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I just looked at my drafts for this blog and I have 6 unpublished posts from last month that I will not be posting.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

Obsessing Again

Thanks to my friend Miranda, I was inspired to try sewing a La Passacaglia rosette a few months back, and stitched it using the EPP (English Paper Piecing) method. It took some real time to get it done. I really liked how it came out and wanted to make another, but felt there had to be a better, faster way.

I had the *oh-so-original* idea of tracing the stitch lines from a template on the back of fabric and using a running stitch and no paper pieces – this worked really well. The only two negatives were:

  1. The running stitch doesn’t seem as strong as a whipstitch.
  2. Tracing the shape and cutting took almost as much time as EPP method.

After some research, I found out that many people use the running stitch, and if you’re really good, sewing the 1/4″ Y-seams comes naturally. For the rest of us, we need to draw in those stitch lines to know where to sew and where to stop for the corner of the Y-seam – and that is some seriously tedious work. So then, I had the idea of screen printing those shapes with cut and stitch lines on the back of solid fabrics to see if I could cut some time.

While we have a screen printing business, there is still some time and cost involved to create a print. After I design something on the computer, I send the final to a camera-house that outputs a piece of film-positive (opposite of a negative) that we can use to ‘shoot’ a screen. Once we have a piece of film-positive, we lay that onto a screen that has been coated with photo-sensitive emulsion and shine a light on it to ‘burn the screen’. The light hardens all the exposed emulsion, leaving the part under the opaque black of the film to stay soft, and after washing it out with water, there is a hole or ‘open’ part of the screen where we can push ink through and onto the fabric. read more

Since screen printing is quite a process, I wanted to make use of the time spent.
Then Fabric Depot ran a sale on Kona solids for $5/yard and I knew it was time to try this crazy plan.

I purchased 3/4 of a yard of fabric in 21 different colors – one of the biggest fabric purchases I’ve ever made… so it’s a little scary not knowing how this will all work out!

My husband printed 4 different layouts for me, using as much of the fabric as possible in printing, while leaving good cut lines. I appreciate him taking the 2 days in set up and printing time to print for me…  he likes my idea and has always been completely supportive! The part I wasn’t planning on was the cutting. I’ve been cutting fabric pieces for 2 weeks on and off. I can only cut for an hour or two at a time without hurting my wrists. I honestly did not think that the cutting would take so long…  but I’m close to having all the pieces from all 21 fabric colors cut and ready to sew!

I have a few patterns, and my idea was of a kaleidoscope – so the colors are bright and contrasting. I started with the La Passacaglia layout, but wanted to try my own layout. I think I have enough pieces to do a full sized quilt and still have some left over! I even have an idea of possibly selling these pieces in kits for smaller projects so people can try hand-stitching for a small project. I’ve been playing with a decagon layout that would make an awesome pillow cover – here are 3 versions:

There are so many possibilities!! My goal this next week is to try to do enough layouts to use up all the pieces we printed… or all in one quilt – not sure just yet how I’m going to use these, but it will come! It looks like treasure on this table right now… part of me wants to throw them all up into the air and roll around in them – but the organizer in me wouldn’t allow me to make a mess of this. 😉

Have you ever hand stitched using a running stitch? Do you have any tips to share?
So excited to have finished all the cutting for all the pieces we printed.  I think that’s why it hasn’t been done before – the cutting has to be done by hand to work with the printing… and that is extremely labor intensive.

This whole project is a learning process, but I also think it’s going to make a kick-ass quilt! I’ve been having a hard time keeping this to myself… I wanted to be done with the cutting before sharing. Or maybe I should say I’ve been totally obsessing on the cutting and so haven’t spent much time doing anything else!

I’m so excited to start sewing on this… but I need to finish some layout plans first. Time to practice a little patience and focus on the designs.
THEN I can jump in 100% and sew to my little hearts content. 😉

A New Shirt Design

I’ve been having fun playing with designs lately, and I just made another that I like enough to offer to others!

My husband hand-pulls all the prints out of our screen printing studio – I love that it’s so hands-on and low-tech. When we set up to print this shirt, I’ll try to take a video.  I put a link to our store here on my quilt blog – I figure, my world is mixed between screen printing and quilting… so I think it’s okay to mix them in cyberspace too. 😉

On the quilting front, I finished my #cannabis pillows! I think they came out great!

