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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Screen Printing with the Silhouette Cameo – a comparison of processes and cost


Making t-shirts have traditionally been some of my most popular programs throughout the years as a YA/Teen Librarian. T-shirts can be immensely cool and we choose them, often, as a form of self expression. Last year we did an entire series on altering t-shirts and it was popular and fun. One of our programs taught teens how to do a low cost form of screen printing on t-shirts. I’ve talked about screen printing before here at TLT, but I wanted to do an in depth analysis of what would work best in a public makerspace, consider process, outcome, and cost.

This past year, we purchased a Silhouette Cameo for our Teen MakerSpace and given this year’s Teen Summer Reading theme – Libraries Rock! – it seemed fitting that we would look once again at screen printing. My goal has been to teach our teens how they can use this type of technology to create their own screen printing designs.

Today we are going to be looking at screen printing using a silhouette cameo in a couple of different ways, to address various cost issues. One of the factors we will look at is cost, but we have to be honest and admit up front that the technology needed to use a Silhouette Cameo is costly up front. You need a computer or laptop and the Silhouette Cameo itself. Many people have this technology in their homes, but cost is a barrier to access. There are less expensive ways to make stencils, which we have covered before. For example, you can cut stencils out of card stock or old overhead projector sheets.

Traditional screen printing produces screens using an emulsion process. It’s time consuming and requires access to technology and tools that most libraries don’t have, even those with makerspaces. The Silhouette Cameo can be a way to produce screens without going through the traditional emulsion process.

We will be specifically looking at using a pre-made screen and a homemade screen.

Screenprinting is divided into three main activities:

1) Designing your screen

2) Cutting and making your screen

3) And using the screen to screen print onto a t-shirt (the actual screen printing process).

Designing Your Screen

If you are going to be using a Silhouette Cameo to do your screen printing, as we are here, then it comes with it’s own design software. I’m not going to go into detail here how to use the design software. There is a bit of a learning curve and there are a lot of really good online tutorials to help you get started.

When designing specifically for screen printing, I have learned a few rules that help you be successful.

T-Shirt screen printed by me

T-Shirt screen printed by me

1. Text is difficult, so avoid it if you can.

2. If you do use text, you want to use big and less complicated fonts.

3. Especially when you begin, the less complicated your design the better.

4. You want big, open spaces that are easy to weed, transfer, and ink.

Once you have made a design you are happy with, you will need to cut your vinyl. I do not know how a Silhouette Cameo screen compares to a more traditional emulsion created screen, as I have no experience with that type of screen. I have, however, used stencils, both store bought and hand made, and find the Silhouette Cameo created screen to be superior to other types of stencils. For example, because of the precision of the Silhouette Cameo, I could create a more elaborate design because the Cameo did all the cutting for me; it’s easy and precise. Trying to make smooth cuts onto a stencil by hand is hard, the Cameo elevates the design and precision. Also, using a stencil to paint a t-shirt without the screen is not technically screen printing. That may be splitting hairs, but I like the idea of teaching teens various ways to design and create their own personal shirts.

Cutting and Making Your Screen

To begin, you will send your design to cut like normal.

After your design is finished cutting, don’t remove any vinyl yet! Look at your design and consider what parts of the design you want to be printed onto the shirt. This is the part of the vinyl you will weed. You will be doing a reverse or negative weed. Leave the big piece of vinyl in place with the backing and weed out the design and letters that you want to fill with ink.

You will then have to transfer your sheet of vinyl onto your screen. So let’s talk about screens.

You can purchase a traditional, pre-made screen for screen printing from most craft stores or online. The most common one is made by Speedball. These are wooden frames that have a screen in them, a sort of mesh material. I have seen them priced as high as $25.00. These come in a rectangle shape, they are pre-made so they are pretty taut (this is important to help prevent bleeding), and they are easy to use. They’re ready to go, so you can’t beat that. But buying multiple screens can really begin to add up. The screen in these screen printing frames can be pulled tighter or even replaced.


Completed screen including vinyl design with tape

Completed screen including vinyl design with tape

You can also make your own using a mesh curtain and an embroidery hoop for less money. When purchasing a curtain you want a sheer curtain. I bought mine at a local store for only $5.00. Embroidery hoops also cost around $5.00. To create my homemade screen I used permanent vinyl on a piece of sheer curtain. You can take out the entire curtain piece and put a different one in to make a different design. I have made 3 designs and they are just stored for re-use; I literally have a small box that has pieces of curtain with the vinyl attached to them. I just take them out, pop them in an embroidery hoop (making sure to pull it really, really tight) and print another shirt.

A "Screen" for Screenprinting

A “Screen” for Screenprinting

I have tried and used both the Speedball and a homemade screen and, although I found the professional screen to be slightly more effective and easier to use, they both work well.

