Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who do Yudu think you are?*

So this past Christmas I got a Yudu machine. Yea! Right? I must admit, as soon as they came out I was intrigued. Would it be like a great big Gocco? An easy way to print shirts, fabric, and whatever my little heart can imagine? According to the press and the hype it was all those things and more! Too fun!

At first I tried to use what little pull I had in the craft world to get a free machine to try. I knew other crafty bloggers and friends had been sent machines and at the time I was writing for CraftStylish and Yudu's parent company Provo Craft was one of our main sponsors. They did send machines but I wasn't one of the chosen bloggers. Oh well. I then though I had an in through the Boyfriend and a few connections made at last year's Maker Faire, but alas no free Yudu for me. Sigh. I'd given up all hope but then Santa (aka my Mom and a Joann Fabric coupon and my Dad and his $$$) plopped one under my tree.

First thought. . . DAMN this things big.
Trying out the new Yudu
Sooooo much bigger than my little ol' Gocco, yet still not big enough to replace the traditional screenprinting set-up I need to print fabric for logs and such. After Christmas morning it sat on my dinning table for about a month unused. Sadly, I rarely have time for hobby crafting anymore.

So it sat unused for about a month until I finally had a project. Yea! I couldn't wait to get started! Which leads me to my second thought - supplies, especially emulsion sheets are hard to find and expensive. I used to think that one of the main draws would be how easy it would be to find supplies since they carry them at Michael's and Joanns. With my traditional printing set-up I have to order everything since there are no suppliers in my town. Yudu offered the prospect of easy to come by supplies and spur of the moment projects, but my local Joann doesn't have a full craft section and the Michael's is always sold out. I was hoping the Yudu would mean I wouldn't have to wait for packages to ship but alas, I had to order all the necessary materials to get started.

I finally got all my supplies last week and got ready to print. First thing I did was watch the DVD that came with the machine so that I would have a good idea what to do. Big mistake. What a useless piece of crap it is. The "how-to" features 2 people a woman who is the expert and a Bubba-like yokel who's there for "comic relief" but who only serves to bother and annoy. I suppose what the Provo craft people were going for was a "Look, even this dolt can use the Yudu! So can you!" Sort of thing but the true effect is frustrating and not at all helpful. After the epic fail that was the DVD I looked to the quick start guide for help. Alas, no help was to be found there either. The machine doesn't come with a complete how-to manual booklet but the quick guide makes assumptions they shouldn't about info that's not provided. Such as which is the front and which is the back of the screen. Since I have some printing history I was able to figure it out but the average crafter might mistake the smoother more finished looking back for the front. Luckily the videos and tutorials on the website are more helpful and informative but I find it very annoying that I have to keep my laptop by my side to figure out a crafting tool.

After watching a few of the online tutorials (featuring a very informative expert and no one trying to audition for the next Blue Collar Comedy Tour) I finally got started. The instructions seemed simple enough. Wet the screen place the film, flatten the film, dry for 15 to 20 minutes. So I wet the screen but apparently not enough since the film wasn't really sticking so I added more water. I smoothed it out with a damp paper towel and my squeegee and put it in the dryer. 15 minutes passed and it was not dry so I put it in for another 15 minutes, still not dry. Ultimately it was in there for an hour. After the hour I removed the screen from the dryer and went to remove the protective plastic film. Apparently it was still not dry 'cause this happened:
First Yudu screen print = F for Failure!
So off I went to the sink to wash $10 of emulsion sheet down the drain and try again. The second time went much better but still took over an hour to dry fully in the machine's self-contained dryer.

Second attempt after the screen was burned:
First successful Yudu screen

Now I'm working on the second screen for my project. The prep went soooo much better now that I know what I'm doing but it's still taking forever to dry. I think Evie from "Out of This World" must work for Provo Craft 'cause the only way these screens take only 20 minutes to dry is if they have someone working for them who can stop time.

I'll post about the printing later but I guess my biggest gripe about the Yudu, beyond their awful how-to material and time underestimations, is the cost. Yes it is less messy than how I prepare my more traditional screens but they're soooo much more expensive. The screens are comparable, about $20 per screen but everything else seems like such a rip-off. The emulsion I use for my regular printing is $30 a container and each container contains at least 30 screens worth (if not more). On the other hand Yudu emulsion sheets are $19 for 2 (though I have found them online at $15 for 2). The ink is $7.50 for a 3 oz bottle! 16 oz jars of my favorite printing ink, Versatex, can be found for 'round $10. On the Yudu website they say that you shouldn't use other inks because they will ruin your screen, but I suspect that it has more to do with Provo craft making money and less to do with which inks work best.

