printing / giveaway


When I was back in Lancashire, I did some screen printing with my sister and Mr Steve — the brain and hands behind a number of great community arts projects in Rochdale. Neither Helen or I had tried screen printing techniques before, and the usual insane excitement that accompanies any craft activity we undertake was rather tempered by the feeling of being total novices. But no-one is allowed to feel inept in Mr Steve’s workshop, and, encouraged by him, we kept things simple, and tried out a couple of ideas.

One of Helen’s friends is about to get married in Liverpool, where they were both at University. Her idea was to translate the Liverpool city skyline, (as draughted by her architect friend Alistair) into screen-printed bags to accompany the hen night celebrations. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see Helen tracing her design onto acetate. The images below illustrate the printing fun that then unfolded. After exposing the screen, she tested out the design on paper, before picking out several iconic buildings in blocks of hand-mixed colour, which were then transferred to fabric. In the third picture you can see a hint of blue Mersey, and the red sandstone of the Anglican cathedral. And that’s Mr Steve there in the last pic.


Helen also transferred her design on to some cotton we cut out to shape, clothkits stylee, to make into skirts for each of us. These will be amazing . . . when we get round to sewing them up! (I will do so soon and where’s yours, Hels?!)

It was fascinating seeing the skyline come to life as each colour was successively printed. In comparison to Helen’s cityscape, my monotone design was rather plain and straightforward. I found an image of a bee, picked out some lines from a seventeenth-century book of emblems, scaled them up and traced them onto acetate in black ink. Mr Steve suggested we gave the screen a shorter exposure to allow for the fine lines of the bees wings and, um, leg hair. Then I took some calico bags and got to work with the ink and squeegees. Look! I made bees!


Having only printed with blocks before, I was amazed at how precisely this process transfers fine lines first to screen and then to finished fabric. Here is my final design. I love it!


I enjoyed the whole process, and particularly the actual printing. Heady with ink fumes and the thrill of making a thing, I whooshed my squeegee about, shouting some nonsense about Franklin, Blake and the printing press above the noise of the vacuum table. I got carried away, made quite a few bags, and thus have one to give away here. Would you like a me-designed, hand-printed bee-bag into which I shall place some other bee-themed goodies? If so, just leave a comment on this post before the end of the month (June 30th). I shall then select the winner at random, and post this worker bee off to its new home.

255 thoughts on “printing / giveaway

  1. Long time lurker, first time commenter – just couldn’t resist the lure of the prize!

    I’ve only ever used a silk screen as a stencil device – drawing the design on butchers paper and carefully cutting with a scalpel and inserting the cut paper between the screen and fabric and then squeegeeing away. I have been wanting to give the “proper” method a bash for a good while now – yours really looks marvellous. I’m inspired!

  2. I love it! Put my name on the list. I have been wanting to do silk screen printing for years but never quite found a place to learn. Sarah

  3. Screen printing sounds like a fascinating thing to try! The bee bag is just gorgeous – I would very much like one too!

    (As an aside, there are honeybee hives on the allotments where we have our plot – they’ve enjoyed our raspberries this year! There have been a lot of carder bees around too).

  4. That must indeed be a fascinating technique to learn, the whole insulation part seems quite a magical thing to me…

    And yes, I would be glad to have my name in the hat too !

  5. Oh I would! I adore excellent printed calico bags – can never get enough (Showpony on etsy has particularly great ones – with Victorian handbags screened on). Photo-silk-screening is an amazing process, isn’t it? Though etching takes it up just one more notch, I think. The goopy brown ground, the acid bath, soaking the paper in water, turning the giant old press wheel… maybe next time you want to learn something new?

  6. “..shouting some nonsense about Franklin, Blake and the printing press..”

    Rawr! You’re such a 17th C girl :) The bags look gorgeous, of course.

    Now you have me imagining all sorts of things involving Caxton, Myllar, wood prints and black lettering (I must confess I’m more of a 15th C girl). Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

      1. :) printmaking makes me happy. It has such a fabulous history and the fumes… not even oil paints beat printing ink.

        I will fit between you two and take the hat of the 16th Century. Information, ideas and beauty to the people. Printing and bees go wonderfully together- and the print looks fantastic. I would love to be added to the list

  7. oooh, beautiful, and it goes so well with my project of the last couple of years – refusing plastic bags which people try to give you every five minutes! they already know me at my local supermarket as “the one who refuses the bags” (and brings her own canvas totes instead :)

    please include me in the draw, thank you :)

  8. Looks like you had a good time. I have only tried screen printing once when I was in high school but wasn’t very good at it although it was good fun. I love your bee bag the detail is amazing.