Screen made with curtain and embroidery hoop

Screen made with curtain and embroidery hoop

Pre-made screen

Pre-made screen

If you have some spare wood lying around, a sheer curtain, and a staple gun, you can also make your own screens this way. You always want to pull your screen as taut as possible. I can not stress how important this is.

Whichever screen you use, the next step is to transfer your vinyl stencil onto your screen. If you have worked with vinyl before, you’ll know that you use transfer tape (clear contact paper is my preferred transfer tape) and a wedge tool to help you get the backing off of your vinyl and your stencil onto the screen. Be careful to leave all the little bits and pieces in place, like the insides of circles and letters. When screen printing these little bits and pieces can slip or tear away, which is why I recommend as simple a design as possible. You also want to avoid any bubbles or wrinkles and you want to make sure your stencil is firmly applied. You will then want to use painter’s tape to cover up any exposed areas of your screen.

Completed screen including vinyl design with tape

Completed Speedball screen including vinyl design with tape

So now you’re screen is made and you need to do the actual screen printing.

Screen Printing Your T-shirt

To do the actual screen printing, you’ll need a paint or ink (fabric paints work, screen printing ink works best but is more expensive), the screen, a wedge or squeegee, and a piece of cardboard to place inside your shirt. First, place your cardboard inside the two layers of your short so your ink doesn’t bleed through to the back layer. You will then put your screen on place on your shirt. Scoop out some of your ink and use the wedge/squeegee to smooth the ink into the empty spaces on your stencil. You’ll then use it to scrape off any excess. Be very careful to fill in every last nook and cranny on your stencil to get a good print.

Applying the ink

Applying the ink

Carefully remove your screen. I recommend having a blow dryer handy to do a little bit of drying before moving or touching your shirt. Then let it dry completely. Follow the instructions for washing your shirts afterwards.

My final t-shirt

My final t-shirt

So in the shirt above, I actually had both a success and a failure. When doing the Spaghetti Sundays shirt above, the words were the negative space and that worked really well. However, in this design, the words Libraries Rock were on the screen and were meant to prevent the ink from going into that space and leave the shirt exposed, displaying the words. That didn’t work, the letters moved and there was bleeding. So I covered it all up with black and that worked fine. I then used vinyl cut outs on heat transfer to put my wording in place. I’m still trying to figure out how to be more successful with lettering.


In all honesty, the pre-made screen is easier to make and use. It’s already taut, so you don’t have to worry about pulling it tight enough in your embroidery hoop. I also found the rectangle shape easier to work with, which may just be a personal preference. I had more bleeding with the embroidery hoop, though I admit that can be user error. Because I had a great discount coupon, the pre-made screen wasn’t really any more expensive than making my own.

So deciding which screen to use is a draw. Because you can make more than one screen with a curtain, I think it would work better in a public makerspace with multiple people making and using screens. Making your own screens is cheaper when you need multiple screens.

For my personal use, I much prefer the Speedball screens. However, for the Teen MakerSpace, home made screens seem the better way to go. Ultimately, they are less expensive so you can produce multiple screens for the same amount of money, which is important when you are going to have to produce multiple screens in a single program.



  • Laptop/Computer
  • Silhouette Cameo
  • Vinyl
  • Scissors
  • Various vinyl tools, including the weeding tool
  • Painters tape
  • Screen printing screen (premade or homemade using a mesh curtain or embroidery hoop)
  • Screen printing ink
  • Wedge/squeegee
  • Table covering
  • Clear contact paper
  • T-shirt

Please note, you can also screen print things like posters and such, it doesn’t have to be done solely on material.

Some good tutorials

Silhouette Screenprinting Tutorial (for beginners) – YouTube

How to Screen Print Using Vinyl: Silhouette Tutorial – Silhouette School

Previously on TLT

MakerSpace: 5 Ways We Transformed T-Shirts into Something New

Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

TPiB MakerSpace: Love Your Pets


In our Teen MakerSpace, we have kind of drifted into a model where we have themes to unite our making, which teens can choose to participate in or not. Some teens, we have found, need some type of guidance while others do not. So for the month of February, we wanted to do something that tied into Valentine’s Day but didn’t necessarily emphasize romantic love. Love Your Pets was our February celebration of the love that we have for our pets or favorite animals and it was the unifying theme for all of our making that month in the Teen MakerSpace.


Now it does happen that the two Teen MakerSpace Assistants and I have pets, dogs to be specific. And of course many of our teens know this because they hear us talk about them. So we included them in our promotional materials. Charm is our family dog, he is a long haired dapple coat Dachsund. He is also, for the record, a great cuddler.

We then set up a variety of stations around The MakerSpace with examples of how they can use those stations to make pet themed items


Stamps, Stickers, Buttons and More!

We bought a variety of pet themed stamps and stickers which could be used to make a variety of pet crafts, including a wood painted signs, buttons, banners and more.


DIY Pet Toys

We had a variety of discarded t-shirts which could be braided to make hand-made pet toys.

