Monthly Archives: June 2016

Screen Printing from scratch

screen made from old frame and net curtain!

For the next stage of ‘The Last Shift’ banner project, I’m going to ask the children to screen print dates from the era that Greenside Colliery was open. 

Screen printing can be very technical and complex…or it can be an improvisation challenge- we’re going for the latter!

We’ll be using screens made from old picture frames and net curtain. I trialled two different nets that were in my fabric stash (people give me all sorts of things that will get used one day!)  I’ve stretched most of the frames with the finer net but will use the coarser fabric for the 1950’s design because I think it will work better with that text (B movie horror font!) 

  I’m using Speedball screen painting fluids to make the screens.

I tested out the nets using stencils made from kitchen paper- the plasticised surface makes it stick to the screen so it’s a great temporary stencil. You can cut or tear the kitchen paper to make stencils but they’ll only last for a couple of prints. 

With the speedball process – blue screen drawing fluid is used to draw the design onto the screen.

First I traced the design onto the screen. Then I painted it out with the blue drawing fluid. 

This needs to dry completely.

Then the screen filler is spread over the entire surface of the screen and left to dry. 

Block Printing …with a 1920’s vibe

Remember these lovely fabrics, dyed by toddlers, nursery and reception children?

pegged out

sky blue pink!

This week, the fabrics were handed onto Year 1 & 2 pupils for the next stage of the Last Shift Banner project.Last week, the little ones were doing Sixties style dyeing. This time we were looking back to the 1920’s and 30’s when artists Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher were reviving the craft of block printing on fabrics.

Barron n Larcher blocks                            jane-weir-book

Using hand carved wooden blocks, found objects like kitchen utensils and natural dyes, Barron & Larcher hand printed fabrics for fashion and interiors. There’s a beautiful book of poems about the pair combined with images of their work & inspiration Walking The Block by poet Jane Weir

Inspired by  these textiles, I  I brought along 2 sets of printing blocks carved in quick cut lino. Year 1 pupils worked with blocks inspired by the school logo and class tree symbols, whilst the key stage 1 trip to  Beamish Pit Village inspired a set of blocks featuring items used by miners or found in a pit village.

For each class, I set up a DIY printing table (blanket and plastic sheet taped over a folding table!) and worked with 8 children at a time to block print on the fabrics.

Year 1 children printed the tree symbols in green on to the dyed fabric and also onto plain white fabric.

These colour prints will form an outer  border around the banner, whilst the green on white prints will make small flags for the children.

Year 2 children printed their blocks in black. These will make an inner border around the banner.

Before each session, we listened to some music from the 1920’s and 30’s and looked at pictures of fashion from the time as well as talking about Barron & Larcher’s textiles.

At the print table,we talked about the print process and I demonstrated what to do. Then the children worked in pairs; taking turns to be the printer and the assistant. The printer chose a block, inked it up and placed it on the fabric, then asked the assistant (nicely!) for the clean roller to press down the block. The assistant’s job was to remind the printer of the process and make sure the clean roller didn’t end up in the ink (very important!). All the children did a fantastic job of inking up and printing the blocks.

I had planned the activity to be inclusive and manageable in a tight time scale, each class of 30 had just over an hour to print on the fabric. Working with 4 pairs of children at a time and demonstrating the activity to each group meant that the children took control of the process, supporting each other and letting me oversee and remind of instructions where necessary. Whilst printing, the children talked about the images and their visit to Beamish. We talked about the language miners used – words like Bait meaning food (taken down the pit) and Leet (light). We also talked about the miners’ cottages and how different they seemed to our homes now.


A bit of washing up to do after!

It was lovely to see the children get so involved with the activity. One for fabulous question from Y2 – ‘why does some of the block stay blue when you ink it up?’ helped us to understand how the process works.

(I then managed to ‘lose’ all these lovely fabrics for 24 hours – PANIC!                                        I had packed everything up, taken it downstairs from the classroom in three journeys, then out to the car, drove back to mine, took everything back up two flights of stairs to the attic and at some point didn’t notice that I’d put the bag of print fabrics down separately from the box of equipment when I switched on a light – AARGH! Frantic phone calls to school, hectic searching of car and finally, cool calm partner retraces my steps and finds the bag by the attic door! Sorry everyone! Crisis over…Ö must remember to get some sleep soon!) 

Now I’ll get on with setting out the borders and preparing the next workshops for Key Stage 2 classses!

The Last Shift begins…

Safely back from the excitements of Essex and Carters Steam Fair (more to follow soon!) Monday was the first day of the ‘Last Shift Project’ to make a primary school banner – and what a busy day it was!

Working with toddlers (and their grown ups!), two nursery classes and a reception class, we ‘spiral dyed’ the fabric that will be used to make the banner. I wanted to use spiral dyeing as it produces similar results to Tie Dye -without the need for knots!

As the project is inspired by the time span of the Greenside Pit – from 1906 to 1966, the spiral dyeing linked to the Sixties. I’ll be linking print and design ideas to the other decades, with the help of older children in the school.

On arrival at school I quickly got set up in the hall and added the auxiliaries to the dye powders in the bottles. The dye  becomes ‘active’ once the chemical water and washing soda solutions are added. So for best results the dyes need to be used on the day they’re mixed. Trying to use them a day or two later results in faded colours.

Dye bottles

Ready to add the auxiliaries

Spiral dyeing is a great project to do with little ones as once the dye is mixed in sports cap bottles the children just have to choose colours and add a few drops to the fabric spirals.

I was kept busy ‘spiralling’ the pieces of white cotton throughout the day, I think there are over sixty of them!  But the hardest task was getting little hands into adult sized vinyl gloves! We managed it though, everyone wore gloves and aprons and, as far as I know (!) most of the children kept their hands, and uniforms, free of dye!

Once the children had finished adding the dye to their pieces of cloth, the spirals were carefully placed in clear plastic bags and kept in a plastic crate. The dye needs to ‘cure’ in the fabric for about 24 hours before washing off to ensure bright colours – its also a good idea to prewash the fabric to remove any industrial finish that might impede the uptake of the dye and then to soak the fabric in chemical water before adding the dye. The chemical water helps the fabric stay damp for longer, so the dyes have more time to react with the fabric fibres.

I took all of the fabrics back to my workshop and rinsed them off the following day.

As you can see its important to wear rubber gloves as quite a lot of dye comes off when the fabrics are rinsed. It’s always nerve wracking – will there be any colour left?? Will the spirals look exciting??

Well, take a look…

On the line

lots of different colours

Lovely colours

beautiful colour mixes

pegged out

sky blue pink!

All the squares will be ironed and then I’ll take them back to school next week so the children can see what they made. Then it’ll be time for designing and printing…after a few more days of sketchbook work for me!


Fabulous Funfair

I am so excited to be finally paying a visit to the fabulous Carters Steam Fair in June. Given my love of funfairs and vintage style how could i not be drawn to this! I’ll certainly have my sketchbook and camera prepared  as I experience rides like these.

Carters Chair o planeCarters galloper-picCarters Steam yachts-pic

I’ve already stitched some pieces inspired by funfairs, particularly the Hoppings here in Newcastle. I used to visit the funfairs at Scarborough and Blackpool as inspiration for my final degree show back in the day too!

I’m hoping I can put a new sketchbook full of ideas together from my trip to the wonderful Carters Steam Fair. Here’s hoping for sunny weather to capture all those beautiful colours and shining surfaces!