This is the front and back of one of the pillows – they are both close to the same, a few differences to make them unique. The cannabis print was done using discharge ink. Discharge ink is actually more of a chemical reaction than an ink – it releases the dye of the fabric leaving the base fabric as the ‘print’. This means the print is a part of the fabric and can be ironed over and is just as soft as the fabric – no layer of ink! It’s a fantastic print method for fabric.

I have a few print/quilt related ideas in process right now to see which, if any, may pan out to push further.  A work in progress!

Sew The Seeds Of Resistance

Oh my! What a predicament we have gotten ourselves into here in the US. I have to admit, I’ve been a little beside myself as to how to move forward in a positive light.

Luckily, I have great friends and family! One of my friends recently wrote this statement on FB and I loved it – so much, that I designed a shirt based on it!

This one I made specifically for my quilty friends… at least the ones who are all about human rights for all human beings. We set Feb. 22nd as our print date and we’re taking pre-orders until Feb 15 for T-shirts, Ladies T’s, and Hoodies. If you’re interested, here’s a link.

All for now, and I promise my next post will be full of quilty-goodness again. 🙂

CMYK, RBG, PMS, HEX – What does it all mean?

I’m talking color today! Since I missed a day in the 31 Day Blog Challenge yesterday, I decided to beef it up today! 😉

If you do any printing, these acronyms might look familiar. Since I work with this every day, I realized that I know a few things that some people may not – and I thought I’d share a few interesting bits.

As quilters, you may have noticed on the selvages of fabric yardage, there are colored spots. They are usually circles, but sometimes the spots are different shapes (when the designers are being fun!) and the number of dots change from fabric to fabric.

Each spot represents an ink color used in the print. Each one of those colors is mixed and printed individually. To make sure colors print correctly, the PMS or Pantone Matching System is used.  PMS colors are used primarily in fabric printing and screen printing where only one color can be used in a screen, or printing plate. There is a PMS color matching guide book printed each year, where specific colors are numbered. Since these colors are printed as hard copy, and they all match exactly – you know if you ask for PMS 802C, you’ll get exactly what’s printed under 802C – which happens to be a neon green.

802C Ink Color

Most ink manufacturers have a mixing guide based on PMS – so when we go to mix an ink, we can look up the number with the ink maker and find out the exact measurements of base ink colors to  use. For instance, the grey colors below are PMS 431 (lighter) and PMS 432 (darker). The formulas to mix these two colors are very different, even though they are close to the same color.

The formulas look like this:
PMS 431= 47.25% White / 45.96% Black / 6.53% Blue / .26% Red
PMS 432 = 58.1% Black / 25.71% MarineBlue / 9.1% Green / 7.09% White

Once the PMS colors are mixed, they can be used in a screen (stencil) or printing plate.

When printing on paper, and most other print applications, these grey inks would be created in a totally different way. A series of different colored dots would mix to create them. CMYK stands for: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K for Black. This type of printing uses very small of dots of these transparent colors that overlap and create a full ranges of ink colors. Inkjet printing mimics this process for home printing use. When printing magazines, packaging, etc., it’s called 4-color Process Printing.  This is done on large machines, and color correction is done by increasing and/or decreasing the size and saturation of dots used for each color.

CMYK is now used in the way of digital printing. There are companies like Spoonflower that use this process to print fabric, and a whole bunch of new t-shirt printing companies that use this process on shirts and apparel. This technology is getting better and better every year. It works great for custom items, especially for photographic images where hundreds of colors are actually used. However, color saturation and ability to match exact colors still leave a lot to be desired.

RGB and HEX are both terms for colors on a screen. RGB or Red, Green, and Blue are the three hues of light that create all colors on computer screens, monitors, lit signs, etc.; and HEX codes are used for identifying it’s specific colors.

When designing on a computer, you are looking at RGB color, and when you print you will be using either CMYK or PMS color. The transition between the two can be challenging the first time you try to print something.

