So…Why Screen Printing?

Hi, my name is Nat, i’ve been screen printing for nearly 9 years now, 3 of which have been here at I Dress Myself LTD.
A few weeks ago, Hannah asked me what makes me so passionate about Screen Printing, and after chatting it over we decided I should write it down for our blog, So here goes! I will start at the very beginning, as that’s a very good place to start.

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Screen Printing wasn’t really Love at first print for me, Its been more of a slow growing love affair, and I may be wrong but I imagine that could be the case for many other screen printers out there too…would you agree fellow printers?

I had always wanted to be an Interior Designer, for as long as I could remember. And during An Art foundation Course, I found Joy in Graphic Design, Illustration and in particular composing repeating patterns that I envisioned to go into interior spaces.
It was on the Art Foundation course, that I first tried my hand at Screen Printing. I would hire numerous books from the College library filled with images of Screen Printed wallpapers and fabrics, and I would marvel at them, so excited that I could have a go at this process myself.
But then when it came to it, there seemed to be a lot of ‘faff’ involved (I was a lot less patient back then), and the process seemed very limiting. The majority of the process was preparation for the print run; Coating up screens, letting them dry, exposing the image onto the screen, Washing the image out, letting it dry (again), mixing the inks, setting up the screen on the printing table. Then finally…I was actually getting to pull the print! But something would go wrong. Each print would have some imperfection in it, or it hadn’t lined up properly, or the colour wasn’t quite right. So I would get frustrated, wash the ink of my screen, put it in the drying rack, and not bother picking it up again.

Although I found the process of screen printing frustrating, I decided to do a degree in Printed Textiles. The course was the best fit for allowing me to create images and illustrations that could be put into repeat and applied to fabrics and papers for interiors. At University I learned a lot about the process, and in much more detail. I Started to understand the limitations and see ways of using them as an advantage. I was also introduced to fabric dying techniques, flocking, foiling and puff inks, all which were fun to explore within my work.
Although me and Screen Printing were becoming friends at this point, I still found the process fairly challenging, with the pressure of grades, deadlines and money constraints, I was worried about wasting time, fabric and ink, an my fear of making a mistake was at an all time high.

After I graduated I took a break from Screen Printing for a short while, working in a fabric shop in my home town of Frome, thinking it would feed my need for pattern, print and textiles. But sure enough, it wasn’t enough and I wanted more. Whilst walking around the Frome Independent Market (check it out…its more than a market!http://www.thefromeindependent.org.uk) I came across I Dress Myself LTD Eco-friendly screen printers, selling some beautiful screen prints. I couldn’t believe that a screen printing company was in my local town, right under my nose!
Ive gained a vast amount of knowledge and skills here, and training to use the Eco-friendly inks was like learning to screen print all over again.

Over the years, I have come to realize that its the things that I initially disliked about Screen Printing, that are in fact what makes it such a special process. And if you stick at it, something will click into place. One particular memory stands out for me; a few months into my employment here, I was having rather a frustrating morning. I was making a screen for Pete to use on that days print job, and it was the 3rd or 4th time I was making the screen. It was a detailed design and some of the fine lines weren’t washing out of the screen properly and we tried various things to get the screen right, but still no luck. I groaned loudly as yet another screen wasn’t quite right, and Pete called across to me “ahhhh…the sweet sound of screen printing”. Pete had been printing for about 7 Years at this point and was still coming across obstacles on a regular basis. It was at this point I realized I should probably get used to the fact that things go wrong on a daily basis with printing, but that its OK, its all part of the journey.

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If you have taken the time to read this, thank you very much.

Happy Printing!

Vegan T-shirt printing

We get asked a lot about whether our inks are vegan but it’s important to look a bit further to uncover the truth. Our inks ARE vegan, btw. Permaset inks have no animal-derived ingredients and aren’t tested on animals. More importantly though, they’re eco-friendly. They don’t contain harmful ingredients like plastisol inks and discharge inks. In fact, they don’t contain harmful solvents like other water based inks do. It means that they’re kinder to the humans that use the inks (us), the humans and animals that come into contact with the inks (you) and don’t cause problems during disposal (which affects everyone). Plastisol inks, in particular, require lots of harmful solvents to clean down the screens and these all go down the drain, causing harm to aquatic life. We use good old water to wash the ink from our screens.

The hidden thing in screen printing that is often NOT vegan is the emulsion used on the screens to create the stencil itself. Many emulsions contain gelatin. We are happy to say that ours does not.

We (almost) exclusively use organic cotton T-shirts. Cotton crops can be sprayed with higher concentrations of pesticides, compared to food crops, because the end-user isn’t going to eat it. Pesticides used on cotton crops are thought to cause the deaths of 20,000 people in the third world every year. It is a serious problem for cotton workers and for any living creatures living near to the cotton fields, particularly as water sources can become contaminated. We charge comparatively less for all of our organic cotton, recycled and bamboo garments to encourage our customers to choose the eco-friendly option.

All the garment fabrics are dyed with GOTS approved chemicals, using low-water and controlled waste discharge processes, certified to OekoTex 100 Class I standard and conforming to REACH. Organic certified fabrics are dyed in our zero-discharge dyehouse, where all the water is recycled in a closed-loop system.

The garments that we choose to source are all Fairwear accredited and adhere to the following criteria: No use of child labour, no use of forced labour, safe and healthy working conditions, legal labour contracts, payment of living wage, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, no discrimination against employees and no excessive hours of work.

Some people describe veganism as trying to live your life without causing pain or suffering to fellow beings, human or animal. Opting for T-shirt printing with eco-friendly inks and organic cotton helps to do just that.