Our Retail (Ad)Venture

It’s up… our online store is up!!
It’s a store that combines my love of fabric and quilting with Gregg’s (my husband/partner)  screen printing ability.  It’s what I’ve been working on this winter to keep me busy. Pretty exiting!

Our approach to business is a low-tech, slow-grow, and hands-on. We don’t plan on automating or investing in a digital printer. We want to keep the craft of hand-pulled screen printing alive and well . This is what makes us very different from most ‘printers’ you find online who either use their own digital printer or they use a third-party printing platform like Society6, Printful, Cafepress, or Spoonflower.
Digital printing technologies have made big advancements over the last few years. It is this technology that makes it difficult to compete as a manual printer, and is part of the reason why we are trying this retail adventure!

Here are a few things we offer:

Fabric Panels.
Our screen printing studio is not large enough to print large bolts of fabric like they do for quilting cottons (see video here), but we can print fabric on a small scale! We are hand printing fabric panels to be used whole as a centerpiece for a pillow or quilt block. However you can cut them up and use them however you wish! Since the inks used require washing, we are serging the edges, washing and pressing the fabric panels. Their finished size is approx. 11.5″ x 13″


NEPP Hand Sewing Kits.
This is the most exciting thing for us to try! Being a hand stitcher myself, I have often used the EPP method (English Paper Piecing) for sewing shapes together. This is where you use die-cut paper templates to baste fabric around to make your ‘pieces’, then you stitch all the pieces together. This takes a bit of time, so I tried tracing my sew lines on the back of the fabric and using a running stitch with y-seams, and that was much quicker, but less accurate. Then I thought that we could screen print the cut and sew lines on the back of fabric very accurately… and I had to try it! Now that I’ve been using my NEPP (Not English Paper Pieced) pieces, I’m flying through my current hand sewing project!
So –
we are creating NEPP Hand Sewing Kits! I’m designing the color layouts and we are currently using Kona Solids for fabric. The kits will have all the pre-cut fabric pieces with accurate stitch lines and Y-seam start/stop points for smaller, less daunting projects. Each kit will have tracing templates to give the project right angles so you can easily add it into any other patchwork. Kona colors are listed for matching purposes.

Quilt Patterns
I put my Hexie patterns up and plan to try to write at least two other patterns for machine-stitched quilts by the end of the year… it’s good to set goals, right…?

Handmade
We made a category called Handmade for things that don’t fit anywhere else. I have a few quilts and other quilted things, and we have old printers-proof posters, and cards we hand-printed years ago and when we did hand printed flat stock. It’s time to let go.

Pre-Orders
We’ve done a few of these over the years… it’s a great way to offer a featured design on many different apparel items without having to keep inventory! These are limited edition prints in every way. There is a set ORDER BY date – usually allowing for 2-3 weeks time for people to place their orders, and there is a SHIP BY date stating when we will have the shirts printed and shipped by. We plan to do one Pre-Order a month.

Featured Designer
This month for our opening Pre-Order Sale, we are working with Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio as our Featured Designer!  The design is: Respect The Power Tool.
We are so excited to be able to work with other creative types in this way. It helps our sales and the designers get a percentage of every purchase using their design.

 

You’ll find our store in the menu above, and at PhantomChicken.com/store.html

 

 

Helloooo

Okay folks, I’m back!

I just looked at my drafts for this blog and I have 6 unpublished posts from last month that I will not be posting. Each one of them is about dental pain, and anxiety, and the frustration of not having decent healthcare… and we each have our own version of that stress – so no need to hear it from me! This is the reason for my lack of presence lately.

Luckily, I did have an infected tooth extracted last week and I’m feeling like a different person altogether. Now I can focus on some really exciting new things in my world!
What am I talking about…?
Well, as you may, or may not know… my husband and I have a screen printing business and we’ve been printing t-shirts locally over 20 years here in Portland. T-shirts are great, but I’ve been wanting to get into fabric printing for a while!

Since our studio is set up for T-shirt printing, we are not capable of printing full yardage sizes of fabric, so we’ve been trying what we are calling “fabric panels” using our largest possible print size of 12″ x 13″.  We are also using discharge and waterbased inks so that the fabric can be ironed directly and after washing.  The ink is set into the fabric, rather than ON the fabric. These inks leave a residue on the fabric that should be washed prior to use.  We’ve decided to serge the edges so we can wash and press each piece before selling. That way, they will be ready to use.  I think they would be great as a quilt center or sewn into a tote bag… but since the edges are serged, they can be hung on the wall or sewn to a jacket back, or used as a pillow front. Of course they can also be cut up and used as quilting pieces too.

