There are various terms used for what is essentially the same technique. Traditionally the process was called screen printing or silkscreen printing because silk was used in the process prior to the invention of polyester mesh. Currently, synthetic threads are commonly used in the screen printing process. The most popular mesh in general use is made of polyester. There are special-use mesh materials of nylon and stainless steel available to the screen printer. There are also different types of mesh size which will determine the outcome and look of the finished design on the material. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screen_printing
Screen print first started with silk screen printing and for silk screen printing you need SILK. The history of silk is fascinating and this website gives loads of details. S – SILK ROAD ENCYCLOPEDIA – Guide on Silk Route Trade & Travel.
It was in China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE) that silk screen printing first appeared and other countries like Japan took the technique further with block printing and paints.