Screen printing with Mabel and Bird

On Easter Saturday, I re-ignited my love of screen printing at a course held in my local yarn shop by Emma Pearson, of Mabel and Bird.

I did a crochet course there a few months ago and was itching to give screen printing another try after doing it at college many years ago.

Emma makes and sells the most gorgeous hand screen printed designs. She features in the latest Selina Lake book, is showcased in Prima magazine and had just returned from a little jaunt with The Simple Things and Mollie Makes team. Expect to see her work popping up in a magazine near you soon! In the meantime, check out her Etsy shop.

The course was really good. There were four of us altogether and after coffee and Emma’s homemade lavender biscuits (made that morning - the woman is a creative powerhouse) we each drew our own designs onto A3 paper, then cut them out with craft knives to create the template we would then overlay onto squares of linen.

I did that typical thing when faced with an open-ended task (not having prepared anything in advance - doh!) and faffed about wondering what on earth to choose for my design. Eventually I went down the cloud route and added the word ‘dream’ to create something simple that would work in a number of colours (another looming choice!).

Once our templates were all cut out, Emma brought out the screens and the ink. We were using A3 sized screens but they are available in all sorts of sizes. To create the polka dot backing fabric which we all went for, Emma has an exposed screen, which is basically a screen onto which the polka dot template has been photographically exposed and so remains a permanent template on that screen.

We worked with two fabrics, a white cotton and a gorgeous cream linen. I chose a lilac paint for the white cotton and black for the cream linen. I wanted my design to be simple, so one colour and quite graphic. Black was definitely the 'off-piste’ choice on the course, but hey, that’s me. And besides, I knew a black and cream linen cloud would look fab in our bedroom!

So then it was on to the printing. Such fun! We were whooping and squealing like school girls once the first designs were printed - lord knows what the customers thought in the shop below.

Screen printing onto fabric is a multi-staged process, especially if you are printing designs that require more than one colour, as you screen off different parts of the design to control the ink flow and need your fabric to dry thoroughly in between inking steps.

But although working out which part of the template to screen off can be tricky, the process itself is super simple and really enjoyable. You use a squeegee to control the flow of the ink, apply light pressure to 'flood’ the screen with ink, then go over the screen again with strong pressure to push the ink through the screen gauze and onto the fabric below. Simple. And highly addictive.

Once the fabrics were dry, we sealed the inks by ironing each piece on the reverse, then we were ready to assemble our masterpieces. Sewing is definitely not my forte, but with a very slow stitch speed and careful instruction from Emma on how to approach corners, I was soon stitching like a pro, cutting out my clouds and turning them outside in ready for stuffing. A few hand stitches later to close up the opening and voila, my two hand screen printed cushions were complete.

And here is my finished 'black cloud’ along with its lilac twin on our bed. Yes, I realise the black one probably speaks volumes about the quality of my dreams, but I think it works well no?

And here are the other (very pretty) designs my course mates produced.

We all especially loved the cherries. Nicolette, the owner of said cherries, printed them onto linen that had first had yellow polka dots applied onto it, then she and Emma went through several rounds of screening off the template to build up the cherry design. It’s beautiful isn’t it?

You can find out more about Emma’s screen printing classes here and our wonderful local yarn shop here.