And that's what gets me. It's all so greedy. "Be creative! Express yourself! But only use our product." I set up my traditional, if slightly low-fi, printing set-up for about $350-400 but that includes 6 screens, 4 gallon jars of ink, squeegee, emulsion, and print station. They say the Yudu is fit to use out of the box. I suppose it is. But you only get 2 emulsion sheets (and I've yet to talk to a person who didn't mess up the first time), one screen, and a small tube of black ink so what you're able to make is very, very limited. For the project I'm working on I had to buy 2 more screens, more emulsion sheets (2 packs), ink (not Yudu, sorry, not falling for your trick, Provo), registration sheets, screen cleaner, screen filler, and better squeegees all for a grand total of $125 not including shipping. Provo may have picked my pocket this time but I'm already figuring out hacks. When I figure them out, I'll share them with you.

That's all for now. I'm sure the rant will continue tomorrow when the real printing happens.

Hearts and puppies,
*Thanks Spice Girls!


Sickofitcindy said...

I believe you can purchase non Yudu emulsion sheets via Dick Blick and it should be MUCH cheaper. I haven't investigated it too much since I haven't even taken it out of the box. It is a great perch for Dusty Rick Springfield.

erika said...

Yeah, you can. I've found them on eBay at like 10 for $23 but not before I ordered the Provo sanctioned sheets. I've managed to screw up twice now so I'll have to get new sheets soon. This is so much more involved than my little friend Gocco.

Oh, did you like the Spice Girls link?

Stereoette said...

i wanted one of these until i saw nikki's at thanksgiving... my god, if that thing were 6 inches longer, i could use it as my bed! its HUGE!

cant wait to see what goodies you make with it though.

mynameissnuffy said...

erika erika should have talked to Mrs. Jenny or Lauren or I before you bought it. We would have told you our horror story! Took 3 smart, craft ladies 5 hours and one layer cake to do 6 shirts...and they weren't even finished by the end.

...if you're brave enough to witness the horror.

erika said...

Well, I was contented with not getting it but my mom saw it on sale at Joann's. Now I feel obliged to use it. So far. At best annoyed

Average Jane Crafter said...

I got a Yudu last year after SXSW (from the PC folks) - so full disclosure there. ;) I had a little bit of a tough time getting started, but found some workarounds. (I've also done traditional screen printing)

I didn't have the DVD, but I did some digging on their web site and found some sort of helpful FAQs and just went from there.

Here's my first tip: cut the emulsion sheets in half if you're doing small designs like the one shown above. I did two screens where I used half or less than the emulsion sheet and smacked my head when I realized how much I wasted. So either cut them in half or burn two images on one sheet and mask off what you don't need when printing.

And I hear you on the dryer issues - that's something I came across a lot when I went searching for tips on the web. What I started doing was setting up a little area where I could lean the screen against a chair or wall and draped a sheet over the area (to keep out light) and used my little counter-top fan to dry the screen. Dried that puppy in 10 min! I also experimented with laying 2 1X2 boards on my washer and dryer in my laundry room so I could lay the screen horizontally and set a fan by them to dry. I kept the door shut to keep it dark (sometimes when I leaned the screens, there were some drips that caused issues)

The other thing that has helped is in regard to the emulsion remover. When I started, I would drizzle it on and rinse it off, leaving lots of places still intact & would have to repeat a couple of times. I went through a *lot* of remover. :-p What I learned is to get the screen goooood and wet and drizzle on a small amount of remover. I then use my fingers or a gentle rub with a shower loofa (now designated as a screen-cleaner-only loofa ;) to remove the emulsion. With this method, I can usually get all the emulsion off in one try, with 1/4 of a bottle instead of 3/4 - a whole bottle.

hope that helps some! :)

Heather - said...

Okay, seriously, tagging your post craftfail but not posting at - for shame! :) Just kidding, but you should definitely join our cadre of failers over there. In other news, I'm linking to you soon (at dollarstorecrafts) because of your super-righteous tshirt quilt at craftstylish. You rock!


erika said...

Aw thanks, Heather! Yeah, I SHOULD post over at CraftFail. I always forget to share!!! Must be because I'm an only child.

molly said...

i was all excited... but still think i'll start with the gocco, since i'm one of the only people i know w/out one still!!
thanks for the intro...

erika said...

Honestly, I don't think it's worth the money. But that's just my opinion.