  9. Oh yes I do! I’ve actually taken up beekeeping this season, and have found that I want all of my thing embellished with bee motifs. So, you see I really do want your bee stuff.

  10. For novices you guys certainly came up with two of the coolest finished works! The skirts will be fantastic and the bee bag is really clever, I love it!
    I did a little printing in school, but nothing so well thought out. Cheers!

  11. Am I allowed to leave more than one comment? :)

    I always wished I had done more screenprinting in college. But, I won’t turn down the opportunity to have someone (fingers crossed) do it for me. Very lovely.

  12. Me too! I’ve only tried screenprinting with stencils, dye and bleach at home… what an opportunity to try it in a proper workshop…, I love the cityscape, what a great idea, and your bag is just fabulous

  13. what fun to read all about your fun!! so very interesting, and your bag is just lovely!! my husband and i had a hive several years ago on our farm in kentucky so bees are special to me, indeed.

  14. Would it “bee” possible for an Australian (in Australia) to win it?

    It did sound like you had a lot of fun; I would love to try out something new like that.

  15. I’m so impressed (and a tiny bit envious, too). I love the idea of screen printing, but hate the process. Your post makes me want to try again.

  16. Oh, fabulous! The bee looks awesome and I really love the quote!

    I haven’t done screenprinting for ages but it is certainly on my list!

  17. Love the idea of spending a day screen printing, and really love the hen night idea. The bee bag? Love that too. Your blog is delightful as are your knits…

  18. What a lovely bag. I would very much like to be entered into the draw. I have watch the bees on my allotment with great interest (and thanks).

  19. Both designs look amazing! I just bought Lotta Jansdotter’s book on printing (Lotta Prints) for some inspiration – printing from anything with potatos to silkscreen. I’m a little intimidated with silkscreening; I’ve seen my father do it many times but all that equipment is on the other side of the world now and so I’m on my own. Now I feel a bit less intimidated and will hopefully get to try it on my own soon.

  20. Hello, I too am de-lurking to say that the bag is amazing and it would be great have my name added to the draw. Bees are one of my favourite things and I love the image and text on the bag.

  21. I am using your blog as my inspiration to work on my own blog. I love all your interesting topics and I also love bees.

  22. i would love a screen-printed bag – please add me to the ever-growing list! i’m on a bit of a bee binge at the moment – i can’t get ehough bee-y things :)

  23. This looks like a lot of fun! I’ve always wanted to try this, too, but on a smaller end (like a Gocco), though I know it’s not the same thing. Both of your ideas translated really well!

  24. That looks really professional! I’d love to have a go, not managed to find a course nearby yet and the books I’ve looked at are far too intimidating to have a go at home, did buy a kids printing set though – added to list of things to try when I’ve got a few spare hours….its a long list! Definitely inspired by your post though, as always thank you!

  25. Wonderful! I would love to learn screen printing and I can imagine a bit of success at a new technique would be reason enough to make extra. It’s so nice you are willing to offer one up for giveaway. Thanks!

  26. Oh dear – another thing to add to the to-do list – that looked like a super day. I’m most impressed with your bag (and I thought you looked like a little pixie in the shop window!! –oops – that’s meant as a compliment!!!)

  27. Beautiful bee bag! I’m moving soon to a house with a garden, I’m planning to plant lots of bee-friendly lavender and rosemary so I can spend my summer watching bees!

    The screen printing looks like lots of fun! I love the liverpool skyline mixed with the red and blue, very stylish.

  28. That’s beautiful! I tried screen-printing once in high school, but in a crowded and under-funded room full of fifteen-year olds, I’m pretty sure not a whole lot got done. Oh well!

  29. I love your blog and amazing sense of style, so, of course would jump at a chance to win one of your wonderful bags. I screen printed years ago (in high school!) and would love to try it again with my children. I saw a kit for sale in a trendy chain store, but didn’t buy it. Thank you for the inspiration!

  30. you have such lovely adventures!

    and that bag is fantastic–I’m also surprised at how well it transferred the lines of the hair. very professional!

  31. Bees! Next year I’ll be building Warre hives to tend. Please put me in the running. If I don’t win, would you be willing to sell or trade? I so enjoy the work you do. Inspiring always.

  32. I love screen printing, but haven’t done it for years. You’re making me feel like
    I have no more excuses to get back at it. Lovely prints and the skirts will be amazing!