33 Dog Toys You Can Make From Things Around the House – BarkPost

44 Really Cool Homemade DIY Dog Toys Your Dog Will Love

25 Frugally Fun DIY Dog Toys To Pamper Your Pooch – DIY & Crafts

Perler Beads

Perler beads can be used to make a pet portrait.

DIY Pet Tags

And we bought an etching tool and dog tags for our Silhouette Cameo to make hand-made dog tags. We could even teach you how to make a paracord pet collar to hang that hand-made tag off of.


A note about etching on the Silhouette Cameo: it took us several attempts to find out what settings to use to get a good etching. There is a tutorial here that is helpful: My biggest tip is that you will want to set up your settings to make as many passes as possible.

In all honesty, I have done a version of this program before with different DIY crafts and as a one-time event. Doing it as a theme in the Teen MakerSpace proved to be a tad bit more ideal in that teens could come and go and work at their own pace instead of trying to finish a variety of crafts in 1 to 2 hours. But it is a great program whatever scenario you choose to set it up as.

MakerSpace: DIY Faux Enamel Pins


All things old are new again, and enamel pins are all the rage. In fact, I picked up some super cool Dumplin ones from Julie Murphy at TLA. And you can buy them at a lot of craft and hot trendy stores. Hot Topic, for example, sells a wide variety of enamel pins.

You can buy these Mermicorno enamel pins at Hot Topic:

You can buy these Mermicorno enamel pins at Hot Topic:


But you can also make your own, or a variation of them at least. In April we are doing a variety of Mod Podge crafts, including DIY Faux Enamel Pins, and this is one of the examples I made to help me outline the instructions.


Supplies Needed:

  • Shrinky dink plastic
  • Acrylic or enamel paint
  • Paint brushes, with fine brush tips
  • A laptop/PC with a printer OR tracing paper and pens
  • A vinyl cutting machine OR a pair of small but good scissors
  • A toaster oven
  • E6000 glue
  • A pin back
  • Mod Podge
  • A brush or paint sponge to apply the Mod Podge
  • Black Sharpie, fine tip

Step 1: Making Your Pin Shape

We’re going to be working with Shrinky Dink plastic, which has a 3 to 1 ratio. So whatever design you make needs to be 3 times bigger than the size you want your project to end up as. So if you want a 1 inch pin, you need to start with a 3 inch design.


We used a laptop to create our designs in the Silhouette Cameo design studio. This made it easy to get intricate and precise cuts as the Silhouette machine did all the cutting for us. We had to make several attempts before we found the right cut setting and found it helps if you tell the machine to make multiple passes. This Silhouette School tutorial has some recommended cut settings: Best Shrinky Dink Silhouette CAMEO Cut Settings – Silhouette School. Though I realize not all libraries have a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine, I highly recommend purchasing one because of the wide variety of projects and types of projects you can do with one. It certainly increased the quality of our project here because we could make more designs.

If you don’t have a Silhouette Cameo machine, you can simply trace an image onto your Srinky Dink plastic and cut it out by hand. If you want more details in your design and you are cutting out by hand, be sure to use smaller, sharp scissors to give you more control. Persia Lou has a tutorial on doing DIY Enamel Pins and provides templates that you can use to trace and have a successful first attempt.

Please note, you can also print directly onto Shrink plastic if you make sure and purchase the right kind. You could either print an outline and then paint it or print a full color image and skip the painting step.

Use a black Sharpie to make bold, black outlines on your pin shape, especially if you have various areas within your design.

Step 2: Painting Your Pin Shape

You’re going to want to paint your pin shape BEFORE shrinking it. The color will darken a bit as it shrinks, so try not to start out with too dark of a color.Use a small tipped brush to paint your design. You can even use a toothpick to paint in small areas.

Step 3: Shrinking Your Pin Shape

It is recommended that you use a dedicated toaster oven for any and all crafts. We have a specific toaster oven for our Teen MakerSpace which we use for Shrinky Dinks and Sculpey clay projects. Follow the directions on your packaging for times and temperature. Basically, your pin shape will start to curl up as is shrinks and then will suddenly go flat. Wait a second or two after it goes flat, and then take it out of the oven to cool.

pin1 pin4 pin3

Step 4: Seal the Deal


You’ll want to give your finished pin a coat of glossy Mod Podge to seal the paint and give it that glossy enamel pin finish. Wait for the Mod Podge to dry completely before doing any final steps.

Step 5: Apply Your Pin Back


After your pin has fully dried, you can then use the E6000 glue to apply the pin back to the back of the pin. Well, that’s a weird sounding sentence. You can use any type of pin back, but the traditional enamel pin has a tie pin closure on the back. You can buy these at most craft stores in the jewelry findings section.


I had fun making these pins and am looking forward to making some more. It took me several attempts to work out all of the details, but once I did this was a fun, easy and semi-quick craft.