If I were designing a T-shirt or fabric, I would use PMS colors. I would use the printed book as my guide since the monitor only shows color in RGB. The PMS colors would be specially mixed and used as solid or spot color fills.

If I were designing a magazine ad, I would use CMYK. CMYK is printed as a tiny dot matrix of these four colors that overlap to create full color prints. I may even throw in a special PMS color pop, if I have the extra money for printing.

Since RGB is the color source used on any screen, everything I design starts here.  If I were designing a website, I’d use HEX color codes to choose specific colors.


You may have designed something on your computer screen, then gone to print and your black turns out to look a little grey…? That is because you are designing in RGB for something that will print as CMYK. For anything printed, change your settings to CMYK and you will have much better success.

I’m hoping this all makes sense – once you understand how different color terms are used, it makes it easier to print with feelings of security.


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!

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
Quilting done

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:
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?

Making Use Of Time

My Spoonflower Fabric

With extra time on our hands (our slow season in t-shirt printing!), my husband and I have been making good use of our time and have been being creative!
Fabric Printing
Hand pulled screen printed fabric

Gregg has been out in the print studio working away on hand-printed fabric! It all starts with coming up with some imagery. For this run, he printed the words: “the shortest distance between two points of view is love”,  an arrow between the words “you” and “me”, and a bunch of little hearts.

Messy Lightbox
Messy Lightbox
Ink Table
Ink table

Here is a screen with a bunch of little hearts on it… and some pink ink – I’ve talked about the process of screen printing here before with a little more detail here. Printing fabric is a difficult thing and takes a lot of time due to the limited area coverage of our screens.

Pink Hearts Screen
little pink hearts screen

He ended up with some really fun fabrics… what do you think? I’m ready to use them in some quilts already – but, Gregg said he’s been thinking of trying his hand at the sewing machine, and that he would like to try to make a quilt using his own printed fabrics!! Wouldn’t that be neat? I’m trying to be as encouraging as I can 🙂

Hand printed fabric
hand pulled screen printed fabric by Gregg Weiss
Hand printed fabric
hand pulled screen printed fabric


hand pulled screen printed fabric
While Gregg has been busy in the print studio, I’ve been busy myself – I’ve started two new quilts! One is going to be another hexagon quilt – this time bigger hexies that I can sew on the machine and try my Y-seam skills! The fun part of this project is I get to use my own fabrics!!
My Spoonflower Fabric
Fabric designs by me!!
Last year I designed a line of fabrics on Spoonflower and had a bunch of samples made. I used the samples to make my 3.75″ hexies, and that left about an inch scrap of each fabric… so I stitched them all up for a block for the back of the quilt, and LOVED how they all look together!!
I have set it all aside to start another project.
The newest project on my wall is a commissioned quilt for someone who recently lost a loved one. I had planned to do an improv quilt, but as I started putting fabrics together, a star emerged and I wanted to give it a good home.
Star on design board
magenta star
So I got onto Illustrator and created a new design and then spent a day going through my fabrics for more greens. Green is the requested colorway for this quilt- I like to have a color choice and a size in mind before moving forward with a design. Then I go through my fabric stash to see what I have… and change my design accordingly. For this one, I only needed to buy one more yard of the main green fabric to make the design work, and that also will be enough for the binding.
Quilt Map
quilt = math & planning
For the lighter green background, I decided to use my scraps and cut a bunch of 3.5″ squares – the dark green, white and grey I’m keeping as solids to hold the aesthetic of the design. As soon as I got my squares lined up on my design wall, I was ready to sew!
After sewing a few squares together, I realized I needed to study the layout a bit more so I could work the solid color strips to line up correctly to give it the plaid or woven look I’m going for. Learning curve! It’s kind of like a puzzle – and I’m really enjoying the process.
On Design Wall
Squares on design wall
One of the coolest things to happen last week was having one of the Green Cross Series Quilts in the Wisconsin Journal! It is currently hanging at a show in Madison, and was featured in the entertainment section of the paper. For me, it’s such a thrill! I grew up in Minnesota, and am very familiar with the intolerance of cannabis in those states… so to have a quilt with a big ole pot leaf stitched into it featured in the paper is just mind-blowing!

