Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Gunnel Hag with a Screen Printing Tutorial

Gunnel Hag is simply stated, every art quilter's dream.   What she can do to the fabric is astounding. You simply have to check out her blog and website.  Read on to find a fun and easy tutorial.

Super Easy Screen Printing on Fabric with Gunnel Hag using Colour Vie.

I have been creating patterns, pictures and textures for as long as I can remember. Fabric, leather, paper, metal - nothing was safe. When I was studying English at Stockholm University, Sweden, I was introduced to master textile printer Richard Kunzl, who taught me fabric screen printing in his wonderful studio in Stockholm. That was it! 
I had found my calling. 

After art college in London, England, I emigrated to Canada. Not being able to find work as a textile designer, I started tie dyeing T-shirts, sold them to boutiques in Toronto and realized that I had in fact started my own business: Trees Textile Designers and Printers. 

I produced my line of hand printed clothing and accessories (sold across Canada and in the U.S.) as well as custom screen printed fabrics. For 12 years I was a professor in the Textile Studio at Sheridan College in Oakville. Now I teach workshops in my studio in Toronto as well as at quilt guilds, conferences and art schools. I also produce printed fabrics for theatre, ballet, film and television. Most of the fabrics are used in costumes. For several years I worked on the fabulous musical “The Lion King”, which is still running in England and other countries - and my Colour Vie pigments are still being used in these productions. 
 Screen printed silk crepe de chine by Gunnel Hag)

The Colour Vie Pigment System was born after I became quite allergic to some of the chemicals used in the pigments and base that were available in the early 80s. Colour Vie on the other hand is water based and environmentally friendly, completely washable and light fast. Its three parts consist of a liquid pure fabric Pigment that you mix with a colourless Base and Resfix (a fixative). The Base is what actually binds the pigment colour to the fabric. The colours are completely inter-mixable, so you can create an endless palette of hues and shades for your fabrics. Needless to say, this is what I use almost exclusively in my work. 

 “Heartbreak Hotel” screen printed quilt published in Quilting Arts 2009)

When it comes to creating pattern and texture on fabric, the possibilities are literally endless!
On my blog I am currently having a lot of fun creating prints from ordinary objects - a bit of an obsession of mine. To challenge myself I decided to print with objects starting with the letter A and working my way through the alphabet towards Z! I am currently working on the letter “I”. To see what patterns I have been printed so far please check out my blog.

“C" is for Credit Card” by Gunnel Hag

There are so many techniques for imparting colour onto cloth that it was hard to decide what tutorial to teach. I always get questions about screen printing on fabric, so that is what I decided to share with you:

The easy do-it-yourself-from-scratch version of Screen Printing on Fabric 

A Bit of History:
The first silk-screen was made in France in the early 19th century. It evolved from the paper stencils used in Japan as early as the 8th century A.D., where strands of human hair were often used to keep the stencil together.

The silk-screen is a frame of wood (or plastic or metal) with a mesh stretched tightly over it. The mesh used to be silk, hence the name silk screen printing. A stencil is adhered to the screen, and the design is then printed on the fabric by pushing the dye across the screen and through the open areas of the stencil with a squeegee.

The Screen:
  • The important thing is that the screen needs to lie flat on your table.
  • You can make a silk screen from a wooden stretcher frame (available in art supply                     stores), an old picture frame or even a wooden or plastic embroidery hoop.
- Instead of buying mesh from a screen print supplier, you can just use a curtain sheer.
  • Use a staple gun to stretch the mesh/sheer tightly over the frame. There should be no “bubbles” or loose bits of sheer.
  • Trim off the excess mesh/sheer with scissors.
 Student’s screen made from stretcher bars

Taping the screen:
  • The screen will need to be taped all around to cover the staples and to create a “dye well”, a taped area measuring about 1.5” wide inside the wooden frame. (See Picture). Duct tape works very well - packing tape is also good, but a bit trickier to handle. The dye well will stop the pigment/paint/dye from bleeding into your print area. 

 Student’s screen taped with duct tape

The Squeegee:
- You can buy a squeegee in an art supply store OR just use a plastic drywall spreader or a credit card for smaller prints (a lot cheaper).

The Print Table:
For printing on fabric you will need a slightly padded surface.
  • Simply put a couple of layers of polar fleece, thin foam rubber or a blanket on your table and cover it with some old smooth fabric. 
-You can also make yourself a pallet from a piece of plywood or insulation foam board and cover it in the same way as above. Very useful if you print more or less the same size fabric all the time. You can pin your fabric straight onto the pallet, print it and then put away the pallet until next time you use it.

Print pallet made from insulation foam, foam rubber and fabric

The Design:
1. Draw a design on paper. Newsprint works really well. 
    It can be your own simple design. The paper stencil  technique is perfect for designs that are not too detailed. Start simple. Think of a silhouette. As you become more comfortable with cutting out the paper, you will get more adventurous and use more detail in your designs.
2. Use an X-acto knife or scissors to cut out your design from the paper. The open
    areas in your design is where the pigment will print onto the fabric.
  1. Tape your design to the bottom (back) of your screen using masking tape.
 Student holding her cut paper stencil ready to tape onto the back of the screen

 Student taping her paper stencil onto the back of her screen

1. Pin or tape your ironed fabric to the pallet/table surface.
2. Place the screen on top of the fabric that you want  to print.
3. Put your pigment along one inside side of the screen. (Make sure you use a water based pigment/ink, so you can wash screen and squeegee under your tap after use).
4. Place your squeegee at about 80 degrees angle behind the pigment and push it  
 across the screen with a firm even pressure while holding the screen securely with     
 one hand (or get a friend to help). Squeegee the pigment back and forth a     
 couple of times (more times if the fabric you are printing on is thick and absorbent).

 Student printing with a drywall smoother used as a squeegee

  1. Lift up the screen and repeat the print as many times as you want. The paper stencil will automatically stick to the screen after you’ve printed once. A word of warning here: Make sure you don’t leave the screen for too long before you screen print your second print. If the pigment dries into the screen, the mesh gets blocked, making further prints impossible with that screen. 

 Excellent student fabric

Washing the screen:
- Wash the screen and squeegee. (Like Colour Vie, many pigments are water based, so your screen, squeegee and all your utensils can be washed with water). When the screen has dried, you are ready to create another design and print more fabric!

Heat setting the fabric:
- Look at the instructions for your pigment, paint or dye.  Most pigments need to be heat set to become completely wash fast. This can be done by ironing the fabric with an iron set on a cotton setting after the fabric has dried.

There are thousands of different and fun ways of creating your own personal patterns and textures on fabric. Check my web site for more information, upcoming workshops (in screen printing as well as other exciting techniques) and loads of pictures. The Customer Gallery has some awesome printed quilts and fabrics!

 “Drunkard’s Path” screen printed - not quilted by Gunnel Hag

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us and how you create it!


  1. fabulous - I think I have everything I need to give this a try!

  2. Wonderful tutorial! I use the Colour Vie Pigment System to dye all my skies in landscapes. It does a lovely job, especially on white poly satin. Gives a nice sheen to the sky fabric. Thanks!

  3. I have had the pleasure of taking two day classes with Gunnel. She is such a wealth of information.

    This tutorial is great!

    I can see that I will have to make a couple of screens and cut some designs. I have shied away from doing screen printing thinking is would be a lot of work. Oh more thing to try!


  4. This Tutorial is most reliable and most important for us... Thanks for sharing...!!!
    Digital T-Shirt Printing