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I just looked at my drafts for this blog and I have 6 unpublished posts from last month that I will not be posting.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

A Valentine’s Quilt

Detail of Green Gardens Quilt

I have two quilt finishes to share… the first is a quilt that Gregg made! He’s not very big into social media so I’m sharing for him:

Valentine Quilt
“The Shortest Distance” Quilt made by Gregg Weiss

He’s had some time on his hands and decided to get creative. He screen printed on fabric first – thought maybe we could sell hand-printed fabric, but the time spent in printing made it too cost prohibitive. So, I though I’d make a quilt out of his fabric – but he stopped me and said he wanted to try to make a quilt!

Ironing
So we set out on a teaching / learning journey together and it’s been a blast going over so many different techniques. I have the book: “Quilt Talk” by Sam Hunter and he found it and taught himself how to do foundation paper piecing! Then I showed him some improv piecing ideas and let him go to town.
Improv Piecing
piecing/planning
Quilting done
mid-quilting

He even learned quilting and binding. Teaching is rewarding, but can be a little tough… luckily, he’s a quick learner!

Gregg with binding
ready for binding

The saying on the fabric is: “The shortest distance between two points of view is love”. It was the perfect Valentines project to do together!

While he was busy with this project, I finished a quilt too! It’s a commissioned quilt, and I’m a little sad to know it’s not staying with me… but it’s going to a good home.
Green Gardens Quilt
“Green Gardens” by Gail Weiss
Detail of Green Gardens Quilt
I’m most happy with my 1/4″ seam allowance accuracy on this quilt, and the straight line quilting. I just learned about using rulers – and boy does that make a difference in keeping my lines a little more uniform looking. The pattern came out well too.
Another quilt pattern I made is this one:
Quilt Map
Quilt Pattern – Gail Weiss

…and I’ve got the top done already:

Oceans of Blue Top
Today I’m piecing a back for this quilt. I made a few mistakes on the front, so I had a few extra blocks and fabric – so I decided to use it all up and make a back.  This is where that’s at so far:
backStart
Piecing a Quilt Back
I found a cobalt floral print that goes well with the colors, Im really liking this side too – so I might consider this one a two-sided quilt! I should finish today, and hopefully get the quilt all basted up and ready for quilting. I’m hoping to have this one done for show and tell at our next PMQG meeting.
On that note, I’m off! Time to zen out on my favorite hobby. What are you working on today?

Play Time!

print-on-print

This time of year, our t-shirt printing business is slow – so my husband has started a quilt-related print project! It’s always so fun to see someone get some inspiration and run with it.

print-on-print
roasted chickens and skulls along with some triangles

He used an old-school overhead projector to blow images up an traced them to frosted acetate, and, for this print he used computer generated triangles on clear acetate. He used those to create a screen, then started printing on some fabric I pulled from my stash.

shooting the screen
some images on clear, some on frosted acetate
Image in Screen
stencil in screen

I think this is going to be really fun fabric to cut up and use in quilting! He’s using water-based ink for the black ink, and he plans to do some white discharge printing over it, just to see what happens… we’ll also need to do a wash and iron test. If it all turns out successful, I think this may be a really good creative outlet for him… and an amazing source of unique fabrics I can use for quilting!

heat-curing
heat is needed to ‘set’ the ink

 

screen print on solid fabric
print on solid light grey fabric

He is out in the studio printing more right now… so there will be more to show soon! I’ll share progress reports after printing, washing, and ironing too – it’s so fun to have play time with your best friend!

Spoonflower Package!

My little Spoonflower package

Look what just came in the mail!
They are the fabric swatch samples I ordered from Spoonflower – so exciting! I had a bunch of swatches made so I could see how the ink looks on the fabric. I know they use a digital printing method which affects color saturation, so I was not surprised by how the images turned out. However, I wish I could change the online image to more closely match what actually printed.

The colors are a little more subdued than my actual computer designs, and all the reds are especially over-saturated… so I have a little re-designing to do to make those look good through the Spoonflower process.

It was also interesting that I had the ability to scale my images on the Spoonflower site, which I did to make some of my patterns smaller – but they printed at actual size.  Something to keep in mind!

These were done as “collections”, and each collection was printed on it’s own piece of fabric…

I think I might just quilt this sample piece up as is! Hee hee!

You can see all my designs here – and some are even available for purchase (others need editing) although I’m using this more as a portfolio than something to market.

There is nothing quite like seeing/touching/feeling your own work after making it on a computer!

Playing With Design

You may have noticed a new look on my blog… yep, I finally got around to some much needed updates!

I’ve also been working on some fabric designs and have a few uploaded at Spoonflower that you can see here. I’m using one design for the background of this blog! If you have a moment, go over and take a look. I’m always open for feedback, especially constructive criticism. In time, once I get these designs tweaked to my liking, they’ll be made available for purchase.

Jellyfish update: I just finished doing all the hand-quilting!! I have quite a few more French Knots to make, then some binding and it will be complete!  My goal is to show it at the March PMQG meeting… will you be there?

Now For Something Different…

I had an idea a while back that I would start working on fabric designs, however… it remained only an idea for the last year or so. A big thanks (and hug) to my friend Rachel for inspiring me to take action, and start making patterns already! Sometimes I really do need the ‘kick in the butt’ to get started.

Since I work on graphics for our T-shirt printing business, I have most of the needed skills. The big thing I’m working on is creating seamless repeats, and I still need a bit of practice there for sure! So the plan is to try to come up with a new pattern everyday till New Years, then I’ll go through it all and see what really speaks to me and then work up final designs. Sometimes you need to step away for a bit to truly see what you’re working on.

Another source of inspiration is my friend Bill, who is also working on a line of patterned fabrics through Spoonflower. I have been reading his blog and enjoying the ‘uniquely Bill’ designs he is coming up with. It’s such a fun new twist on things to be able to print your own custom fabric!… and who knows, maybe I’ll come up with something to send to Spoonflower as well.

Here’s to hoping the inspiration lasts – sometimes I get really blocked creatively, which makes me a little nervous – but it’s only a self-imposed goal, so it’s all good.

Here is the design I made for today: Barbed Roses, because… you know… I live in Portland!