Green Cross #3 in Wisconsin State Journal
Green Cross #3 in Wisconsin State Journal
Green Cross Series #3 pictured in Wisconsin State Journal
… and look at the company my quilt is with – WOW! I wish I could have seen the show myself, the quilts I’ve seen in photos are amazing. Kudos to my friend Wendy Franczak for organizing the show Quilt Making: A Modern Practice currently on display at the Gallery At Traux, Madison College until February 19th. It is pretty wonderful to be a part of such a great show so far away, and I’m very appreciative.

Play Time!


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.

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 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!

A Screen Printed Quilt FINISH!

Orbital Spotting Front


Orbital Spotting Front
Finished Front

YAY! I have finished the screen printed quilt! I’m considering calling it “Orbital Spotting” but I’m open to suggestions. *wink wink*

Super happy with this one! I made the blocks based on “Anita’s Arrowheads” technique by Anita Grossman. You cut all your pieces for one block with just a few rotary cuts. It’s a really fun technique – try it out sometime, it makes for nice clean looking blocks with pretty accurate points.

The top sat while I worked on the back. The back actually took way longer to make than the front, but I did use up all my scraps from the front! I even used an older creamy/brown calico-ish type of print to punch up the more modern fabrics. I kind of like the back better than the front… but that’s just me.

Orbital Spotting Back
Finished Back

I worked with my husband on this quilt as a collaboration. He is a screen printer, and he did the decision making as to what to print and where. He used discharge ink which releases the dye of the fabric rather than laying a layer of ink over the fabric. This means that after it’s washed, the printed area is just as soft as the rest of the fabric – and you can iron over it!

Here are some screen printing process pics:

Film positive for printing
“big ring” film. The black of the film is opaque and can block light.
Mixing Discharge Inks
Mixing discharge ink – 3 part chemical process that needs specific measurements
Screen printing screens
Screens are made by using light-sensitive emulsion, opaqued film, and a light source
screen printing onto quilt top
‘pulling ink’ over the stencil or hole in the screen and onto the quilt top

Printing over seams can get messy, and there are a few spots in the printing that are not perfect, but all in all, it came out beautifully! It sat for another long bit while I was saving up for my new Juki 2010Q. Now it’s the first quilt I’ve quilted on my new machine!

It worked so well! I used a walking foot for some parts, then switched to free-motion-quilting for all the fills. I ‘eyeballed’ all the lines – I don’t like taking time to mark up the quilt, and I don’t really care about perfection. As long as it is sewn well and will hold up in the wash, I’m good.

After it was all quilted I had a big decision to make as to what to used for binding… but I found this darker grey Peppered Cotton that I think works so well. It ties all the other colors together – so fun! Now that it’s finished, I can bring it to show and tell at PMQG tonight! Hope to see you there!

Pretty New Machine

New Juki

Oh my. I am in love…

New Juki
My new Juki <3

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently bought a new sewing machine. This is it! It’s a Juki 2010Q and I am really loving it!

It has an automatic needle threader, a thread cutter, knee lift, and needle up/down lock. So many new things to get used to. I think my Singer is getting jealous.

So this is what I’ve been working on the last few days – the quilt in the machine. It’s the screen printed quilt that I’ve been slowly working on for over a year. Now that I have a machine to do free-motion-quilting on… any quilting really -the throat is 9″ wide and tall too – it’s so easy to get a quilt through!

Other than that, I’ve been working on healing a toe that I deeply cut in the shower the other day… I dropped my razor, had my eyes closed to rinse shampoo from my hair, and accidentally stepped on the razor. It was pretty bloody – luckily my daughter was home and patched me up! It’s still pretty sore – so I’m slow moving these days.

So now my toe is all taped up and ready for more sewing – the best part is, is that I’ll have a quilt for show and tell at the next PMQG meeting! YAY! As I’m working on this quilt, I’m thinking of my friend Veronica who I saw at the PMQG All Day Sew yesterday – she was working on a quilt that had some fantastically bright colors in it. I loved it! We were talking about how certain colors can appeal to some and not at all to others. Since we have similar color likes… I think she’ll like my quilt too.

Ygritte – Game of Quilts!

