Tag Archives: DIY

Simple DIY screen-printing!

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Four the past four months I’ve been co-managing a team of seven 3rd-graders as part of a program called Destination Imagination in preparation for the Jefferson Region’s D.I. regional tournament this past weekend. Destination Imagination is an awesome S.T.E.A.M.-focused program that aims to develop teamwork, creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills in kids from elementary school to high school.

Our team’s name was Creative Crew, and one of the requirements for the tournament was that the kids make a team sign with their name on it. One of the boys took charge of writing the team name on the sign and I loved the character of the letters!

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As the tournament drew nearer, I really wanted the kids to have team shirts. The regional D.I. program offered t-shirts, but we hadn’t ordered them, and since D.I. is all about being crafty and creative, I decided to take the task on myself. I was curious enough about screen-printing and have never tried it, and I was *sure* there had to be a DIY screen-printing tutorial somewhere on Pinterest. Sure enough, there are many! I settled pretty quickly on this one, probably because it said “easy” in the title. After all, I’m a procrastinator and with the tournament only a week away, easy was a prerequisite.

I had decided to use the team sign as the basis for the design. Bringing a photo of the sign into Photoshop Elements, I basically created a digital overlay and ultimately a black-and-white version of the words on the sign. I should mention that the project required an embroidery hoop, which is what holds the screen that you use to print your design. So, “Creative Crew” had to fit comfortably inside my 9.5-inch hoop. I resized the image accordingly and printed it. It looked like this:

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Sheer curtain fabric is used for the printing screen, “synthetic, not stretchy, fine gauge, thin enough to see through easily”. I found some at JoAnn Fabric and bought two yards of it. I was pumped about the project and was sure I’d be screen-printing shirts left and right after this, so my impulsive and obsessive self needed to stock up! Plus, I had a coupon. (If you’re local to me and need DIY screen-printing fabric, let me know. I’ll hook you up.)

I cut a piece of fabric plenty big enough to fit the embroidery hoop and inserted it. Then I taped the printed design to the bottom side of the hoop.

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Using a Sharpie, I traced the design onto the fabric, then painted around the letters and ellipse with Mod Podge to seal those areas closed. This required 2-3 coats of Mod Podge, and holding the hoop up the light periodically to make sure all of the “negative space” was getting covered. Once satisfied with how the screen looked, I let it dry for 24 hours.

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Next was the fun part. In terms of fabric paints, my choices at the store were limited. (Procrastinators can’t be choosy.) There were a ton of tie-dye paints and puffy paints, neither of which would have been suitable for this project. The Tulip soft matte fabric paints were my best option and worked well with my homemade screen.

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Placing the screen where I wanted it, I squeezed out a line of paint and used a plastic pastry tool to swipe the paint upward and downward over the screen. A plastic putty knife would have been better, but I used what I had handy. I would recommend doing a few trial prints on old shirts or cloths first, because I ruined the first shirt by pressing way to hard and pushing too much paint through the screen. The quality of the prints definitely got better as I went along. I made eleven shirts altogether, quickly rinsing and towel-drying the screen between each print. (I’m not sure if this was necessary; it just seemed like a good idea.)

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I applied one color at a time, pulling the paint upward and downward so the edges of the colors blended together, wiping excess paint from the plastic tool onto a paper plate. The colors blended together beautifully and I loved the results!

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For most prints I only had a few spots where the paint didn’t pass through the screen. I used a brush and some of the excess paint to fill in those places. (It probably would have helped if I had ironed out the creases in the shirts first, but again… procrastinator, here.)

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I loved how they came out and the team was thrilled with them too!

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Here is Mr. D. and me on the morning of the D.I. regional tournament, sporting our DIY screen-printed shirts! I’ll definitely be looking for opportunities to do more DIY screen prints! It was a lot of fun!

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Spring Garden, 2014

We got a late start on this year’s garden, due to the harsh winter that ran into spring. However, this spring has been mostly nice and cool, and our garden is looking pretty good so far! My goal this year was to space things appropriately (everything was super cramped and overgrown by October in years past) and to stay ahead of the weeds, which overcame the garden in previous years. I’d get to point where I just gave up, and the weeds won.

This year, I laid much more leaf mulch, thanks to the nifty leaf compost bin that my husband made out of wooden pallets last year. It was packed full of leaves that we collected in the fall.

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I’ve also been trying to get out there regularly to pull weeds and cultivate. It’s working so far, although I fell behind in a few rows… mainly the peas and the radishes/carrots. The weeds don’t seem to be bothering the peas, but I know I have to clean up the row with the carrots or they won’t grow. Does anyone know the best way to weed around carrots?

We started harvesting a couple of weeks ago. First out of the garden were lettuce, radishes, and spring onions.  I love growing radishes and spring onions because they are so easy.

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This year we had better luck with lettuce, too, partly because we started with plants. I think the last few years I sowed lettuce seeds too late, and I waited and waited for them to get big enough to pick, and then they bolted. It’s working out much better this year, from plants. We have big, full heads of lettuce. I’m sure the cooler spring is helping too.