  33. I have always wanted to try screen printing! My fingers itch to do it just by looking at your lovely results!

  34. Who wouldn’t love such a sweet bag? LOL, sign me in for a spot in the drawing ;)

    I’d love to try out screen printing at some point…

  35. It’s gorgeous! I love screen printing. It allows you to preserve tiniest details. I would be very happy to be included in the giveaway!

  36. I love old fashioned imagery/emblems. Good work picking out one that isn’t too “creepy” though!

    And how apt the quote is to the give away. Look how many wish to thrive off your fun crafty time! Me included!!!

  37. I love learning something new! I recently took a natural dye workshop and am really wanting to set up shop at home and go dye crazy!

  38. Please, yes! I keep 9 hives of miraculous honey bees and they keep me thriving…and very busy. Your design is delightful.

  39. That bag looks so amazing!! I would love to win one! And I love bees too, so it is ever better! When I was younger I stole my mom’s bee pin and carefully hide it away in my jewelry box until two years ago I realized the bright yellow would look great against the plain grey wool of my winter coat. Bees just seem so full of life and magic to me (they mean summer is here!!).

    And it is interesting that you should be writing about silk screening because just yesterday I was talking to my mom about how I would love to learn how to do it but everything I read online is sooooo confusing and the few classes I have seen for it are always when I am working. Your design is so crisp and clean, and it looks very professional! :)

  40. Love the bee and love the screen-printing and the Liverpool skyline (I had a great one of the Newcastle bridges that unfortunatey got lost – you have inspired me to recreate it now!).
    Please enter me into the hat!


  41. Have you ever received so many comments before? I would love such a beautiful bag, especially for the poignant message and the lovely detail.

  42. Oh, I’m envious. That looks like it would be so much fun. I would have totally gotten carried away too! Great job with the bag and thanks for being willing to do a giveaway.

  43. Oh, wouldn’t I love to have my name put in that hat… and come out of it ! Another craft to learn when my kids are old enough to share the fun with me. Cheers, your blog is as lovely as your bag and your designs.

  44. What a brilliant post! I’ve never tried screen printing, but it looks like fun, and your finished articles are wicked. I’m a Scouser, so I love your sister’s design; and such a clever idea to use a design of the place which brought her friend and herself together for the hen night outfits. Can’t wait to see the photos of that! Your bag is just lovely, I’d ‘bee’ honoured to carry my bits and bobs in it!

  45. The detail is indeed inspiring – I can understand why you were thrilled with the results! Leaves the gocco print for dead. And such a great reminder for a celebration.

  46. I would LOVE a bee themed bag! I’ve been using these sort of bags a lot recently, and really love taking them everywhere with me. Plus, they’re really handy for holding WIPs (of which I have many!).

  47. Lovely design!
    I have seen many more bees this year where I live (St. Paul, Minnesota, USA) than last year, and it makes me very happy.
    Thanks for the post!

  48. That looks so fantastic, Kate! And I love your sister Helen’s design too.

    Inspired by your woodblock printing efforts awhile ago, I bought myself some indian wood blocks and some blue block ink to try out.

  49. Oh, that’s gorgeous! Since my father used to run a commercial screenprinting business and my fiance used to have a job training honeybees, I feel duty bound to enter!

  50. Those designs are so much fun. I’ve only recently discovered freezer-paper stencils (I’m so far behind the curve) but would love to try screen printing at some point. If you wouldn’t mind shipping to the US, I would love to be in the drawing for the bee bag! Our native bumblebees are out and about in the garden, and they make me so happy.

  51. very nice!

    i haven’t done any screen printing so far, but have been rather tantalized by what one might do with it.

    the current idea involves darth vadar kitchen linens….we’ll see if i ever manage to make that happen!

  52. I love reading your blog, it has helped to reinspire my love of knitting, literature, beautiful landscape, vintage knitting books which I inherited from my Mother….the list goes on. So, many thanks for your generosity in sharing a part of your day with us all. Happy gardening in your new allotment. May your vegetables grow swiftly and sure!

  53. I love your bee bag, your design is fabulous. I’m writing to say hurrah for such a great bag and exciting new experience. Please don’t include my name in the drawing, we have too risky a shipping history! :-) PS my project bag is full of lace!

  54. The bee bag is wonderful, I am especially fond of bees, the bumble bees used to keep me company while I gardened and I miss them as they haven’t been around in a couple of years now. I enjoyed reading about your experience on printing. Thank you. I hope you got the chance to enter my give away, it ends tommorrow June 15.