Ygritte Quilt

I recently entered the BadAss Quilters Society‘s quilt challenge called “Game of Quilts”. I finished my quilt last week and sent it in, and now I’m ready to enter my online submission. You can see all the entries here at the Game of Quilts Challenge! Squee! There is even going to be a physical show in Chattanooga Tennessee in September – if you’re close by, check it out!

The challenge had two colorways to choose from in the Peppered Cottons fabric line by Pepper Cory. I chose: “Blood, Stone, Steel and Fire” and received these 4 fat quarters to use in my quilt. The challenge was to use ONLY these 4 fabrics for the quilt front.

I spent a week working on a line drawing. The hardest parts were the facial details, especially the eyes. For inspiration, I referred to a photographic illustration by Ania Mitura and to stills from the show for the facial detailsAfter the drawing was finished, I printed paper templates to use for tracing for each color. I also printed out a scaled guide for placement. I used the paper templates to carefully trace the images onto Wonder-under then started fusing them to the fabrics. The light grey and dark grey were the first two pieces to put together.

Then I put my husband to work and had him screen print the words “you know nothing, Jon Snow” in the upper right corner. The quilt can have up to 20% embellishment added, so this was my ‘bling’. We used a discharge ink process which releases the dye from the fabric – no layer of plastic-y ink! You can even iron directly with no smearing.

Next, it was onto cutting more detailed shapes. I was recently gifted a set of Kai scissors – boy did that help! Thanks Rachel 🙂 Even though I tried really hard to make big, simple areas of fill in the design, they still seemed like very detailed pieces.

Using Wonder-Under was pretty fun… didn’t really feel like quilting, it’s more like fabric collage! It was really easy and now I have a few more projects in mind to put this to use!

Once I got the main red piece down, it was only a matter of placing all the little pieces of the burgundy color in the right places…

I did the face last so I could make sure the piece placement was correct. Just a hair off and it wouldn’t look like her! I stitched a straight-stitch around all the edges.

Once I had the top done, it was onto quilting. I quilted this using matchstick straight lines at the top and more dense lines in the dark red.  I used a squiggly fill for her fur coat. I thought I was done:

But as I was looking at the finished piece, I really felt like the face was just too puffy. In the wrong light, it didn’t really look like her, so I decided to quilt her face as well.

Ygritte – Game of Quilts by: Gail Lizette Weiss

I went super dense… wasn’t my plan at first. I had wanted to quilt in nice contours that helped define the face, but after a few lines of quilting, I started questioning my decision because it was looking puffier and worse than before – so I went off and quilted the shit out of it! I like it better now.

I also made a label for the back…

What do you think? I love the end result! I’m looking forward to getting it back and hanging it in our living room. The Game Of Quilts will open online voting from September 16th – 19th, 2015.  Don’t worry… I’ll remind you 😉

Screen Printing / Quilt Mix

As some of you know, my husband and I have a small business printing custom t-shirts for local groups and businesses called Phantom Chicken. What you might not know is that we have been trying to mix this and quilting into one piece of work… and we are getting close to a finish!

I made a quilt top last summer and I had planned an elaborate print for it. Because my first plan was so daunting, it just never came to fruition… so we altered the idea a bit. Instead of one big image that would need to be broken down into many interlocking parts, we made a couple images to print randomly over the top.

Finished quilt top from Summer 2014

Since screen printing is a bit elusive to some, I thought I would share our process for printing here. In time I would love to set up a workshop so people could try this hands-on… maybe someday!

