Friday, December 9, 2011

Screen Printed Storage Ottoman with Simply Screen by Plaid

I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to do two things: learn how to screen print, and incorporate the lovely birch trees in our backyard into one of my crafts. I have finally done both…all in one project!

Screen Printed Storage Ottoman

I had the opportunity to try out the Simply Screen Silk Screen Print Kit by Plaid. This kit is available only at Hobby Lobby (and on their website) for $39.99. I have researched other screen printing kits, and I immediately liked the lower price and how unintimidating the kit is.


I found this toy box at Goodwill a few weeks ago. It was in really good condition, and boy do my girls love Thomas. But…I had other plans. I hid it in my bedroom closet with a tablecloth over it, so they wouldn’t see it and immediately claim it for themselves! I really wanted to use it to make something more grown-up for storage. So shhhhh…don’t tell my girls! I should mention that as I’m typing this, I’ve turned my laptop away from my girls who are sitting next to me. Despite my efforts, however, they have caught glimpses of it and exclaimed, “Thomas!” and I had to do Jedi mind tricks to put it out of their heads. Hey, can’t I have anything for myself?

 ScreenPrintedOttoman1 ScreenPrintedOttoman2

Here’s how I repurposed my Thomas (shhh!) toy box into a Screen Printed Storage Ottoman!

Materials: In addition to the Simply Screen kit and the toy box, you will also need Simply Screen Silk Screening Paint (I used New Black, Fire Engine (red), and a blue that came with the kit), painter’s tape, a piece of glass (I used one from an 8x10 inch frame), 10-lb white paper (though I just used printer paper, which is 20 lb), a pencil, permanent pen, disappearing ink pen, white cotton fabric and a staple gun.


To create the birch tree design, I snapped a picture of one of the trees.


I printed it out and traced an outline of the trunk and some of the branches with a permanent pen, so that I could trace it onto a piece of paper.


I manually added some texture on the tree, as well as some leaves. Then I traced over the pencil with permanent ink. I also filled in the leaves in black. So this is one way you can create your design…you can also just print out a black and white image, and if necessary, darken the image with a permanent pen as this really helps the screen develop.

ScreenPrintedOttoman4a ScreenPrintedOttoman5

I love how you use the box in which the kit comes for developing the screen! The box itself is 9x10.5 inches at the bottom, so make sure your image is smaller than that (I did have to chop an inch off the top of my image, unfortunately!).


It comes with a cord and light bulb that you screw into the hole at the top of the box.


Wait til you are absolutely ready to get to work before removing your screen from the black bag in which it came, to keep it from developing prematurely. The pack that comes with the box comes with a few smaller screens that are great for testing, plus a few larger ones. I was kind of bummed that there was only one piece that was the maximum size, since my design was large. So I was nervous! They did also send a refill pack with a large piece too, but that meant I only had two chances for this design (the nearest Hobby Lobby is 1.5 hours away from me!).


As shown above, peel off the white piece of paper stuck to the screen. I expected the screen to be sticky, but it wasn’t. Use the squeegee that comes with the kit to press down your paper, face side down, onto the screen (the side that had the paper on it).


The lack of stickiness is also why a piece of glass is useful here. You can use painters tape too, but the glass works really well to keep the paper in direct contact with the screen (to not let any light get in between the two), to get a good image on the screen.


Close the box and flip the light switch on, making sure you’re in a dim room. Allow to process for 25 minutes. I used a timer, to make sure I was exact with the time as possible (though if you let it go 30 seconds more or less, it should be ok).


After the 25 minutes, I took out the screen. I could see a faint yellow image on it (not sure if you can see it here!).


Then submerge the screen in the plastic tub that comes with the kit for 30 seconds, and start scrubbing lightly on your design. You can see on my sponge a little bit of blue on it, and the water will start to become cloudy. You’re basically removing the emulsion (the blue stuff) off the areas where your design has exposed.

What results should be a clear, silvery screen (think about your window screen…it’s like that but finer). I held up my screen out of the water a few times to check if I was removing the emulsion. Sometimes it would seem like I was removing it, but I could see some white residue on the screen still. So I kept gently scrubbing until it was as clear as possible. I think I scrubbed for 15 minutes. I would let it soak for another 30 seconds here and there. Don’t rub too hard or you might start rubbing off the emulsion on the non-exposed parts. When you’re done scrubbing, gently dry off the screen with a paper towel.


It’s time to apply the paint!!! I removed the blue cover on that came with the toy box (the cushion was still good), and wrapped my fabric around the cushion. I marked where I wanted the design to go with a disappearing ink pen.