MakerSpace: DIY Metal Stamping (A metal stamping kit review)


Jewelry making has been pretty popular in our Teen MakerSpace, and I really wanted to give metal stamping a try. However, the individual components always seemed more expensive then something I wanted to spend just to try something out. Fortunately, I found a complete metal stamping kit at Target for only $24.99, and that seemed like a more reasonable price, so The Teen and I bought it and tried them out at home. Here’s what happened.

metalstamping5 metalstamping4Target STMT Kit, $24.99

The kit includes individual jewelry pieces to stamp, a small hammer, a block that you need for leverage and a complete set of alphabet letters. It also comes with a small pair of pliers and a few findings to turn your little metal pieces into jewelry. It’s a pretty good kit for getting started. We found additional pieces to stamp at Michael’s, where they also have larger letters. After trying out the little letters in this kit, I highly recommend the larger letters. These letters were very small and hard to read. We were not entirely happy with the final product, though I must admit that it took some time to learn how to hit hard enough to get a good imprint. Still, the letters are a really fine print.

Getting started, a work in progress

Getting started, a work in progress

What we created

What we created

The pieces themselves are fine for learning, particularly for making a small charm necklace or ear rings. However, you can’t really put more than initials on them. Again, it’s fine for trying it out, but you will definitely want to invest in better tools if you want to create a better product.

I will also be completely honest with you and share that The Teen was not into this at all. She found trying to line up the letters infinitely frustrating and tedious. It didn’t help that she was not impressed with the final product. Other teens, of course, will have different feelings about it.


Impress Arts seems to be a major manufacturer of metal stamping supplies. A basic set of letter stamps at Michael’s costs around $20.00. The set I bought at Target was purchased for $25.00 and contained more than just the letter stamps. In addition to the stamp set you need a small hammer, a base to stamp on, and, of course, your additional supplies to create your jewelry including the metal you will be stamping, chains or cord, and clasps. You’ll also need some type of closure. Finals costs end up being more than I want to spend in our Teen MakerSpace.

Some Basic Info

Metal Stamping Projects DIY Projects Craft Ideas & How To’s

DIY Metal Stamping: 10 Steps (with Pictures) – Instructables

Make Your Own Hand-Stamped Necklace – A Beautiful Mess

67 best DIY Jewelry | Metal Stamping Tutorials and Inspiration images

Final Thoughts

In the end, I decided that metal stamping would be good for an individual program in our more isolated program room, but it is not a good fit for our centrally located Teen MakerSpace because it’s loud. It takes some hard hammering, which is both noisy and repetitive, to really create a good finished product. So if you have a more isolated MakerSpace where the noise wouldn’t annoy library patrons using the library, give it a try. But for us, we decided not to make it a regular component of our Teen MakerSpace because it didn’t fit our situation and it cost more than we wanted to spend for a TMS station.

So if you want to give metal stamping a try, this kit is a good starting point with clear limitations. If you are serious about metal stamping, spend the money to buy better tools and, most importantly, better (and bigger) letter stamps. Just keep in mind that it’s noisy. The final product is cool, but it’s not necessarily a best fit for public libraries.

Teen Summer Reading Planning 2018

If you are doing the Libraries Rock theme for your 2018 Teen Summer Reading Program, please note that metal stamping guitar pick jewelry looks fantastic. Here’s a link to just one example:

MakerSpace: Get Teens Involved Making Cards by Kate-Lynn Brown


If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and relatively cheap way to give back this holiday season–and also plan a program with your teens–I’d suggest making holiday cards to donate! This time of year gives everyone the jitters, and channeling that extra excitement and energy into creativity is a great way to unwind.


I ran a drop-in card program this December where I asked the teens to make and decorate holiday cards. What’s great about this program is that it works this time of year, but it can be done any time! Most organizations will accept year-round cards for birthdays, other holidays, or just to say hello and share messages of encouragement.

Some general tips: Most organizations want you to send multiple cards, pictures, and letters in one large envelope. Individually wrapping each card creates a hassle for screeners and distributors. In general, the consensus for organizations sending to sick people is to avoid “Get well soon.” There is no way to know if the person receiving your card is terminal, so they might not be able to get well soon. My director had only one request about this project: NO GLITTER. Save your library floor and the organization you’re sending to, and leave the glitter and confetti out. This would also be a great program to run library-wide. Although I’m just doing this with my teens, adult and children’s services could easily get involved to send an even bigger collection of cards!

Cards for Hospitalized Kids

Cards for Hospitalized Kids is a great option if you want to make cards now that can reach their destination by the holidays. CFHK sends cards to hospitals all around the country,  The group, started by Jen Rubio and run out of Chicago, asks for all cards to be sent two weeks before the holiday, but can accept them up until 7 days before. If you want to get cards to hospitals before the end of Hanukkah, you have until December 14th to send them. Be sure to include Rubio started the group after 20+ hospital stays for connective tissue and bone disease; so she’s experienced firsthand how a handmade card can make someone’s day! This is the organization my teens made cards for during our drop-in.