Even though screen printing has been done for thousands of years, and technology is pushing things to the digital world, you can still screen print old-school – by hand, which hasn’t changed much since it’s inception.
For this project, we used a special ink called Plasticharge – it’s a two-part system that is heat activated and instead of laying ink over the fabric, it actually releases the dye of the fabric, leaving the feel of the print as soft as the rest of the unprinted fabric.  The ink comes in 2 parts that need to be mixed about 45 minutes before printing. Mixing needs to be precise.
Mixing dishcarge inks for small project
We used an old cream cheese container to mix in since we did not need much for this project. Besides the ink, we also need screens! To get a screen made, we first start with a design from the computer and send it to a camera-house that creates “film positives” for us. It’s just like a negative, only the parts you want to see (or print) are black and the rest stays clear.
Big circle – film positive, ready to shoot a screen
Above is the film for a large ring – what we want to print is black and opaque, and the rest is clear. We put this film on a screen covered in photosensitive emulsion and shine a light on it (shoot it) for about 15 minutes. The light hardens everything except what is under the opaque part. Water is then used to wash out the soft emulsion leaving a “hole” in the screen.
2 screens ready for set up
Once the screens are made, they can be set up on press. Luckily for this project, registration was not needed since everything is one-color and printing randomly… otherwise registration can be the longest part of setting up.
screen on press
This was a fun project for Gregg, as I told him to print as desired – he had a lot of decisions to make
Mid-print decision making time
Once he figured out where to put the next print, he put the quilt top on the press and
on press
put the discharge ink on the screen and used a tool called a squeegee to “pull” the ink across the screen and onto the quilt…
pulling ink
… and voila

printed quilt top

print on quilt! After this, the print needs time under a heating unit to “set” the ink into the fabric.

heating discharge print
Now this one part of the print is complete – but Gregg had many circles and dots to use and each print was done individually, so this took two afternoons to finish.
quilt  mid-printing
This top will need to be washed before quilting. The ink leaves a bit of a residue until washed, so today I am stitching around the sides to prevent fraying in the wash. I’m hoping to have this one finished for the next PMQG meeting. Time to think about ‘how to quilt this’… YAY!

Pre-Press For Printing

I started a project quilt a few months back, one that I planned to screen print onto – I have the quilt made, the design done… and now I need to do the pre-press to get it ready for printing. I thought you might enjoy this process, so I’m sharing!

As with quilting, screen printing is very “set-up” oriented. You have to plan, measure, and cut before you can start stitching on a quilt. For screen printing, we need to make and set up a screen before we think about pulling ink. Pre-press is what this part of printing is called, and it’s what I do everyday for our t-shirt business.

Printing on a pre-made quilt top will be a first for me and my husband, who is collaborating with me for the actual printing. This is because our screen size is usually maxed out at a 10″x 12″ size, this quilt is about 54″x 65″… and with seams! So, the BIG question is: how are we going to print a large image? We decided to break it up into smaller bits and print in small sections with an 3/8″overlap. Fingers will be crossed tightly through this part to see if this will work.

So… To start I made a grid in Illustrator the size of my quilt blocks – the actual quilt blocks do vary about 1/4″ here and there, so it’s a general guideline:

Then I took a photo of my quilt and dropped it into the file and stretched it to fit my grid – which is closer to accurate:

 From here I laid out my design and put it where I want to see it. The plan is to use a white discharge ink which will release the dye of the fabric, rather than putting a layer of ink over the top of the fabric.

Eventually I will need to make film positives from this artwork, so everything I want to print needs to be black. It also makes it easier to do the prepress.

Now I have my design over my grid where I want it to be, so I no longer need the photo of the quilt top:

Now I need to divide the black artwork up into smaller printable sections, instead of 13 different photos, I made a little video:

Here’s a close-up of one of the sections:

The solid black parts will print, everything else is there to help Gregg set it up “in registration” with all the other sections.  These sections will become screens. The small lines are marks for where the seams of the quilt should end up, and I also have marked which block they should be in.

From here, I would normally send each one of these sections out to get a piece of film positive made at a pre-press company. One of these sections would be $35 as a piece of film, since I do not want to spend that on one-time prints, I’m going to make copies on transparency stock at Kinkos. Once we have the films made, we can start the next part of the process: shooting screens.

This quilt is all about process – which takes time, however… I will post as soon as we start on the screens!

Designing Something Different

An idea has sprung up in my head, so I’m working on something different.

I’ve seen other screen printers print on fabrics and quilt blocks, but I’m hoping to pull off printing on a finished quilt top. Actually, it would be my husband Gregg making the print magic happen. He’s been an independent screen printer for 19 years, and luckily for me I just talked him into this major project.

Screen printing is like stenciling, and it’s a very simple process to use a screen and pull a print onto fabric or a t-shirt. However, making the screen is where all the work comes in, and before you can make a screen – you need a design.
I thought I’d walk you through my process.

