Gift For Book Lovers

Gift For Book Lovers

The obvious gift for book lovers might seem to be…another book. Jennifer offers a better idea: using screen print with vinyl to create unique tote bags, shirts or any other type of apparel with a message for those who always believe the book was better.


    You know the type: always with their nose stuck in a book. 

    Word warriors.

    Netflix naysayers. 

    Screentime shrinkers. 

    How do you find the perfect gift for a bookworm that isn’t just another book? Jennifer Sanderson, has the perfect DIY project idea. This project features screen printing with a vinyl stencil which can easily be made with any vinyl cutting machine. The project doesn’t end there! You can reuse the vinyl stencil design to screen print other items too.

    The best part? You get to load up a big ‘ol squeegee. I mean, even saying the word “squeegee” is fun. Like, is it a verb? Is it a noun? Is it a new mobile telecomms technology? Wait…that’s 3G. Anyway, during this project, Jennifer will show you how to use the squeegee and make an awesome gift for a fellow book lover. Or for the people who turn others into book lovers, like the school librarian or an elementary school teacher.

    For this project, Jennifer used a simple design (which we’ll give you access to), but feel free to branch out and create a new design. Favorite lines, book titles, witty puns. Poke around sites like
    Goodreads until you see something you like.

    Products We Used


    • Port & Company® - Budget Tote B150
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    • As always, we encourage you to use the same products we’ve already tested and approved, but if you’d like to go your own way, we salute you! Just make sure the blank you are using is a similar fabric.

    • Additional blanks we recommend you use for this project are also listed at the bottom of the tutorial.


    • Screen printing ink

    • Squeegee

    • Screen

    • Pressing mat

    • Plastic spoon

    • Painter’s tape

    • Heat gun (optional)

    • Vinyl cutting machine (we used Cricut)

    • Standard grip cutting mat

    • Brayer tool

    • Weeding tool

    • Adhesive vinyl (Jennifer used Oracal 651)

    • Scissors

    • Transfer tape

    • Vinyl scraper

    • Exacto knife

    • Heat press or iron (we used a hand held heat press)

    • Parchment paper

    The Prepping

    Step 1: Create or upload your design into your vinyl cutting machine’s design software

    When creating stencils for screen printing, keep in mind that you’ll want to use a design that is simple and not super intricate. You want the details to be big enough to allow for easy cutting and weeding.

    Download Jennifer's design or use your own design, and load it into your vinyl cutting machine’s design software.

    Within your vinyl cutting machine’s design software, adjust the design size to fit your blank. Make sure it fits nicely on the mesh of your screen by having at least 1 inch tolerance around the design.

    The Making - Create Your Vinyl Stencil

    We’re preparing our design in the Cricut design space. You’ll need to refer to your specific cutting machine’s instruction guide on how to cut vinyl.

    Step 1: Prepare your vinyl cutting machine for cutting

    We’re preparing our design in the Cricut design space. You’ll need to refer to your specific cutting machine’s instruction guide on how to cut vinyl.

    Hit the "Make It" button located in the top right corner of your project page in the Cricut design space. The design will be displayed virtually on the cutting mat.

    Edit the mat size or the design placement on the mat, if needed. If your artwork contains text like ours, you’ll need to mirror the image to ensure that it reads correctly when it’s applied to the t-shirt.

    Be aware of the pressure setting

    The pressure setting will automatically go to its normal "default" setting if it’s not specifically adjusted, so be sure to take care of this now. 

    And don’t forget to refer to the vinyl manufacturer's website to choose the proper material and pressure settings for your vinyl cutter.

    Cutting Machine Tip

    Step 2: Place the vinyl on your cutting mat

    When using adhesive vinyl as a screen-printing stencil, the shiny side of the vinyl should be faced up and the adhesive side (applied to your mat) should be faced down.

    Take your brayer tool and roll it evenly over the vinyl to remove any air bubbles.

    Step 3: Cut!

    Insert the cutting mat into the Cricut by using the rollers. Once the mat hits the rollers, push the flashing “Arrow” button. The cutter will pull in the cutting mat, and when it’s ready to cut the “Cricut” button will begin to flash. Now it’s time to push the button and watch the machine cut your design!

    Once finished cutting, the Cricut will stop and the arrow button will flash. Push the flashing arrow button to release the cutting mat from the machine.

    Remove the vinyl from the mat by holding the cutting mat down with one hand and use your other hand to pull the vinyl off the cutting mat away from you.

    Step 4: Start weeding your vinyl

    Using your weeding tool, begin to weed your vinyl. Keep in mind we’re making a stencil, so we’ll be weeding the design and leaving the negative space.

    The Making - Screen Printing

    Step 1: Transfer your weeded design to the screen

    Use the vinyl scraper to evenly apply transfer tape to the face of the weeded vinyl, the adhesive side face down.This can be tricky so be patient and if you are new to this process, it could be beneficial to try on a simplified design until you get the hang of it.

    Remove the backing of the vinyl to expose the adhesive.

    Step 2: Transfer the vinyl to your screen

    Apply the vinyl, adhesive side down, to the bottom side (the flat side) of the screen directly onto the mesh.

    Next, flip the screen over so the flat side is flush with your work surface. Use the vinyl scraper and rub over the vinyl multiple times to ensure it's securely applied to the mesh.  and there are no bubbles between the vinyl and mesh.

    Step 3: Remove the transfer tape

    Flip the screen back over so the vinyl is facing you and carefully remove the transfer tape from the face of the vinyl.

    Don’t panic if your vinyl lifts

    If your vinyl lifts as you remove the transfer tape, gently reposition and use your vinyl scraper to go back over the lifted area.

    You can also use your finger nails.

    Vinyl Tip

    Step 4: Tape off your screen

    On the side of the screen where you applied your vinyl, use painter’s tape to frame the vinyl, covering the exposed mesh between the screen frame and the perimeter of the vinyl. This will ensure that no unwanted ink is applied to your blank.

    Step 5: Prepare parchment paper

    Cut a piece of  parchment paper to the size of your blank and slide it inside. This will prevent the ink from bleeding through to the other side.

    Step 6: Prepare your heat press

    Set your heat press to 310 degrees Fahrenheit. If using an iron, set the temperature to the closest steam-free setting.

    Adjust the clam shell press pressure to accommodate your blank

    To set the pressure, place your blank on the press, close the clamshell, and turn the knob on top of the clamshell until the upper and lower plates both hold your blank nicely in place. It should be held with a firm grip.

    Heat Press Tip

    Step 7: Prepare your blank

    Use a lint roller to remove any excess fibers from the design placement area.

    Pre-press the blank for 3-5 seconds to ensure that the surface is completely flat, and that all moisture is removed from the fabric.

    Step 8: Let’s get printing

    Determine your design placement and place the screen, flat side down, on top of your blank. For best results, we recommend printing to a flat surface and not over seams.

    Using a spoon, scoop out ink and place it on the screen, distributing it in a line along the top of your design. Leave enough space between your ink and the screen frame to pull your squeegee. Then at a 60 degree angle, place the squeegee between the ink and the screen frame. 

    Using light force, pull the squeegee toward you and spread the ink evenly across your screen covering the entire design. Watch your pressure as you need enough to push the ink through the mesh.

    Practice makes perfect

    If you use too much pressure, too much ink will pass through the mesh causing uneven coverage or even blurring your design. 

    We highly recommended practicing first on an old swatch of fabric.

    Screen Print Tip

    Lift the screen printing frame to reveal your printed design!

    Step 9: Curing the ink on your blank

    Allow the blank to dry. If you’re one of those that reads the book from cover to cover, this won’t be a problem. If you’re the wait-for-the-movie-version type, well…try your best to be patient here! If you can’t take the anticipation, go ahead and speed up this process by using a heat gun.

    To cure the ink, use your heat press to press the blank. If using a handheld press, place a pressing mat under your blank. Next, place a piece of parchment paper between your screen printed blank and the heat press. Press for 20-30 seconds.

    Step 10: Clean up

    Stop, don’t throw out your excess ink! Use the spoon to scoop excess ink back into the jar, or use the ink to screen print additional blanks. If you’re screen printing more items, add extra ink as needed.

    To remove the vinyl from the screen, pull the vinyl using slight force. Wash the ink left on the screen with warm running water and rinse it thoroughly.

    Aaaaaaand scene. You now have a beautiful new tote bag…or t-shirt…or blanket…or whatever you end up making.