Send to:

Cards for Hospitalized Kids

7290 W. Devon Ave

Chicago, IL 60631


Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude sends cards and care packages to deployed troops, veterans, new recruits, and first responders. The site’s “Guide to Letter Writing” helps contributors decide what to say, from the generic salutation to the closing remarks. Children are asked to use their first name only and provide an adult’s contact information if they’d like to receive a response.

Send to:

Operation Gratitude

ATTN: Letter Writing Program

21100 Lassen Street

Chatsworth, CA 91311-4278



Card Care Connection

This nonprofit organization is perfect for year-round donations. Card Care Connection accepts cards all year and asks for them to blank on the inside. Sentiments such as, “you’re special,” “hello!” are encouraged, but the group asks that contributors refrain from religious messages, “get well soon,” or cards for specific holidays. Card Care Connection asks the contributors use cardstock and other high-quality materials, so this organization is best for older teens and adult programs.

Send to:

Card Care Connection

112 Saddlehorn Court

Fenton, MO 63026


holidaycards5Caitlin’s Smiles

Caitlin’s Smiles mission is a great one: “Giving sick children laughs, hopes, and smiles.” Caitlin Hornung was only four years old when she was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away before her eighth birthday. This organization continues Caitlyn’s love of art and making people happy by providing creative care packages to kids undergoing long treatments in hospitals. Each “Bag of Smile” is sent with a homemade card. The group asks for cards to not contain any religious messages, and do not say get well soon. Since most of the patients are terminal, this isn’t the best sentiment to send. Include fun drawings, silly jokes, and bright colors!

Send to:

Caitlin’s Smiles

3303 N. 6th Street

Harrisburg, PA 17110


holidaycards6 Cardz for Kidz


Each hospital that partners with Cardz for Kidz promises to deliver each card room to room, which makes the kids even more excited about your message to them! Contributors are encouraged to include popular characters, like the ninja turtles and minions, although generic animals and jokes are great too! The organization also needs cards in Spanish, French, Creole, and Vietnamese. The group asks for cards to be signed with a first name, which makes the experience more personal for the child receiving.

Send to:

Cardz for Kidz

323 East Wacker Drive #11

Chicago, IL 60601

Take 5: Five Things I’ve Made with My Silhouette Cameo and Why I Recommend it for a MakerSpace


I’ve had my personal Silhouette Cameo for about a month now and last week, we ordered one for The Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I’ve only tapped the surface of what I can do with the machine and it has a lot of uses. For example, it can take the place of an Ellison Die Cut machine and the need to store multiple dies for doing displays and name tags.

To give you an idea of why I recommend it, let me share with you five projects I’ve done with my Silhouette Cameo.

1. T-Shirts

When you think of craft vinyl cutters, you are probably thinking t-shirts. This is what they are used most for and I’m not going to lie, I love this! I have made a ton of t-shirts. Each time I make a shirt, I learn more about how to use my machine. I’ve made my kids spirit shirts for school, holiday shirts, and just some shirts that feature their favorite characters or saying.

silhouetteproject10 silhouetteproject6

I even made TLT t-shirts for all the TLTers.


2. Tote Bags

It also transfers really well onto tote bags.

silhouetteproject2 silhouetteproject12

3. Screen Printing

You can do a reverse weed on your cut and make a screen for screenprinting. I am using this process to make screens for a TMS stencil and a Libraries Rock stencil for the 2018 Teen Summer Reading Challenge.

silhouetteproject11 silhouetteproject15

4. Vinyl Window Clings

You can buy special vinyl cling material to make vinyl window clings. I used this to make gear shaped clings for our Teen MakerSpace windows.


5. Computer Bling

You can also design and make your own computer bling. Here’s a cut out I designed using a heartbeat font and the shapes feature to celebrate my love of a certain time traveling time lord. Since taking this picture I have also added a Teen MakerSpace cut out.


As I mentioned above, I am just now learning of the various ways I can use my Silhouette Cameo. You can also cut paper, which is great for doing in library displays. In the Teen Makerspace we will be mainly focusing on paper crafts as well due to the cost of the vinyl versus paper. Though we will also use our Silhouette Cameo for special programs like our annual Summer of T-Shirts events.

Teaching the teens to use a vinyl cutter will help them learn things like layout and design, math (yes, there is math involved in making sure your design will fit onto a t-shirt), and basic technology skills.

The initial investment is quite high. A Silhouette Cameo bundle pack, and you’ll want a bundle so you get the additional tools that you need, is $269.00. And there is an ongoing cost in that you need materials to cut with your machine.

Even if you decide not to let the public have access to a vinyl cutter, I do recommend it for library use. It has a much broader range than cutting tools libraries have used in the past like an Ellison or Accucut and takes up a lot less space.

Here’s a look at some of the guides and reviews I shared early on while learning how to use my Silhouette Cameo. I will say the Silhouette Cameo is not intuitive at first and it doesn’t come with a manual, so you’ll definitely want to start with the Silhouette Cameo 101 post.

