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Tips & Techniques > Printing on Fabric (Labels, Photographs, etc)

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Posted by: e_e_thomas

About e_e_thomas star
Member since: 3/5/02
Reviews: 28 (tips: 1)
Skill level:Intermediate
Favored by: 3 people
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Posted on: 12/6/02 3:32 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 3 people   Very Helpful by 9 people   
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When I started sewing a lot of gifts for other people, I wanted to figure out a way to create labels. I could have handwritten labels, but my preference was to print them from a computer. That way the writing would be legible, and I could include graphics and photographs.

There are three options that I've seen: photo transfer sheets, fabric sheets, and bubble jet set. Photo transfer paper is readily available in office supply stores. You can print an image or text onto it, and then use an iron to transfer the image onto fabric. I have not tried this. I thought that it wouldn't look very professional and would change the hand of the fabric. Another option would be fabric sheets. These are 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of fabric which have been treated, and can be run through your printer just like normal paper. There are examples here. I haven't used this method either, and I don't know why it wouldn't work. Maybe someone else has tried these sheets? What I did use was Bubble Jet Set (NAYY). This is a chemical that you soak your fabric in. Apparently it reacts with the ink jets to make them washable. There's more information on it here. This is how I use it:

a) Cut a 9" x 12" rectangle out of 100% cotton muslin.
b) Soak it in Bubble Jet Set for about 5 minutes in a shallow tray.
c) Let the fabric dry.
d) Cut a piece of freezer paper to 8 1/2 x 11, and iron it on to the center of the fabric rectangle.
e) Trim off the extra fabric.
f) Print onto the fabric (the stiffness of the freezer paper makes it run smoothly through the printer)
g) Wait a while (as long as possible)
h) Wash in a mild detergent
i) Incorporate into your garment!

I have seen pictures of entire quilts or bags made from pieced together printouts. The closest I've gotten to that was this project. Photographs don't print that well, but text and graphics that don't have a lot of color complexity work really well (clip art works well). Here's a picture of a label which has already been washed and dried and incorporated into the back of a stuffed animal. One of the things I like about this method is that it doesn't change the hand of the fabric. I recently printed a photograph on a piece of white rayon ambiance lining, and it's really neat -- it's slightly transparent, and drapy, and a photograph (I haven't tried washing it yet, though). The only serious limit on this technique is the size of the paper that you're printer can take. Mine is supposed to be able to take banner paper (8 1/2 x infinity) but I haven't tried printing long strips of fabric yet. Hmmm. Maybe you could design your own print for a gored skirt ...

I've had a lot of fun using this technique to print on fabric. It's not the only way, and I don't know if it's the best, but it works.

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seaSerpent said... (11/17/03 10:23 PM) Reply
Genius! I can't wait!
mugsisme said... (12/25/02 4:17 AM) Reply
Great review Elizabeth. I enjoyed the pictures. I use Bubble Jet Set for pictures all the time. I find that they fade after doing the washing. There are several sites out there with hints and yahoo has a group just for bubble jet set. I think that for pictures you have to change the settings on your printer and also scan your pictures at a high resolution. Ami Simms also has a transfer paper but it is expensive when you add the cost of the paper and the copying. Kol Tov! ~ Leah
AnneM said... (12/11/02 6:38 PM) Reply
What a great tip!!! I love this idea, and thank you for including all the different options. This has "gifts" written all over it. I just have to figure out what it is written on. ;)
e_e_thomas said... (12/7/02 9:48 PM) Reply
I think laser printers are a lot pickier about the types of paper they can accept. If your printer can take the pre-treated fabric sheets, then it should be able to take fabric that you prepare.
Everyday Sewist said... (12/7/02 3:00 PM) Reply
I used photo transfer sheets (the iron-on ones). They were fun and they worked o.k. for a craft project I did, but I probably wouldn't use them for something that was going to be washed & worn a lot. Thanks for letting us know about the other options.
Tess said... (12/6/02 11:23 PM) Reply
Does anyone know if this will work in a color laser printer? We have one at work that makes wonderful photo prints and I was wondering if it would work with fabric. It would be great for parent Christmas gifts from my students. Your pillows are wonderful!!!! Thanks, Tess
e_e_thomas said... (12/6/02 4:04 PM) Reply
I haven't used up my bottle yet, and I've had it for over a year. I definitely pour everything I can back into the bottle after soaking a piece of fabric. I remember reading somewhere an estimate that one bottle will do 40 sheets of paper. I don't know how many I've done, but I still have half a bottle. Have fun!
Maria Hatfield said... (12/6/02 3:53 PM) Reply
Elizabeth, wow those sheets that are already coated are expensive ! i notice the other stuff you use "bubble jet set" is $16.95 for 32 oz. howmuch are you pouring into the bottom of the pan ? and can you reuse it (pour it back into the bottle?) and do you know about howmany sheets you can get out of it? sorry so full of questions.
Maria Hatfield said... (12/6/02 3:45 PM) Reply
Thanks elizabeth, thats some good info. i think i would like to try that. but first i have to buy some more ink for my "all in one ink jet, copier and scanner" geez, it costs an arm and leg for the ink for these things. but soon as i do get some ink, im trying this. thanks maria
e_e_thomas said... (12/6/02 3:40 PM) Reply
One more thing -- I think all of these methods can be used on color photocopiers if you don't have access to an ink jet printer.
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