Our most recent harvest from the garden has been peas. During our first year gardening, we had a great row of sugar snap peas that seemed to produce early, and just kept giving us peas. This year I sowed three rows of peas, one of Frosty Pea, one Sugar Bush, and one Sugar Snap. Not sure why I dedicated three rows to peas, but I did. They grew strong and big, but it seemed like the blossoms were never going to develop. I even considering pulling out the plants so that I could put something else there, because I was starting to think they wouldn’t produce for us. Then, after a recent weekend of heavy rain I walked out there and they were full of beautiful little pink and white blossoms! It’s been my favorite part of this year’s garden so far, particularly the pink pea blossoms. I went out there last night and snapped some photos before the blossoms were all gone.

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Are you keeping a garden this year? How is it doing?

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Rosemary From Rosemary

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. I love to use it in a garlic rub on roast pork or chicken, on oven-roasted potatoes, or have it baked in a bread. I also love to touch a fresh sprig of rosemary and smell its scent on my hands afterward, and I love the sight of thick, lush rosemary in flower. I’ve tried to grow a few plants of my own so I can enjoy all of these luxuries and avoid the expense of buying fresh herbs, which are pricey! I’ve had to move the plants around, though, because they haven’t always been happy in their chosen spot. In fact, I’ve lost a couple small ones that I had planted on the side of the house where the soil is hard and the sun is brutal, and they just dried up.

When we put our raised garden bed in last year, I put all of my herbs in one corner of the garden. At that time I transplanted some of the small, unhappy rosemary plants that were in our flower garden to the vegetable garden. For the most part they have gotten comfortable and seem pretty happy there.

A healthy rosemary plant surrounded by its friends,
onion chives, horseradish, and mint.

Rosemary getting established in the raised garden bed. It’s a little sparse on the bottom but is actually reaching over the wood beam. Perhaps some more active pruning would encourage more growth near the bottom.

I want to try to propagate new plants and had read in the Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook that you can grow new rosemary plants by “layering” some of the branches of an existing plant to sprout new roots. Layering will occur naturally, if the plant has room, but you can help the process along by covering the bottom part of a low-lying branch with soil. I did this a couple of months ago with the branch in the bottom right of the photo above. Apparently once it roots you can separate it from the original plant and, viola! Two plants!

Another simple option is to take a decent-sized sprig of rosemary and place it in a jar with water and set it on a window sill. That’s what I did with a few pieces of the fresh-cut rosemary that a friend gave me a few months ago. (I didn’t realize I could do this until I saw a piece of rosemary rooting in a glass of water at a friend’s house and then I read about it again at The Soil Toil blog.) One of the sprigs didn’t root, but the other one went crazy! Here’s a photo of the mass of roots that this one little rosemary twig sprouted.

Over the last year we’ve added topsoil and compost to our house-side flower garden in an attempt to improve the heavy clay soil there. As a result, the plants there are doing much better than they did a year or two ago. So, I decided to try the rosemary there once again, since I’m gradually converting this garden to an herb garden. Hopefully this little guy will get a chance to grow before the catmint plants on either side close in. If they start to choke it out, I’ll move the rosemary again. I plan to eventually pot one so I can keep it in the house for quick access while cooking, so I’ll either take a layered piece from the sprawling garden plant or bring this one back inside. For now, though, it seems to be enjoying its new home.

Book: Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook

Last year I really wanted to start a garden, but I was very inexperienced and even a little intimidated. Despite my beginner status, I dove right in and got through the season with a lot of trial-and-error and a lot of inefficiency. I wanted to do better this year, yet there seemed to be so many things to learn and I didn’t know where to start.

This past winter I was browsing the book section at a local Plow & Hearth and found the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by father and daughter team, Ron and Jennifer Kujawski. It’s exactly the type of gardening book I had been looking for: one that would break a year’s worth of gardening down into small, manageable tasks, telling me what to do and when to do it.

I’m pretty much a beginner gardener and I think this book is great for beginners. The Kujawskis break down the Handbook into weeks before or after the last frost date. So, all you do is find your last frost date and then fill in the dates at the top of the first page in each section of the book. For example, one section says “9 weeks before average date of last frost”. Since my average date of last frost is around April 16, I grab a calendar and count backward 9 weeks from April 16 and put that date (February 13) at the top of the page in the handbook. In that short section, the Kujawskis tell me which seeds to start around February 13 (eggplant, peppers, and some herbs), how to design a crop rotation plan (with a table showing a typical crop rotation plan), and how to be prepared for a dry season (by making a DIY rain barrel out of a garbage can, as well as few other recommendations for prepping the garden). They even provide a list of drought-tolerant vegetables.

If you want a garden but don’t know where to start, or you have some some experience but you want a little guidance on how to improve your gardening practices, consider the Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook! Aside from being a great gardening guide for what-to-do-when, the Handbook has a lot of excellent bits of garden-related information, tips, and tutorials. It’s been my go-to reference so far this year. The authors even encourage you to scribble notes in the margin, take the book with you to the garden, and get dirty (you and the book)! As they put it, “If after the first growing season, this book has no soil smudges or pencil marks, you probably didn’t have enough fun.”

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By the way, if you don’t k now your average date of last frost, there are several online sources for finding it. You could do what I did and try the frost date listing at Victory Seeds, or go straight to the National Climatic Data Center for the most comprehensive (and also most confusing) data. (Keep in mind that your last frost date isn’t an absolute; it’s just an average, so you could still experience a frost after your last frost date.)