Silhouette Cameo 101: The Manual It Doesn’t Come With, But Should

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review


MakerSpace: Mixed Media Collage and Recycling Books

For a variety of reasons, libraries are just as much in the business of getting rid of books as they are purchasing them. One, having shelf space for the new means we have to get rid of the old. Many books become outdated, inaccurate, overly worn, and no longer popular. So yes, we discard books. In the Teen MakerSpace, we have been looking at ways to re-use some of these discarded books to make art. I’ve also been exploring the concept of mixed media, which I talked about some a couple of weeks ago.


As the YA Services Coordinator at my library, I don’t just build collections but I have created our Teen MakerSpace and my job involves exploring, coordinating, and implementing new projects and stations to incorporate into the Teen MakerSpace to keep it fresh, interesting, and truly educational. Lately, because of the interests of our local teens, I have been looking at some more traditional art styles, including mixed media. Mixed media involves using a variety of techniques and tools to create a single piece of art. You can use basically anything, anything at all. For it to be truly mixed media, it has to by definition include more than one type of technique, tool or medium. The final product is often some type of collage. This is the example collage that I created (we have found that our teens like to have examples to help explain the project and inspire them).



  • Book pages (here I used a couple of ARCs that I have received because you can’t resell them or add them to your collection)
  • Watercolor crayons
  • Watercolor paint
  • Acrylic stamps
  • Speedball screenprinting ink
  • A brayer
  • A Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter
  • Permanent vinyl
  • Mod podge
  • A blank canvas

The glory of mixed media is that you kind of can’t mess up. I mean, there were individual pieces that I messed up, but then I just cast them aside and tried again. I painted pages and let them dry. After they dried I stamped on them using the stamps and screen printing ink. I ripped pages up and glued them down onto my blank canvas. I mod podged the entire thing. And then after it dried I used my vinyl cutter to make my lettering and then mod podged it again. I can’t draw and I can’t even read my own handwriting, so using stamps and the vinyl cutter let me create the effect I was looking for in a way that was stylish and I could proudly hang on my wall.

The picture of Emma Watson was a black and white illustration from the book What Would She Do? 25 Trailblazing Rebel Women. I used watercolor crayons to give them color. The words themselves are from a couple of pages of other books. It is important when doing something like this that you discuss copyright with your teens. I obviously couldn’t sell this piece, but it’s hanging right now on The Teen’s bedroom wall to inspire and empower her. She’s graciously pretending that she loves it until I hang it in my Teen MakerSpace.


Taking it to the next level:

Because we are always exploring taking our projects to the next level in the Teen Makerspace, we never end with the creation of a piece of art. We then explore what else we can do with that art, and we like to involve technology if we can. So for every piece of paper art you create, keep in mind you can do multiple things with that art. For example, you can photograph your final piece of art and mix it with digital media tools to create a new piece. Use filters, add stickers and frames and overlays. Then you can take that new creation even further: print it out and make it into a button using a button maker or print them on card stock to make note cards or postcards. With mixed media collage such as the one I made above that include other people’s images you’ll want to be very careful about copyright issues, but on the whole if you create an original piece of art there are a lot of interesting ways you can use technology to enhance it, redefine it, recreate it and redistribute it. Some of our teens our using our TeenMakerSpace to build portfolios for college and create an online following. Teen MakerSpaces aren’t just about dabbling and learning, many of our teens are using the space in powerful ways to build a name and an audience for themselves. It’s not about starting their future, it’s about the here and now. It’s pretty amazing to witness.

And remember, making doesn’t always have to be about technology. If you make something, you are a maker.

MakerSpace: Low Tech, Low Cost Printmaking


Recently while cruising the craft store I came across two items that greatly intrigued me:

1) A Gelli Printing plate

mono52) Jane Davenport acrylic stamps


These are two different types of art styles, but I used the inspiration of both and realized that it is a type of monoprinting or printingmaking that is being done here. In addition, when you start adding more layers, it becomes a mixed media collage. There are some really great resources out there for these projects. And if you have teens that like to journal, this type of art is often incorporated into journaling. You can also use this process to make framed art, cards, and tags, to name just a few ways that this technique can be incorporated into other artistic endeavors.

The art of the monoprint – Monoprints

Nine Types of Printmaking You Need To Know – Artsy

Gelli Arts: Monoprinting without a Press!

This is a great YouTube video to introduce the process and share some techniques:


I liked the effect that these processes have, but it’s the end of the year and buying a bunch of supplies for something like this for our Teen MakerSpace was a little cost. The Gelli Printing plate itself was around $30.00, and then you need ink, a brayer, etc.

So because it’s a MakerSpace, we set about the task of making something similar using lower priced supplies, many of which we already keep on hand in our space. And we did.