Then I taped it down. This is why the instructions say to leave a 1/2 inch border around your design! It was hard to tape it down well because I had no space at the edges. The tape would also serve as extra “breathing room” for painting i.e. to help prevent getting ink on the sides of the design. Oh well. And…for some reason I used my design is upside down. The instructions say you don’t have to print out lettering in a mirror image. I guess the screen works on both sides!


Squirt a bead of ink along the top of the design. I was particularly nervous here about getting ink on the fabric where I didn’t want it!


Tilt the squeegee at 45 degrees and drag the paint down the screen. Using the above amount of ink, I only got halfway down the design. But it’s ok…just squirt another bead where the first dragging ended and keep going.


Remove the screen when you’re done. The moment of truth…EEK! It worked!!!


I was unhappy with the top…i guess because I was nervous about getting ink on my fabric over the top edge of the screen, I didn’t get enough ink up there.


For color, I added some birds to commemorate the ones in real life that visit our trees. Birch trees produce these teeny little pine cones and they love to hang out on the branches and eat the seeds. I burned images of different bird silhouettes that I got from The birds were also my test to see if this would work.


I stapled the fabric onto the cushion and also added a handle on the side to help remove the lid. By the way, this was my first time reupholstering something! In addition, I covered up Thomas (sorry man, no offense) with some grey paint and kept the top edge red for some contrast.

ScreenPrintedOttoman21 ScreenPrintedStorageOttoman

There’s the tree, through the window!

ScreenPrinted StorageOttoman

My Thoughts:

The Simply Screen Silk Screening Kit by Plaid was great to use overall, but there are still some kinks that my fellow bloggers on this campaign had to work through (their posting dates were earlier than mine…lucky me got to learn from them!). Kim @ Today’s Creative Blog made a really helpful video using the Simply Screen Kit with some great tips that made my experience go a lot smoother. Plaid is working on improving the instructions based on our input. My experience showed that with clearer instructions, this kit can be used successfully. I highly recommend reading the instructions carefully, watching Kim’s video and checking out the other bloggers’ experiences (see the links below) for more tips.

I do wish the maximum size of the screen was just a wee bit bigger! I think it’s great that they were able to make such a compact, unintimidating kit with so much potential. But I wish they had made it so you can fit an 8.5x11 inch piece of paper in it, as that’s the same size as printer paper! And speaking of the paper, they recommend 10-lb paper which is difficult to find, but most of us found that 20-lb paper (regular printer paper) worked.

If you have been wanting to try screen printing, the Simply Screen Silk Screening Kit by Plaid is great for first timers with some crafting experience. I am so excited to make more designs and I’m happy to have finally tried it, and to have created something with my beloved birch trees! My next project with my birch tree screen (you can reuse the screen 50 times) will be to use white ink on some red cloth napkins, and maybe some art work.

Here are more Simply Screen projects posted over the last week! Mine plus the others posted recently will appear shortly, plus more on Monday. So be sure to stop back to check theirs out!

Disclosure: While I received payment and products for this post, all opinions expressed are my own.

Linking: The Frugal Girls :: Petite Hermine :: Tip Junkie::Sassy Sites :: Rook No. 17 :: The Trendy Treehouse::Tidy Mom:: Creation Corner :: Whipperberry :: Tatertots and Jello::Lolly Jane Boutique :: Homemaker on a Dime :: The Gunny Sack :: Love Affair With My Brother :: The Thrifty Groove



  1. Steph, I've been wanting to learn screen printing too, so I really appreciate your honest review of this product. You did an absolutely incredible job with the bench.


  2. I love the tree and the birds! You did a great job.

  3. Wow, I love it! heehee, my daughter is the same way.

  4. This is so beautiful! I think this might be my favorite of all the screen printing projects! So pretty.

  5. This turned out SO cute, Steph! You got a great result! But I agree, wish the screens were a little larger. So many things we could do, right?

    Love that ottoman too. Although I would've had to leave Thomas on it. Grandson LOVES T the Train :D

  6. Oh my goodness...what an amazing makeover!!!

  7. Great upcycling project- what a way to make a chic ottoman. Pinned this, too! -Jenny

  8. Love the made-over ottoman! So pretty!

  9. I really want to try this. I love your artwork. It's lovely and so special that you can see the inspiration just out the window!

  10. the ottoman is wonderful.
    But what a process! I think I would have given up and just done a stencil.

  11. @concretenprimroses Oh yes, it most definitely entered my mind during the process that stenciling is so much easier! In this case though, the lines of my drawing would have been too thin for a stencil (I'm not talented enough with an xacto knife!). What I also like about screen printing is the organic, hand-drawn effect, even with thicker designs. Stenciling is also great for designs you'll do just a few times, but screen printing is worth it if you'll do the same design multiple times. So they both have their place!


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