  55. Thanks for sharing the story and pictures, and even giving away one of these lovely bags to a lucky person.

  56. Wow, that’s lovely. I remember playing with screen printing as a kid and being amazed at the possibilities but for some reason I never took it further. Maybe I’ll take another look.

  57. I would love to enter my name in the draw. My father keeps bees but life has not been so good for honey bees in the UK during the last couple of years. Your bee looks pretty healthy though!

  58. at this stage you can draw the hat from the mountain of names it is buried under, but i’d love to be in it, too!

  59. what a lovely thing to do – please include me in your draw and i will cross my fingers! I started the Hexham Knitting Group in cafe Nero in Hexham on Thursday afternoons, (about 4 years ago) – you would be very welcome any time!

  60. How amazing! I’d be honoured to have a bag of bee-y goodness. And how inspiring that complete novices can achieve such amazing results.

  61. Just to add to whats already been said. I’m so impressed with your first go at screenprinting. The bee is beautiful and very topical considering all the talk about the decline of bees at the moment. Very sad :( Hope you carry on with the printing, I look forward to seeing more.

  62. What a great bag! I love screenprinting… I wish I had easier access to the required paraphernalia here. You’ve inspired me to look for somewhere local to have another go at this!

  63. Even without the chance of winning, I just had to say how stunning the bag is!
    I have bee’n making the garden more bee friendly this year, got to do what I can for them!

  64. Absolutely beautiful! I volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum here in Toronto and in my gallery we have a live beehive so kids can see how bees go about their daily business. I have been fascinated with the hive and with honey bees ever since. Our bees are a specific breed of bees raised by an English monk and they are known for their docile nature and sweet honey.
    I would love a chance to win a bee tote.

  65. I very much want to take a screen printing class. and you have further inspired me. I’ve experimented a little with block printing, but I really have no idea what I’m doing so a class would really help me get some confidence, I think.
    I love your allotment. Here on the west coast of the US, we have community gardens, which are a very different cup of tea. Yours sounds like the original garden to me!
    Happy printing and planting!
    Love the bag!

  66. I lurk here a couple of times a week!I had to smile at your lovely bags…I have just come in from working with my Honey Bees. I like to keep four Hives, but they have run away with me this season – fourteen Hives this evening! So, yes please, count me in.
    LOVE the cloud sweater.

  67. I love your bag! I’ve wanted to learn how to screen print for the longest time, but have not found anywhere to do so. So happy to hear about your allotment. I have my own garden and love spending time there. Snow peas have just started to come in and I’ve got tiny little balckberries forming, can’t wait for the green beans!

  68. Lovely bags, I’m well willing to put my name on the list of eager contestants. I’m floored by the number of activities you can fit in… walking, screening, dyeing, knitting. It forces me to wonder if you sleep!

  69. So many comments already! What busy bees we are ;p I love the idea of touring the country trying new crafts out en route!

  70. Oh man I have wanted to learn how to do screen prints. One day… one day.. until then, I can just hope I can win your beautiful work :). Well done!

  71. What a lovely bag! Yes, please add my name to the list. I would pass it on to my husband, who has studied bee keeping and is itching to get a hive of our own. (Any other goodies I would probably keep for myself!)

  72. de-lurking to say I love reading your blog and looking at your lovely photos of hillwalks and craft adventures. :) I’d be delighted to win a bee tote, so please enter my name in the draw!

  73. I love that as adults we are are still learning. Your posts often inspire me to get out and experience things…going for hikes, to local yarn shops, or into the community to learn a new skill.
    The bee is a great image. Well done for your first go at it.

  74. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and would love to win a bee bag!! They’re beautiful! Thank you – for the blog most of all

  75. Screenprinting is marvellous fun! I love what you have done here with the bag design, and the printed architectural skyline skirts shall be awaited with much anticipation!

    I feel full affinity with all you said on your squeegie-waving state; there is nothing quite like an independant press to excite literary & creative urges.

    The bee is beauteous. x

  76. What are the odds? 1:189 as of now.
    It’s a lovely bag and whoever gets it will be so happy.
    Keep up the good work!. Your blog is always so inspiring.

  77. Wow! a limited edition print! that would be worth having – and amazing how many comments you get when a freebie is around – have fun!

  78. Wow – that’s a lovely bag. And would be perfect for toting around knitting, or taking books to class. I’d definitely love it!

  79. Oh, how fun! Intrepid craftwomen unite!

    I love your blog…the stories, the pictures…every single time I visit I end up saying to my hubby…”see, we really must go see that for ourselves!”, but Scotland is a long way from Pennsylvania. Maybe one day…until then, you inspire me. Thank you for all the work you must put into this wonderful blog.


  80. that would be lovely! i’m too intimidated by both the sewing and the printing to try anything like this myself…and would LOVE for my name to come up as the lucky winner :).

  81. Stumbled upon your blog and have been taken as much by your beautiful photography as your lovely needle work, also by the novelty of appreciating it all from the States. So a lurker from the textile birthplace of america (Lowell, MA) would love to be considered.

  82. It’s a lovely bag, I’d love to win it, and speaking of Blake, have you read (long pause while I wrack my brain. . .end of term. . .very frazzled). . .Burning Bright? I loved it, somewhat to my surprise.

  83. Oooooooo very cute bee design, would love to win fingers crossed!! I have to say though I LOVE your friends design of Liver city Sky line, very , very cool. Being a Liverpool born lass living in NZ it made me feel quite sentimental. X

  84. I would love a screen printed bag. I took printmaking in college and never got around to screen printing, especially unfortunate when I started teaching at a school that had some screen printing supplies stashed away.
    Love your blog, one day soon I will knit the OWLS sweater too, because it is a most fabulous pattern.

  85. Wow love it, the bee theme does it, I just mad a beehouse for the garden trying to do my bit.

    The kit is very good, thanks.

  86. A busy bee – how wonderfully appropriate for crafty types!

    A beautiful bag and a beautiful quote – would love to be in the draw for it :)

    Delurking here too…

  87. As I walked through Bunhill Fields today I left some coppers on Blake’s tomb in your name. There were already quite a few there – lots of people wishing to honour Blake must pass by.

  88. I took up screenprinting while in college after seeing some Warhol pieces at the San Francisco MOMA. I always hand=painted my screens directly, , but unfortunately haven’t done it in about 5 years. Seeing your work makes me wish I had my screens!

  89. i love your posts about history, especially textile oriented. they are always so thought provoking. so thank you for that.

    also, i really like that bee.

  90. That is a beautifull bee print and the bag is very pretty. I am slightly obsessed with bees. Partly because of the honey partly because when I was a child I read this wonderfull article on bee behaviour and the little dance they do to teach the location of nectar sources. The fact I became a science geek as an adult was just a by-product:-) Also, my husband’s uncle keeps honey bees and we get to enjoy the honey and he gives me the left over wax which I clarify and turn into honey scented candles.

  91. What a lovely first attempt at screenprinting, and such a timely subject. I have spent two years planting bee “friendly” plants in the garden just to try and make a difference if only in a small way, so I was thrilled to discover a bumblebee colony under the log store at the weekend. I would also have to confess to the fact that I did not realise bumblebees lived in subterranean colonies until I watched them disappearing under the ground.

  92. oh i love the tote!
    you inspired me to try out v8468 and ironically i had similar fabrics in my stash although mine came out much looser fitting. did you work true to size?

  93. I would love to have a canvas bag designed by you. I admire your crafts very very much and I enjoy reading about your daily goings-on.

  94. I’m so glad you’ll be picking a winner randomly, because there is no good reason why I should be more deserving of winning this lovely bag than anyone else who has left a comment!

  95. the bee bag is lovely. nice work. i’m not keen on keeping bees, though i like the concept, but i am a honey lover!

  96. “BURLY, dozing humble-bee,
    Where thou art is clime for me.”
    from The Humble-Bee by Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Loads of lovely bees on the purple geraniums in my garden busy buzzing.

    Would love a bee bag :)

  97. Long time Bee fan, I had to leave a comment on this post! Beeswax bars usually look like bars of gold on my shelves!

    Very intricate screenprint design as well, lovely!

  98. Love the design and the monochrome works well! I’m entirely captivated by these strange and wonderful creatures and the life of the hive.
    Thanks for your blog – there’s always something interesting here, history, photos – and your recently completed cloud sweater is brilliant!

  99. Oooh, me, me! I was gutted that I missed out on the Owls competition – but I did finally finish my sweater, and I do love it. The bee bag is fab!

  100. Kate

    I thought you may enjoy the followig with apologies to
    Emily Dickinson now you have become an allotmenteer

    To make (an allotment) it takes a clover and one bee
    one cloverm, and a bee
    The (ravelry)alone willdo
    If bees are few

  101. Ooooh, I’d be delighted if randomly chosen. Beautiful bee line drawing. Made me a bit nostalgic of the days at Uni experimenting with silkscreen.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)