Resist Fabric Panels:

Honeybee Fabric Panels:

Love Is Love Fabric Panels:

Persist Fabric Panels:

Another new thing we are creating are Hand-Sewing Kits. NEPP (Not English Paper Pieced) is what I’m calling them. I’ve been working on my own hand-sewing projects for years and I’ve usually used the EPP (English Paper Pieced) method. I had a big epiphany on my last project that I could print the stitch lines onto the back of fabric and use a running stitch to piece them together.  This saves a whole lot of time compared to EPP. When we first started thinking about this, we didn’t know how long the cutting would take (much longer than the printing!) but we think that the best thing about a kit is that you don’t have to do much extra other than sew. So… we will be doing all the cutting here so these kits will come ready to stitch together! If you’ve ever made an EPP project yourself, you would understand the value of this in time conservation! I also wanted to make something that wasn’t too daunting so that a first-time hand sewist can try a very small project before jumping into something larger.

Lucy NEPP Pattern Sample:

Myrtle NEPP Pattern Layout – each kit has it’s own colors.

Lucy NEPP Pattern Layout

Hand stitching using a running stitch and knotting at each corner.

Opal NEPP Layout

Putting individual kits together:

Our online store will be opening 2/12/18 with these items plus T-shirts and Hoodies, of course. We are starting to connect with other designers for quilt-related designs that we can feature on our site. This is fantastic because we love to work with other artists – it will also keeps things on our site fun and fresh!

Our main business is printing commercially for other groups and businesses, this is a brand new venture since it’s retail oriented. I’m very excited to start this new adventure…and I’m ready to be successful at it! You will notice a new tab in the menu for our online store ChickenScratch – next February, it will be open and ready to use!

Hand-Pulled Screen Printed Fabric Panels

That’s right! Gregg and I are putting some new designs together to create some limited edition hand-printed fabric… and I couldn’t be more excited!

This is something we’ve discussed ever since I started quilting, and I think I’m ready to give it a try. The part that has always held me back was the amount of labor and materials involved in screen printing which makes it a bit costly to produce. Our print studio is quite small… only one press and when we are busy printing t-shirts, it’s hard to schedule time on the press for fabric printing.
BUT..
we have come up with an idea that will alleviate the problem: setting up a separate 1-color press. So we decided to give it a trial run – and so for our first run, Gregg laid out some stars and ants randomly on the screen as a serigraph print.

What do all these words mean: serigraph, screen print, hand-pulled…?
The way we print at Phantom Chicken is old-school. We get film positives (or cut rubylith film) and use it to create a screen. If we trash the screen after printing, we cannot reproduce the same image in the future, so those prints would be very limited, or serigraph prints. The screen is used as a stencil and with a squeegee, ink is pushed through the holes in the screen and onto the t-shirt or fabric. When you pull the squeegee by hand, it’s called: hand-pulled. Most screen print shops used automated presses or digital print machines now to print on shirts, but we want to keep this craft alive.

How does it work exactly? I’ll show you! *get ready for a lot of photos*

  1. A screen is carefully coated with photosensitive emulsion in a darkroom and after it dries we can use it. Here you see a screen with a paper marker cut at 12″ x 14″ to mark image area.darkRoomEmulsion2. Gregg carefully laid out some small pieces of film with stars and ants to create his print design. Film positives are used – the opposite of negatives used in photography.3. A strong light is turned on, and the screen gets ‘burned’. This means that all the exposed emulsion hardens, while the emulsion under the opaque black films stays soft.4. After burning the screen, water is used to wash out the soft emulsion.washingScreen5. Then the screen needs to dry completely. dryingScreen6. When it’s dry, small pinholes and edges are ‘blocked-out’ so they don’t print.7. Now the screen is ready to use. FYI: screen printing set up is what takes the most time in printing, and why there is a set-up fee for print orders. Here is a close-up of the image:8. Now we can put the screen on the press! (Yes, more set up!)screenSetUp9. Since we are printing on fabric that people may want to iron, we want to use waterbase or discharge inks for printing. That way the end user can freely wash and iron the fabric. These inks need special mixing which requires exact measurements.mixingInk10. Ink is mixed and screen is on press, so now we can actually print! Time to put some ink on the screen.inkOnScreen11. We charge the screen with ink by pushing the ink over the image area with the squeegee. Here is the screen full of ink, ready to print:inkInScreen12. The screen is put directly onto the fabric or shirt and the squeegee is used to push the ink through the holes and onto the fabric.printOnShirtprint1You can see the detail Gregg can hold – after 22 years of printing, his skills shine! I can print too, but I have a much harder time keeping the edges of the print image clean. The tool he uses the most while printing is a tweezers:He has to keep the print board flat – threads can really affect a print. And fabric is full of threads!!The end result is totally worth the work! These “Ants in the Stars” printed panels will be available for purchase soon! Gregg and I are working on a new business plan – we will have an online store opening in February 2018 where we will offer more serigraph print panels like this (12″ x 14″), and possibly: custom printed quilt labels.

We are still figuring cost and shipping and all that goes with retail sales, but I’m so excited – I wanted to share! Plus I’m going to fish for image ideas – what would you like to see on fabric that you can’t find anywhere else?

We finally set up an IG account for Phantom Chicken, so if you’d like to follow our printing adventures follow us: PhantomChickenStudio

Ants in the Stars Hand Printed Fabric