  • A sheet/page protector (yes, the kind you use in a 3-ring binder)
  • A piece of cardstock (placed inside the sheet protector)
  • A brayer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Stamps
  • Stencils
  • Sharpies, black is preferred
  • A surface protector
  • Baby wipes (to clean up afterwards)

Here’s What We Did

1. Creating a low cost printing surface similar to a Gelli Printing plate

The Gellit Monoprinting Plate is designed to be used over and over again, so we made a low cost version using a sheet protector and a piece of card stock. Insert the card stock into the sheet protector to keep it from moving as much. The sheet protector cleans up easily using a baby wipe and works really well. You can’t get much lower cost than this.

2. Creating your inkscape

The first part of this mono printing process is to put little drops of some type of ink/paint onto your surface and cover the surface using the brayer. We used acrylic paint (it’s cheap) and an inexpensive brayer. The brayer is used to spread the ink around. Be careful not to mix up your colors to much as they will become muddy.


3. Creating your paper

You then take your paper – and here it is best if you buy a little fancier of an art paper as opposed to using copy paper, which does work in a pinch – and place it face down on the ink smear. This transfers the ink (or paint) onto your paper. You want to make sure your paper is completely dry before you do any next steps with it.

4. Getting creative

You can add texture and white spaces by using things like stencils, Washi tape, leaves and other found objects, etc. For example, to create this spiral white space, I simply hand cut a stencil out of clear contact paper and removed it once my paint was dry. I then added a book quote into the white space.


Here I used stickers of the word Joy which I removed after my paint had dried. And yes, I wrote the lyrics of Joy to the World incorrectly.


Here I used a Sharpie and some stencils, hand drawing the seaweed in, to create a type of underwater seascape.


There are several ways you can make your own stamps using things like erasers and wine corks:

CORK STAMPS : 6 Steps (with Pictures) – Instructables

Make Your Own Diy Custom Eraser Stamps.: 4 Steps (with Pictures)

There are also several ways you can make your own stencils using things like a vinyl cutter (higher tech) or more low tech options using card stock, overhead projector sheets or some other type of plastic, or clear contact paper (as I did above):

DIY: How to Make Your Own Stencil – Project Nursery

Make Your Own Stencil: 5 Steps

A few notes:

If you want to make it more Jane Davenport in style, use watercolor paints instead of acrylic paints.

This is a great craft for the pages of discarded books. You can put a light ink wash across the page and a bold black silhouette and make recycled book art.

And because we believe in having books to support our MakerSpace stations, here are some of the books we have purchased:


I love the way our creations look and highly recommend adding printmaking into your MakerSpaces.

TPiB: Emoji Fortune Tellers

Sometimes an amazing craft idea has to change direction to make it work. That’s what happened with this project, for a few reasons. First, the inspiration:

How cool is that?! A DIY Magic 8 Ball is something my coworker and I stumbled upon while preparing for our superstition-filled Friday The 13th escape room, and it sounded like the perfect October drop in craft program for my middle school visitors. My coworker went to town creating the piece for our escape room while I just chilled, thinking about how cool it would be for my drop in program later in the month.

Problem 1: cost

When my coworker told me that she had to special order the container from an Etsy seller at something like $6, I scoffed, thinking that surely I’d be able to scrounge something workable up at a lower cost at a craft store. The thing is, for this to work, you need a few particular qualities for the container. It has to be water tight, have round sides AND one flat side. When I started browsing, I realized that I couldn’t find anything quite right, and the things that came close were glass and still over $1 each. Not my first choice. Fortunately, I found some workable metal and plastic containers on clearance at 75 cents each.

Problem 2: drying time

See how in the demo video she draws her words on with paint, then later, at 1:45 she explains how she painted it “in two layers over two days”? Yeah. That’s no drop-in program there. Early on I decided to substitute black duct tape for the paint.

I tried using a sharpie to draw the words and it was a bumpy mess. That’s when inspiration hit. If I had to attach paper to make it legible, why not make it cute too?

I printed off a bunch of emoji pics, cut them to size, affixed them to the cube with double sided tape, then covered it all with book tape.

emojiscissors emojidoublesided booktapeemoji






Problem 3: It’s not water tight

And I did find it out the hard way. At this point, I was less than 24 hours away from program time and couldn’t buy different containers. The only solution was to seal the gaps in the tin, right? After rifling through my craft cabinet for the E-6000 leftover from a long ago program, only to find that it had long ago dried up, I threw the towel in and headed home for the night. Sometimes you need a little distance from the problem and a good homecooked meal. While measuring out the rice for dinner, it hit me: if I couldn’t change the container, I’d have to change the medium.






After experimenting with lentils and rice, I settled on instant rice, which my daughters helped me color with food coloring before school. Word of caution: regular long grain rice will take the coloring more easily but takes longer to dry. Instant rice dries fast but has a less even distribution of the coloring.

