Screen-Printing at Home With Jacqueline Rousseau
A studio within a studio apartment—ah, gotta love New York.
Jacqueline Rousseau gives new meaning to Manhattan’s ubiquitous studio apartment. Not only does a single-room West Village oasis serve as her home, but it’s also HQ for her namesake label. “It’s like a little factory,” she laughs. “I produce everything by hand.” Which means that Rousseau’s teensy apartment currently houses three sewing machines, her line’s complete archives (half-baked sketches and all), endless bolsters of fabric, and the screen-printing table she built herself—the space’s star. Here, she shows us how she gets busy with her printing…without bumping into her bed.
“I decide which fabrics and colors to use depending on what I’m making. If I’m making a garment, like a dress, I usually use a stretch fabric—say a denim or jersey. For my Of a Kind edition, I found this gorgeous chambray from France that came in a few colors, so I got a bunch of swatches and experimented with different ink colors. The paint I use for all of my stuff is called AquaBright Textile Inks, and I get a ton of my supplies from Standard Screen Supply in Soho on Varick Street. The guy who works there has been doing this for forever, and when I was just starting out, he was pretty nice about telling me that I was doing it all wrong.”
“After I’ve set up my table, I carefully lay out my fabric and center the screen. Then I scoop out a good amount of ink and pool it at the very top of the frame. For the most part, I don’t worry about using too much ink. Especially when I’m working with a new fabric or screen, I tend to err on the side of excess, because the screen will catch whatever ink is leftover. It’s much worse to run out of ink mid-screen, because if you do, you won’t be able to get an even, vibrant print.
“Then the fun part! The process is pretty quick, and you can’t waste too much time or the ink will dry in the screen. Basically, once I have the screen centered over the fabric and I’ve added my ink, I pull a squeegee down the panel with both hands at a slight angle. The goal is to keep a smooth motion. Once I reach the bottom, I quickly change my grip to pull the squeegee in the opposite direction and back up to the top of the screen so that it doesn’t dry out between ink runs.”
“Voila! Blue-on-blue stud screen-print. Once the actual printing is over, I lay the still-wet fabric out on the floor to dry. Then I’ll heat-set the fabric in the dryer or with an iron, and, finally, I’ll put it through another full wash-and-dry cycle to make sure that the ink is really secure and no surprises show up later.”
“I screen print fabric for ties, clothing, and handbags. And of course, the particulars of the process depend on what I’m screen-printing, but the basic idea is the same. As for the blue fabric that you just saw me print? It’ll be made into a dress like the red screen-printed one that you can see at the front of the rail.”