Here is the finished quilt top I made using Anita Grossman’s “Anita’s Arrowheads” technique for making blocks.  This one measures 52″ wide x 64″ tall.

Finished quilt top 

I spent a few days laying out these blocks till I was happy, then sewed them together and added a 3″ border just to make it a bit bigger. Once this part was done, I could play around with some of my images and see what would work best with this particular quilt top.

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design program, then I use Photoshop to overlay my design on the quilt top photo to check design size and placement.  The colors in this quilt made me think of mermaids, so I was stuck on making a mermaid image. It took a little while, but I made something I liked… unfortunately, I didn’t really like it on the actual quilt top:

It was too busy with all that background pattern, so I took it off and got this:

Better… but maybe not the best image for this quilt. So I set it aside for another quilt some other day… I was getting frustrated trying to think of what I wanted to print on this quilt. The room I was working in had a really cool fan in it, and so I thought maybe a fan would look cool on this quilt. I took some photos, worked them up and got another design idea going:
Obviously still needs work, and I decided that it too was too busy for this quilt top – then I tried simplifying to a basic image within my busy mermaid background and this is how that looked:
Kinda cool… but still not right!  I was showing these images to Gregg and complaining about how I suck at being a designer or artist and that even though it’s a great idea… I just can’t come up with the right imagery.  I was telling him how I really wanted something super simple that wouldn’t compete too much with the actual quilt top. As I was talking I started to draw circles on my mock-ups… and in just a few minutes my quilt top screen print design was in process – and a bit later, I had my final design:
It’s thrilling to finally be at this stage!  Next up is to divide this image into bits that are small enough to fit on our screens.  The largest image area we can use is 11″x 12″. This size works for us because our t-shirt screens are the same size – no new screens need to be purchased.
So… we are looking at dividing the image up into 20 screens and Gregg will have to work his magic to make the screens match up. That is where the real difficulty will come in. We plan to use a discharge ink actually releases the dye of the fabric, some fabrics may come out looking really white, others maybe not so much.
Circle Dot design by Gail Weiss

It’s a big challenge for Gregg too – we would much prefer a large format press so we could print the whole thing at the same time… but we have to work with what we got. You can see the 20 divisions above. We usually get film positives to use to make our screens, but just like film negatives, this can get expensive. Instead we are going to use transparency sheets.

Next up in this project is actually making the screens and getting them ready to print. Depending on the issues we come across, we may tweak the design a bit… or we might just scrap the whole idea altogether. I’m just happy I have someone willing to try something new with me! 

Screen Printing for PMQG

Who’s this guy?  He is one of my most favorite people on this planet… he’s my husband and business partner, Gregg.  We have a small screen printing business here in Portland called Phantom Chicken.  Why do I have a picture of him here?  Well, if you notice in the foreground, you will see a super fresh test print of the special PMQG design we are doing for the guild!

So I thought I’d dedicate this post to screen printing… to show exactly what it is and how it’s done.
Note:  this has a few photos and is a little long, hopefully it will be informative!

Basically it all starts with a screen.  Like a window screen, but with monofilament fibers in a finer mesh:

This blank screen is coated with a photosensitive emulsion (looks red) in a dark room… then it’s ready to “shoot”:

In order to shoot a screen, you need a piece of film positive:

Here is one for the PMQG… you can see it’s black where you want the image to print and clear where you don’t want anything to print.  (The Mallomars are another story altogether…)
We take this piece of film positive and put it on the coated screen in a darkroom and expose it to light for a few minutes.  Where light hits the screen the emulsion hardens (clear areas) and everything else washes away (black areas).
What you have left is an exposed screen ready to use:

You can see how it is just like a stencil, with “holes” in which ink can go through.  Then this screen is set up on press:

This is a 1-color image.  If there were more colors in the print, each color would need a screen and be set up in registration so they all line up when printing.
Next we mix inks:

Here are our big cans of black and white inks, and a small tin of grey ink.  We can mix any color a client would want to print.  I’m actually pretty good at matching any color 😉

Then we put the ink on the screen.  The ink is viscous and can sit for days without drying.  This type of ink needs to be heat-cured for it to set.