So here’s where we ended up. They’re definitely not Magic 8 Ball, but the kids seem happy with Magnetic Emoji Fortune Tellers nonetheless. Since this is a drop-in DIY program, I made a quick little photo tutorial with the emoji fortune teller instructions to have at the station, which you’re welcome to use as well. fortuneteller2

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting


This summer as part of our Summer of Shirts, we did a very low-tech version of screen printing, which turned out to be incredibly popular. So I was excited to learn that the Silhouette Cameo can be used to do a more traditional type of screenprinting. It works really well and I HIGHLY recommend it. After being pretty decent with my Silhouette Cameo, it only took me about an hour to make my stencil and screenprint my t-shirt. And since many of the supplies can be re-used for multiple projects, the cost per project is basically under $20.00, though your initial investment will be slightly higher (assuming that you already have the Silhouette Cameo of course).

Thing 2 wearing her screenprinted T-shirt

Thing 2 wearing her screenprinted T-shirt



  • Silhouette Cameo and PC/Laptop
  • Weeding tool
  • Piece of 651 Permanent Vinyl
  • Scissors
  • Clear contact paper (to be used as transfer tape)
  • A wedge to be used with the transfer tape
  • A 14 inch embroidery hoop
  • Painters tape
  • A sheer fabric curtain (I purchased a white one for less than $5.00 at a local store)
  • Speedball screenprinting ink
  • A foam brush or squeegee (or credit card)
  • Gloves
  • Something to protect your work surface
  • A piece of cardboard to insert between the two layers of your shirt

Step 1: Making Your Design and Turning it Into a Stencil

Tools used in this step: Laptop, Silhouette Cameo, Vinyl 651 (permanent), weeding tool


You begin by making your design in the Silhouette design studio. You’ll want to think about simple designs to begin with. You then send your design to the cutter unmirrored with your vinyl 651. You want to design and cut your vinyl as you would a normal vinyl project. HOWEVER, when you weed your project you want to remove the design part while keeping the edges in place to create your stencil. For example, I removed all of the guitar pieces and letters and kept the part I would normally remove attached to my vinyl backing. You final screen will look like this.


Step 2: Turning Your Vinyl into a Printing Screen

Tools used in this step: Vinyl stencil (created in step 1), transfer tape (contact paper), wedge (used for transfer tape), painters tape, embroidery hoop, a piece of sheer curtain slightly larger than your embroidery hoop

You now have a negative image piece of vinyl that has been weeded, so you’re going to use your transfer tape (contact paper) to lift your stencil off of the vinyl backing and attach it to the screen (which is a piece of sheer fabric curtain). If you don’t know how to use transfer tape, there are instructions here: How to Use Transfer Tape for Cricut and Silhouette Projects.

After you place your vinyl stencil onto the screen and remove the transfer tape, you can cut your stencil/screen to the size of your embroidery hoop. The hoop is used to hold your stencil/screen tight for the application phase. You want to leave about 2 inches around the outside of the hoop so that you can keep it pulled tight. Use painter’s tape around the edges to help make sure you don’t go over the edge of your vinyl stencil.

The hoop plus your sheer curtain with the vinyl stencil attached is now your screen for the purposes of discussion.

A "Screen" for Screenprinting

A “Screen” for Screenprinting

Step 3: Doing the Screen Printing


Tools used in this step: Your screen (which is the embroidery hoop with the sheer curtain piece and your vinyl stencil attached to it), Speedball ink, squeegee, gloves (if you want to keep your hands clean), surface protection, cardboard for in between layers of your t-shirt

Insert a piece of cardboard between the layers of your t-shirt to prevent bleeding through. Place the screen onto your shirt where you want it to appear. You will then put a little bit of Speedball ink onto your stencil and spread it evenly over the stencil using your squeegee. Fill in all the parts and then scrape it clean so that you have a thin layer of ink over the areas where it is supposed to print. Let it dry for a few minutes and then remove your screen.


Your shirt is now done, but you need to let it dry for about 24 hours.

Advantages to Screenprinting vs. Vinyl Heat Transfer

Once you have created a screen, you can take it out of the embroidery hoop for storage and re-use it. From one sheet curtain panel you can create anywhere from 6 to 8 screens which you can store. This gives you a variety of ready made screens that you can pop in and out of your embroidery hoop to teach teens the basics of screen printing. Would also be great for creating summer reading shirts.

Because you are creating a screen that can be re-used, it costs less than using heat transfer vinyl on a large number of t-shirts. Heat transfer vinyl is more expensive than standard vinyl and here you are using one piece as opposed to multiple pieces for multiple shirts.

Many of the supplies and tools can be re-used, which makes this a less expensive project over time.

The t-shirts feel more like authentic t-shirts as opposed to t-shirts that have the stiff feel of vinyl on them.

What the Teens Learn:

  • Design
  • Some basic tech
  • Screenprinting

Here is a really quick tutorial that you can watch on YouTube that demonstrates how quick and easy screenprinting with a Silhouette Cameo is: