I DIY: Caitlin Mociun Turns a Cheapy Dress Into a Printed Masterpiece Using…Potatoes!

Caitlin Mociun, the one-woman force behind whimsical clothing brand Mociun, has put her personal stamp on the fashion industry by basing her killer collections on innovative, hand-drawn prints. While we love the look of her intricately patterned frocks, we never thought we could re-create the look on our own--until now. Read on for Caitlin's easy printmaking how-to, and turn your basic summer dresses into thrifty works of art!
Inspiration: Ease, simplicity and printing! An easy way to make a printed garment at home. In light of ease and simplicity, I also wanted to use a very simple motif to create an all-over design.
Materials Needed: Dress or other garment. You can print on anything, just make sure that it doesn't have a lot of darts or pleats. The flatter the garment, the easier it will be to print.
Potatoes or another vegetable such as carrots (for circles) or jicama (for a really large motif)
Textile silk screen ink
Plastic wrap
Plate (or something to roll ink on)
Rags/paper towels
Hair dryer (optional)
Total Cost:
$58 (with a $25 American Apparel dress)
$25 (not including dress)
Total Time: 2 hours
Preparing your stamps:
If the vegetables you bought are dirty, wash and dry them so you don't get any dirt on your garment. I picked a very simple motif to make my print. For a simple shape like this, cut the potato in half and then into the desired shape, leaving at least a couple of inches so you have something to hold onto while printing. Wrap the "handle" with plastic wrap so your hands stay dry.
For a more complicated design, you can draw on the potato with a watercolor pencil to create a motif. Then use a razor blade to cut away the parts of the potato that you don't want ink to get on (like the little drawing of the triangle outline). Please note that if you are going to be printing all over a dress like I did, the stamp will start to get soft around the edges and you'll lose the crispness of the print. If you use a simple motif, you can make multiple stamps that are the same or if the stamp starts lose its shape on the edges, you can slice off about 1/8 of an inch to make a new crisp surface. I've found that harder vegetables like jicama and carrots hold their shape a lot longer than potatoes.
Preparing your garment:
When printing, you need to print on a flat surface. You need to put something inside the garment to separate the front and the back so that the ink doesn't soak through. You can use cardboard or a smooth, thick piece of fabric. I used a combination here. I used the cardboard to stretch out the elastic. I made sure to adjust and move it when printing so I never printed on the edge of the cardboard since it would create a line in the print. I prefer to use fabric in between because its a smoother surface and doesn't pick up the texture of the cardboard. Since you're printing on a pre-made garment, you will be moving and adjusting the cardboard and/or fabric while you're moving along, printing different parts of the garment.
Put a couple of tablespoons of ink on your plate. With the roller, apply a layer of ink onto the plate, so you have a kind of ink pad to dip the stamp on. Make sure there's always enough ink smoothed out on the plate so your stamp gets evenly covered when you press it into the plate. You can also use the roller to spread ink into the stamp--this works better for larger stamps than pressing them on the plate.
Start stamping your garment. Make sure that it's flat and the fabric is smoothed out. If you are going to print all over like I did on this dress, start on the top of the garment and work your way down. Print the front middle and near to the side seams. After this is done, let the ink dry, if you use a hair dyer you can dry the ink in about five minutes. Gently pat the printed area to make sure it's dry, and make sure no ink comes off on your hands. When it's dry, adjust your cardboard and fabric so that you can print on the side seam of the garment. Do each side, making sure he ink is dry before you adjust the garment to print a new area. When both side seams are printed, move onto the back. Again, adjust the cardboard and fabric to make sure there is something separating the fabric.
When the whole garment is printed and dry to the touch, put it in the dryer for at least sixty minutes on high heat. This is to set the ink. If you don't do this, your design will wash out.
Wear it!
After the ink is set, you can wash the garment in cold water and dry it in the dryer, unless you are printing on something that should not be put in the dryer when wet, like silk. If you do print on silk, you still need to set the ink in the dryer. Putting the dry garment in the dryer shouldn't affect it.

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