Gregg then “floods” the screen with ink (filling the stencil with ink) then he loads the t-shirt or, in this case, tote bag on a platen:

It needs to lie nice and flat so that the screen can lie on it evenly.

Then you pull the ink across the open areas of the screen pushing the ink onto the tote bag using a squeegee:

Once printed, the garment or tote needs to sit under the flash cure unit for a few seconds.  The heat actually melts the ink so it grabs onto the fibers of the fabric:

After that, voíla:  a printed tote bag ready for use:

Once Gregg gets rolling, he can print 100’s of items in a day ~ Mr. Machine!

Here you can see the whole press in action ~ you can even see the other screen set up on press for the t-shirts that Gregg is printing right now!

What’s really cool about this process is that it’s a very small version of how fabric is printed!  Imagine these screens being about 8 feet tall by 5 wide set up on a HUGE automated press where they can set up to 22 colors at a time.  If you look on your salveges, you’ll see different colored dots, those are all the colors (or screens) used in the printed design.

If you would like a special PMQG printed item, go here.  Our next print date is March 15th ~ if you get your order in by March 13th, it will be in the print run!

A Quilt Finish!

YAY!  I finished this quilt for my new little cousin Brady Glenn.

I used the pattern I made for the monochromatic challenge… and used more contrasting colors to show the pattern a bit better.  It took longer than usual to finish this only because I haven’t had much time to sew 🙁   
However, I’ve been seeing pictures from the Sisters Quilt Show and now I’m all inspired to start something fresh and new!   I’ve been turning different patterns in my head trying to decide what I’m going to do next.  I do know that I will be using my new Kona Solid “Bone” fabric ~ and that negative space will be my focus.  We’ll see what happens!

Here is a close up of the screen printed patch I made for the back of the quilt ~ turned out cute!

Screen Print Demo

Hey there Portland Peeps…  I want to invite you to a screen printing demo we (Phantom Chicken) are doing this Wednesday at Rontoms (600 E. Burnside) from 6:30 to 9:00pm.  It is being sponsored by AIGA Portland.

It may not have anything to do with quilting other than personalizations, but I know some of you have shown interest in how screenprinting is done… and this would be a great opportunity to learn.  Plus if you bring your own Tee you can try it out yourself.

Here is more information on the event ~ maybe I’ll see you down there!

Crow Pillows: Screen Printing

If you didn’t already know… my husband and I have a small screen printing company called Phantom Chicken.  Because our studio is in our basement, I’m a lucky girl when it comes to customized printing in my sewing projects!  My latest project is a Crow Pillow. 

Here is the screen with the crow film on it, ready to shoot.  Screen printing is a process that uses light to create a stencil.  Here’s how it works: 

  • First we create a design.  It has to be black and white to create a clean stencil.  This design was from a photo that a friend had taken. 
  • We send this design file to a camera shop and have film positive’s made.  
  • A coated screen is made by taking a clean screen and evenly spreading a photo-sensitive emulsion over it in a dark room.
  • Once we have the film and a coated screen, we put the film on the screen and shine a high-pressure sodium light on it for about 10 minutes.  This “sets” the emulsion hard on the screen while leaving whatever is opaqued under the film very soft.
  • Then the screen is rinsed with water and voíla: a hole or stencil is made in the screen.

  • At this point, the screen is ready to set up on press.
  • When the screen is on press, we pick an ink color and put it on the screen and then pull the ink through using a squeegee.  The squeegee pushes the ink through the hole in the screen and onto your fabric (or t-shirt).

One pillow set I want to sew is using some patterned fabrics that were part of a set, so I mixed some special greyish-blue ink to match the darkest blue stripe in the fabric.

I’m pretty happy with the color match…

Since I had a screen all set up, I decided to print more than just one set of birds, so I changed the ink color to Navy and printed this guy on a light blue starry fabric to be used in the pillow I’m making for the friend who took the photo.

Then I changed the ink one more time to Black and printed a few on some other scraps of fabric I have laying around… not sure how these will be used yet, but I really like the image so I’m sure I’ll be using them soon.  I’m even thinking of making a quilted bag instead of always making pillows.

So now I have some images on fabric to work with… YAY!