Heat wave!


As you may know, during the past week the Pacific Northwest has reached and maintained a level technically known in the industry as "OMG too damn hot." We're back into the 90's now, which is still WAY hotter than we are used to over here, but before a few days ago we had almost a week of 105+ degree weather. The entire Portland metro area becomes very cranky and reactionary when we get this kind of heat, or else melts like a an ice cream cone flavored with delicate little flowers. And yes, I know we're wimps. It's just the way we were made. I have a number of knitting projects to show off, but not only have I not wanted to touch anything like wool in this kind of weather; I haven't even wanted to look at photographs of the stuff.

So we at Family Trunk Project turned our crafty energies into something more heat-appropriate. T-shirts!


I'd never tried silk-screening before, but I've always been drawn its happy balance of do-it-yourself-ness and capacity for making lots of prints. (Yeah, I plan to get into letterpress one of these days, too. I'm just that kind of dork.) So David and I decided to try our first silk-screening project: making Family Trunk Project t-shirts, featuring the pattern tree screened onto the front of a vareity of shirts, in a variety of colors..


Our experience with silk-screening was that, if you don't already have a garage full of random stuff that will come in handy, the VAST majority of time on your first project will get eaten up in schlepping around town collecting different materials. Walking back home after visiting the Kinko's near our house to make the transparency used in creating our screen, I observed that apparently making t-shirts consisted largely of visiting different stores and buying...stuff. This was especially obvious to us since we are currently carless, so we either bussed or biked to the Screen & Sign shop, the art store, the supermarket, the photo store, the thrift shop, a different art store, the copy shop, and the hardware store. I think a lot of people would start out with more equipment than we had, though. We even had to buy a garden hose!


That said, our experience with silk-screening is ALSO that it's super-fun once you have all the necessary stuff. The process of collecting all the gear took probably two weeks; the process of actually making the screen and printing the shirts took two days. There are lots of great step-by-step tutorials online (we used this one for a general guide, and this video for a more detailed explanation of how to use the contraption known as the "scoop coater"). And the huge plus to our position now, is that we HAVE all the stuff already, so next time we can skip straight to the fun part! If we wanted to print the same design on different shirts, it would be a one-stop process. Even if we wanted to make a different design (David came up with the awesome idea of the chart for the Ethel sweater printed on shirts), we are already all prepared to re-transform our bathroom into a darkroom, and expose another screen.


I think these turned out quite cute, especially for our first attempt. The red one with the blue is my favorite, even though the ink is a little more unevenly distributed than on most of the other shirts. As you can see, we did some of the shirts with blue ink and others with brown, and a few of them were darker than ideal for water-based ink (you need a fancy industrial heat-setter in order to use oil-based paint successfully, which is apparently the ideal ink type for printing light colors on dark). But for the most part, I really like them!


The shirts we used were all pre-owned from Goodwill, but still in excellent condition (I think a few of them were actually unworn). Since we just wanted to stage a little DIY experiment, rather than commissioning a run of three thousand or more, this was the best way to get high-quality shirts in a wide array of sizes and colors. Plus, I like that when I buy used I don't have to concern myself about where the clothes were manufactured, as I would with new shirts. There are lots of combinations I didn't model: I especially love a couple of larger-sized green shirts, printed with brown ink. They look so fresh and clean. The red and lavender two were my favorites that happen to be in my size, but the benefit of thrifting for shirts is that each one is totally unique. Which I think is kind of cool.


(Here I am looking Super Cool, in the hopes that I can influence the weather.)

Anyway, these were a really fun experiment, and much more suitable to the ultra-hot weather than handling merino or alpaca. We've now got fifteen or so shirts (minus whichever I steal for my own private use - I think the red-and-blue one will have to be in this category), that we'll be selling at the trunk shows in Boston and elsewhere, so if you're interested you should stop on by! They're kind of a celebration of summer. Take them to a playground near you.



  • Cool! And just think, now that you have all that stuff, one day it'll be the preferred activity for when your grandchildren visit. Or am I jumping too far ahead? (Titters.)
    I wish the heat would head down to the Bay Area! We've had fog and cold all July. Bleah.

  • Too cool, guys. Let me know when they will be available for purchase. Good luck on your trunk show.

  • Fun shirts!

    And the trick with 105+ weather is to have air conditioning. You are not all delicate flowers. You don't have air conditioning. And even with - that's hot!

  • Very nicely done, and the tees are very cute on you!

  • Your Family Trunk project is wonderful. I admire all the work you have done to bring your family history to life and share it with others. Your patterns are full of style and grace.

  • I like that shirt. The design is great, so simple yet, very attractive. - Charles Brennan

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