Once heat set, simply pull the screen from the parchment paper and voila - a screen ready to use with fabric paint or thickened dyes or other mediums.

You can use a scraper, or a sponge to apply colour. Be sure to pin the screen down when you use it to prevent it moving as you are applying your colour.

Another wonderful thing about these screens, is that you can screen portions of it with either scraper or sponge, rather than using the entire screen. Creating layers and overlaps are simple. They can be used for other silk screen techniques as well.

Drying Screen after use.

When finished, simply wash out the screen and let it hang to dry. Storage is easy as they can be folded or rolled up to store.

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