Making your own clothing can be easy, fun and inexpensive.
I own Kiss or Kill Clothing, an independent clothing line that I started in High School as an alternative to buying the ridiculously priced shirts of other labels. I figured that I could create designs just as good looking, if not better, than all those other labels. What I didn't realize was how expensive it could be, even to make my own clothing.
To screen print something, you need a lot of equipment and supplies and the cost is definitely not low to start. Having someone else print something was out of the question (screen and printing costs were running about $40 for ONE shirt!). I knew there had to be an easier (and cheaper!) way to make my own shirts the way I wanted.
I started brainstorming and came up with a simple and inexpensive way to get the ball rolling on making your own shirts and designs.
First, you need the supplies. Most of these I was able to get at a regular craft store like Michaels. Here is a list of what you will need to start:
1. An embroidery hoop (about $0.50 - $1.20 at a craft store)
2. A pair of sheer (a light nude or white works best) nylon stockings (about $4 at Target -- you may even be able to find them at a local dollar store)
3. A non-water soluble glue (this was a trial an error thing. In the long run you want water non soluble because you want the area that you glue to remain after washing) -- For this I use Mod Podge glue (about $4-$5 at a craft store like Michaels)
4. Screen Printing Paint -- I like to use Speedball brand screen printing paint (about $7-$8 for a jar at an art supply store)
5. A few really cheap or just plain old and grungy paint brushes
6. T-shirts or any other item you want to print on (most craft stores have an assortment of clothing -- you can get T-shirts for $2-$5 each depending on where you go)
7. Scrap pieces of cardboard
Once you have everything you need, you can let the fun begin. This is not something that will only take a few minutes mind you, this is a good project to dedicate a free day to. From start to finish, it will take a few hours.
Now let's get the ball rolling!
1. Cut open your nylon stockings. I usually cut off the waist part, and then cut that in half so you just have a big piece of nylon.
2. Take your embroidery hoop. Separate the two pieces. Take you nylon piece and drape it over the inner ring of the embroidery hoop. Place the outer ring over the inner ring, holding the nylon securely. Once it is secure, start going around the edges and pulling the nylon taught. One you finish, you can trim the edges of the nylon off.
3. Find the image/design that you want to print. It can either be something you hand drew or printed from the computer. Once you have that, take the screen that you made and put it nylon side down over the image. Take a pencil or a fine point pen and trace out the design. Shade in the area you want the paint to show (it makes it much easier than trying to remember later on).
4. This is the tedious part! Once you have your design traced, flip your screen over so the nylon side is up (the design will be backwards when you look at it). Get together your paint brush and your glue. Go along the outline of your design with the glue. Once that is done, fill in all the spaces that you DON'T want paint to go with the glue. Make sure you brush it on well. Once you have finished filling in the screen, set it aside to dry. Depending on how much glue you used, the drying process will take a few hours. You can speed it up a bit by using a blow dryer with a "cold" setting on low heat.
5. Once the screen is dry and you double checked that all the spaces are filled in, you are ready to print! Get your clothing item and piece of cardboard. For T-shirts, place the scrap piece of cardboard between the front and back of the shirt to prevent the paint bleeding through. Place the screen nylon side down on the clothing item where you want it to be. I would suggest using something to weight the screen down so it doesn't move while you are painting. Once you are all set, get your paint and another small scrap piece of cardboard. Drop of dollop of paint into the middle of the screen and use your small piece of cardboard as the squeegee. Move the paint all over the screen, making sure you cover the area thoroughly. Once all the paint has been applied, slowly remove the screen from the clothing item and what you will be left with is your print.
6. After you make your print, immediately rinse out the screen. Any paint that is left will dry and be a nightmare to get out (this is the reason you need to use non water soluble glue, you don't want your image screen to be ruined!). After you get all the paint out, let the screen dry. You can continue to re-use that same screen over and over!
7. Let the paint on the clothing item dry. Once it is completely dry, follow the instructions on the paint container to set the image. Usually this means ironing it with a sheet of paper over it for about 3-5 minutes. Once the paint is set, you are good and ready to go!
Screen printing your own clothes is a great way to save money and get exactly what you want. It also makes a great gift idea when you want to make something custom for someone.