Vintage Lover ScreenPrinted Tees

For the last few years I have been piling up blank vintage tees waiting for the right project for a limited edition vintage print series. In the process of digging around for blanks I’ve found and flipped a lot of cool printed t-shirts and accumulated a bunch of somewhat cool but not that exciting “extras.” Not blank enough for a limited edition screen print project, not cool enough on their own to list or auction.

My brother and I have both done screen-printing projects in the past for various bands, collectives and kids troops we’ve been involved in having been taught early by our mother who was always in charge of t-shirts for family reunions and even screen printed our family all “moving van” themed t-shirts to get us excited for our family’s big move to NC in 1989.

I was talking to my brother about ideas for some potential screen printing project for these coveted blanks and I mentioned having this hoard of printed vintage tees that I was needing to do something with and wondering if it be worth it to sew them inside out for reuse or do something crafty with them. I told him I wanted to do something I could sell to my vintage lovers and he said “why not just print over the existing design?” He explained the concept of blocking out the initial design with ink and having the new design come through in the negative space and I was immediately sold. Upgrading a just okay vintage t-shirt to cool in endlessly per-mutating collaboration with past designs? I’m in. I wasn’t quite sure how to get the shape out of the two words “Vintage Lover” maybe like in heart I suggested…He said give me a day I’ll send you some ideas.

When I first saw Bob’s mock ups on the computer screen I said “cool looks like the supreme logo” Bob, a fine arts major and professional graphic designer, informed me this is a Barbara Kruger tribute and she was doing this long before any hype streetwear brand. I could immediately see the potential in the printing process for endless different looks, appreciated both the simplicity and the abstraction of the spacing and doubled down on this project needing to happen immediately.

Having done just about every method of silk screen construction there is between us, we have both come to the conclusion, for a big project where crisp lines are a necessity, having a professional service burn the screen is well worth the cost. So, we were swiftly online with the design file ready to send the mock-ups to a burning service.

To get a screen professionally printed you send the design as a negative so anywhere you want ink to flow you leave blank and anywhere you don’t you black out. After quadruple checking to make sure we had the negative space and the positive space correctly specified on the design, which was flipping negative space and positive space to cover up an old print, we put in an order to have screen professionally burned the next day. (Then 3 days later we panicked thinking it was the wrong negative/positive assignment on the design, then we realized, no, it was right how we ordered it. And it was. Whew.)

Here’s our production process on this project from the screen’s arrival to the first successful prints.

The screen has arrived! Design credit goes to my brother Bob, check out his professional design portfolio here. We got a large screen professional burned from Anthem Printing and used all the extra space on the burn for bonus mini designs. (The professional screen is worth it but its even more worth it if you can get a few extras in there!) We will mask over these littler designs for this printing project but have the screen ready to go for smaller crafts and cards in the future. The smaller vintage lover block outs were designed to cover up pocket prints although after realizing high contrast text is not ideal they may be repurposed for something else.
Double checking dimensions from design to print of our professional quality silk screen. We sized this design to be able to be used on all sizes of t-shirts and prints while maintaining the concept of using the vintage “found ink” as the lettering color and blocking out the bulk of the original print with the black outer ink.
Masking the parts were not using today and the little hole with special blue block out screenprinting tape.
Oops a small hole was cut in the silk when opening the box. You can see the ink bleeding through in the “O” No problem, its on the blocked out area so its a quick fix with the screen masking tape.
Test printing blocked print on computer paper until we get a clean print and figure out the exact alignment.
First official print! I love the simplicity of this design and how it the old ink comes through to color the letters in endlessly new combos. After running a few through we realized the large washed out prints are the most ideal. White ink or thick cracking ink of any color does not take the layered ink well, so we are sticking to these soft prints without too much contrast going forward.
My favorite print of our test batch!
Washed and ready for the next batch!
Check out a live screenprinting demo at The Cute Hunter’s booth at Trunkshow’s Fall Block Market

Saturday November 6th (rain date is Sunday, Nov. 7th) from 10am-5pm for our Fall Block Market!

We’ll be flooding the parking lots with vintage and handmade goodness from Trunkshow and our vendors, Radyak and Steve Minor Estate Sales!

There will also be live music and food trucks, plus most of the vendors INSIDE Trunkshow will be running booth sales! And don’t forget to make a trip inside Aardvark Screen Printing to check out their amazing antique sign collections, see what they’re all about, and grab some Raleigh themed Merch!

More info on the Block Market: