Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bringing It Home: Apronalong Guest Post

I only made one Christmas gift this year.  I decided early on that I wasn't going to make any.  I thought I'd use pregnancy as an excuse to not stress myself out over the holiday.  But I did end up making this one gift for someone special.  Although next year....

I made another screen printed apron. This one was for my mom, who is also an art teacher. Her name was printed across the front pocket, which is why I'm showing a side view.  I used a heavy weight denim for the apron and white ink to print.   I also used my same art supply drawings to cut my stencils.   My screen prints were a lot better this time around.   I didn't do anything differently.   I used all the same supplies I did before, but I was careful about stretching the sheer fabric really, really taut.   I also didn't skimp on ink.   I squirted out more than enough for each print.  I really enjoy this home screen printing process.   It's different than just using a freezer paper stencil because you can print the same stencil over and over again (since the stencil is fused to your screen instead of your fabric).  I am working on a way to make it accessible and easy for my students.  Maybe my art club should print their own tee shirts.  How cool would that be?

Anyway, I'm bringing home my how-to on quick and dirty screen printing from my Apronalong guest post over at Did You Make That?  I was absolutely thrilled to write this post when Karen asked me to a few months ago.  It was a fun project.   And I wear my apron almost daily- I really do!!  It definitely wins the award for my most worn garment of 2012 ;)


Hey you, Apronalongers.  My name is Liza Jane and I am super excited to be guest posting here at Did You Make That?  I hope you are all having major success in making your aprons and looking like domestic goddesses.  I know I enjoyed making mine. 

My apron is not for doing domestic duties, if you can’t already tell from my photos.  I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at doing any sort of domestic duty.  My apron is for work.  My day job is an elementary school art teacher.  I teach art to around 650 five through eleven year olds every week.  Calling my job messy is an understatement.  My days are calamitous. Practically everything I own has at least one spot of paint or ink or glue or glaze on it, though I tend to still wear things if it’s just a little spot.  An apron is my saviour for keeping the big stuff off my clothes.  I wear an apron all day long.  I’ve even caught myself leaving for the day with it still on before.  So when Karen asked me if I’d like to guest post for the Apronalong, I jumped at the chance to make a new one.  And I took a little creative license in creating the fabric.

I’ll start with the boring details first.  I did use a pattern, though really I could have just traced around an old apron had I had one handy.  I toyed with the idea of making a fancy, frilly apron.  But in the end, I decided utilitarian was the way to go.  My apron covers me and has pockets.  That’s all I need.  I snagged Simplicity 9565 at a 99 cent sale and used it for the pattern pieces.  Yes, that is a “Sewing for Dummies” pattern– which is totally appropriate for me most of the time.  I just used the pieces and put the apron together the way I thought it should be put together.  I can’t comment on the instructions except that they looked super in depth.  I used a white cotton bull denim so my apron is heavy duty and hardy.

Now I bet you’re wondering where I found my totally appropriate art teacher fabric.  And if you’re not, well then… too bad.  Indulge me, please.  I screen printed it myself and I’m awfully tickled with how it came out.  It’s definitely not perfect screen printing.  In fact, a lot of my individual prints are pretty poor.  But I’ll tell you why that happened.  I’m really just excited about testing out the process.  I’m truly a printmaker at heart and I love process.  I think that’s one of the reasons I love sewing so much, too.

This is not a tutorial.  It is just an explanation of what I did.  I was inspired by a photo I spied on Pinterest this summer.  I’m always on the lookout for simple ways to do more complicated art processes so I can adapt them for teaching kids.  I like to keep things easy.  So this is super basic screenprinting.

These are the supplies I used.  My screen was actually a piece of polyester window sheer fabric.  I have about six yards of this in my stash and it has been there for about three years now.  Obviously my illusion of making curtains for my giant picture window fell through.  The fabric was not ideal.  If I did this again, I would use actual silk (as in silkscreen…).  Or I would use a sheer fabric that was smoother and had a tighter weave.  This fabric had an uneven weave and it was pretty scratchy, which made it difficult to attach my stencil.

