Printing on Fabric (An Update)

I've debated posting this update for a while.  The main thing that has held me back is that a good portion of my fabric printing process occurs in my garage (I don't like having my ironing board around my toddler so I keep it in the garage).  It works well for my purposes, but not very well for trying to take nice looking pictures.   I kept telling myself that I'd do an update when I was able to get some time sans kids at a time where lighting would be good inside.  And it wasn't really happening, or if it did happen I had something else more important to work on.  So I've finally decided that I'm just going to post this post anyways, even with the crumby pictures.  Because printing on fabric is just TOO cool to miss out on.  If you've followed the blog for a while, you probably remember lots of projects where I exploited fabric printing.  Remember my quiet book and finger puppets?  They are just both examples of how printing on fabric can simplify a process which can be extremely time consuming.  I made my kids drawings (and my own portraits of them) into pocket pals.  I made a custom bag for my story dice.  I made a cloth baby book with pictures of the parents to be. 

So today I'm going to tell you about how I print on fabric, and that yes it is easy.  And that no, I have not ruined my printer doing it (my husband was very skeptical...ok, we both were!) but I have gotten pretty good at fixing "paper jams".  Hopefully by the end of this post you'll be confident enough to try it on your own printer, but if not, you should also know that there are companies, such as Spoonflower, which will print yours (or others!) images out for you onto the fabric of your choice.

First though here are a few more examples about how I used printing on fabric to make personalized gifts and even ART.

In the first picture I made a "Big Sister Kit" for a friend's child who just had a baby. I drew cartoons of all of the family members, scanned them into my computer, and then printed them out onto fabric and made them into stuffed dolls.  I know that a lot of people might think of fabric printing as primarily a use to transfer photographs, but you can do so much more!  In this instance I used fabric printing to make a personalized gift (the options are endless!).

The second picture is my first attempt to make fabric "art."  You might remember my original sketch of this girl for my daughters' big girl room.  Well, I printed her out and made a collage of sorts with fabric, embroidery floss, and beads.

In this last picture I took an old painting done by my GREAT grandmother and made it into a pillow for my mom.  Of course this technique can also be used for photographs, but I love that  these three examples are how you can use printing on fabric in an artistic way.

Ready to try to print on fabric using your own printer?

First a few words. 

I cannot take responsibility if you ruin your printer, ok?  All I can tell you is that for me (and others on the web!), this works extremely well.  I hope it will for you too.

So here's how I print on fabric.

I used to use these fabric sheets that I bought from the craft store.  Eventually though, I wanted to find a cheaper way to do this, and I read around online and found that several people use freezer paper.  I was thrilled to find out that this method worked even BETTER than the purchased sheets for me.  So here's how I print on fabric, along with some tips I've learned along the way. 

I cut out an 8.5 x 11 piece of freezer paper.  and a matching size piece of 100% cotton, usually quilting weight.  You can go thicker as well (I've used bottom weight fabrics). 

This is the freezer paper I use.  I bought it at my local grocery store.
Iron the GLOSSY side of the freezer paper to the fabric.  The picture below is of the glossy side--see how it shines?  Put your fabric on top of this side.

And iron away!  I use the highest heat setting (no STEAM!) and slowly go over the whole fabric until it is adhered to the freezer paper.  I pay special attention to the corners, since if they aren't tightly connected at these points it is much more likely for the printer to jam.

Now I trim the edges of the fabric so that it perfectly aligns with the freezer paper.  Again, this is really important for avoiding jams.
Now it's simple.  Just load your printer as you would a normal sheet of paper, making sure that the good side (indicated by your printer) and "fabric up" side are properly aligned.  For me that means placing the fabric side face down in the tray.

I have an Epson Workforce printer.  It is not a simple feed that goes straight in to be printed.  Nope, it has to loop around.  I thought for sure that I'd need a printer with a much more gentle feed, but this has worked so well, so don't be discouraged if you have a printer like mine.  My printer uses Durabrite inks.  A lot of people swear by durabrite inks, but I've read positive things about other companies inks as well.  Some people just say they have to be pigment inks.  I've never tested anything beyond Durabrite, so I can't really say.  I just recommend you try it with your printer.  (and if you have an outcome, please leave a comment and let us all know how it goes!)

Here's my image coming out...

I just pull off the fabric from the freezer paper and let my fabric dry for 12-24 hours.  I reuse the freezer paper multiple times, until the I start having problems getting the freezer paper to adhere to the fabric. 

After the fabric dries, I wash my fabric on a gentle cycle with a phosphate free laundry detergent (I use Woolite phosphate free) and let it air dry.  This wash step isn't really necessary for some projects, but I like to wash any project that will be coming in contact with other fabrics (such as my couch) or my kids (such as dolls, etc.)  I do notice a little bit of fading, but I'm still pretty happy with the results.  I have found though that if I am impatient (and wash immediately after printing), I have much more of a problem with fading.

I hope this post demystifies fabric printing for you, and excites you as it has me.  Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section, or leave some input from your own experiences!


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