When it comes to transferring a design to fabric, there are two methods to consider: stenciling and silk screening. Martha prefers silk screening, which allows the fabric to bear a design of greater intricacy and detail than could be achieved with a stencil. She used this process to decorate a set of living-room window shades.
There are a number of books offering techniques for transferring images to the sheet of silk used in the technique, but it's a complicated procedure, and there are businesses that will do the work for you, such as Standard Screen Supply in New York City.
Once you've chosen an image and transferred it to paper, you can either mail it, or scan and e-mail it, to the company, and you should receive a screen within a few days. For her project, Martha chose an intertwining leaf motif, inspired by Japanese woodcuts.
Tools and Materials
Foam core with adhesive backing
Clamps or tape
Squeegee, about 2 inches larger than the size of the image
Silk Screening How-To
1. Secure the foam core to your work surface with clamps or tape. The foam should be large enough to provide a base on which to work with the fabric. Lay the fabric onto the foam core, making sure it's smooth and taught.
2. Pour pigment in a line across one end of the screen. Place the screen on top of the fabric in the spot where you want to transfer the image. Have someone hold the screen in place, and use the squeegee to pull the pigment slowly and evenly from one end to another and then back again. Make several passes to be sure the image is completely transferred.
3. Allow the pigment to dry. Because this project involved window shades, heat setting isn't required, as the shade won't be subjected to the wear and tear of an object like a tote bag. If you do use the design on another object, allow it to dry, and iron the fabric on a medium to high setting. Use an ironing cloth, or iron on the back side of the fabric.