The sheer fabric was stretched in a embroidery hoop.  My stencils were made from freezer paper.  I cut my stencils with an x-acto knife. And I printed with a screen printing ink from a local hobby store and used an old credit card as my squeegee.

I sketched some art supplies before I started.  I tried to think about the objects in terms of positive and negative space since I would be cutting each as a stencil.  Once I worked it out in my sketchbook, I traced the shape (1) on to a scrap of freezer paper sized to fit on the embroidery hoop.  I cut my stencil with an x-acto knife (2) making sure to save the pieces that needed to be fused separately.  Then I stretched my screen in the embroidery hoop (3) taking care to keep it as tight as possible– like a drum.  Next, I fused the stencil to backside of my screen (4).

Here is a picture of how I fused the freezer paper stencil (5).  I laid a scrap of denim on my crappy old dining room table.  I don’t recommend ironing on your dining room table normally, but ours has really turned in to a hobby table.  I’m going to paint it one of these days.  Next, I laid the stencil, plastic coated side face up.  Then I laid my stretched screen so the stencil would affix to the backside.  Followed by another scrap of denim as a press cloth.  And yes, my iron fit perfectly in my embroidery hoop.  That was serendipitous.  I’m not completely happy with the way the freezer paper stencil worked, but I think that was because it did not fuse seamlessly to my scratchy, rough weave fabric.  If I did this again, I would use contact paper or acetate to make a stencil like I’ve seen in other tutorials.  Or better sheer fabric.  I saw another tutorial where someone painted glue on the screen to block out an image, but I would imagine that would make it hard to get a crisp edge.

Once my stencil was fused in place I was ready to print.  I laid my screen on my apron fabric and squeezed out a blob of screen printing ink at the top of the stencil (6).   Leave enough room around your stencil so the ink doesn’t go off the edges.  I used an old credit card as a squeegee to pull the ink down and through the screen (7).  And then I repeated many, many times adding more ink as needed (8).   Like I said before, my prints are not perfect (9).  They got better as I went along.  It took some practice to gauge whether I was using the right amount of ink.  The larger stencils took a fair amount.  You don’t want to continue to push ink through the screen or it will squeeze under the edges of your stencil.  I think my images would be a lot clearer with a smoother fabric.  But this is quick and dirty screen printing.

The best part is that the screen is easy to create and dispose of.  I took the whole screen out of the embroidery hoop when I was finished with it and then created the next (10).  The fabric paint I used dried enough in between stencils that I didn’t smear previous prints when I added more images to my apron.

And that’s it!  I heat fixed my screen printing ink after letting it dry and sewed up my apron in no time.  I love it.  I love it so much, in fact, that I haven’t worn it at work yet.  I don’t want to get it messy.  Hmmmmmm……..

Thanks so much for having me, Karen!


Wishing everyone a fantastic New Year!   Hope it's full of sewing, fun and never ending bobbins!


  1. Ohhh, both your aprons are so utterly fabulous and beautiful! May i come over and join in your art classes? Seriously now.....
    Your projects always have that little extra artistic something that lifts each above the ordinary and firmly into cool territory... you really have "the touch"
    I am absolutely certain your mother will treasure her apron forever :)

  2. Totally awesome. I love how nicely the stencils have turned out

  3. This is so cute! I love it! It's really cool that you and your mom are both art teachers-- what a great family tradition! :)

  4. That is very cool! I just love your custom print. Thank you for the thorough explanation.

  5. wow liza! this is awesome! i've always wanted to do some screen printing but all the equipment seemed expensive and daunting but embroidery hoops and freezer paper, genius! thanks so much for this idea. i love your apron!

  6. This is awesome...I recently tried this myself and its lots of fun! Thanks for the share - I'm gonna link over here on my post. :)