Silk screen and embroidery shop keeps on doing its thing in north Auburn

You’ve probably seen their handiwork.

Perhaps glimpsed it in the blur of colors on passing motorcyclists’ jackets, on the ball caps adorning many a sporting head and on countless logo-bearing T-shirts.

Yep, you’ve probably seen what Jon Williams and his daughter, Courtney, can do.

And if you saw it around here, odds are good it came from Outhouse Screen Printing and Embroidery at 50 37th St. NE, Ste D in Auburn.

That’s dad doing all the silk screening among the turning gizmos and brightly-colored paints the back of the shop, while daughter works embroidery on the four machines with the turning spindles of thread just inside the front door. The two dogs in the warehouse? They’re just for barking.

So, how’s business?

“Busy, yeah,” said Jon, switching immediately from his usual low-key tone to downright enthusiastic. “Yeah. Everybody wears a T-shirt. If it has a logo on it, it has to be screen-printed on.”

The business proved its staying power throughout the distress of COVID-19.

“People could just send in their orders, so they didn’t have to come in much,” said Jon.

The Outhouse began in 1996 as a skateboard shop on the south side of East Main Street across from Washington Elementary School. At street level, it was all snowboarding accessories, and in the basement, printing.

“We used to print shirts in the basement,” said Jon. “Because of the whole snowboarding thing, the snowboarding accessories end went online to bigger stores. But I just kept on, printing shirts in the basement.”

By 2004, the market had changed. Williams closed up his East Main Street shop and moved the business to the family home on G Street.

And kept on printing. Seems demand for printing itself never waned.

In 2021, desirous of wresting their home back from the cacophony of the machines, the family moved the Outhouse to it present pad.

On a recent afternoon, Courtney demonstrated how the stitchery on hats and shirts, etc., is done.

These days, many of the designs to be embroidered arrive already digitized, fit for the camera’s reading pleasure, or the client may bring in a design, or her dad may work it up.

The actual process, she said, uses what’s called a snowman sticker — basically a special shirt stick-on with the numeral 8 on it. A machine detects Mr. Snowman with a camera. If the measurements are off by a hair, the resulting design will be crooked, useless.

When precision is assured, Courtney puts a magnetic frame over the shirt, the sensitive camera beneath snaps to, she presses “go” and the order runs its round.

Can she sew? Another smile. Over the noise of the turning machines, Courtney lets out her big secret.

“A lot of people come in and ask if I can sew stuff. I don’t know how to sew at all. I can do the little bit that I learned in home economics in high school, but that’s about it,” said Courtney.

The company’s bread and butter is names and numbers on jerseys, logos for the city of Auburn, for real estate agents, for an airport, for whatever.

One of the coolest of the projects, Courtney said, sailed into the shop on a favorable breeze last summer.

“It was a big yacht for a Seattle boat club, and the amount of detail was absolutely insane,” said Courtney. “I love the really detailed designs, because with embroidery, you can really do anything.”