Monday, May 13, 2013

image transfer - a tutorial, part 1: treating the fabric.

As stated in some of my previous posts, I've been toying around with transferring images to fabric. In the most basic of ways. I'm not trying to layer images on top of each other or anything fancy just simple, basic here's a picture, now print.

There are image transfer sheets which you run through your printer and then iron on - this isn't what I'm talking about. There are also prepared fabric sheets that you run through your printer and peel off a paper backing. This is more along the lines of what I'm talking about. When I went to price the prep-fab sheets, they got very expensive for a large scale project; the pro is you pull them right out of the package and they are ready to go straight into the printer; they are, however, pre-cut to 8.5"x11". So if you have access to a bigger printer or [oh, boy!] a plotter, this might not be the way to go. Another considerations is that the pre-made package sheets are made of something called percale - this is the same thing that your bed sheets are made of. It is a denser weave than quilting fabrics, which is great when you're sleeping on it, but not so great when you are trying to sew it together with something else - quilting fabrics and bed sheets generally do not get along with each other. You can make it work... but, sometimes, there are problems, either immediately or down the road.

My purposes suggested that making my own fabric sheets would be the way to go. Why? I could cut strips and then cut them to any size I wanted to - say 8.5 x 10, for a little less waste, I could use coupons and my teacher discount to the big box fabric store to get 100% cotton bleached muslin at a discount, and I could experiment with color settings without racking up the cost of the premade pages [there is a slight color outcome difference from paper to fabric that has to do with the fibers].

If you want your picture to withstand the rigors of water and washing, read on. I will be posting about how to just create fabric printer sheets in a second instalment, and will link directly to that [but if you want them to be permanent, you'd better do this, or have/know someone with a laser printer]. This is labor intensive, but like many things, might be worth the investment depending on what your project is.

To make your own quantity of washable fabric printer pages, you will need the following materials:
  • fabric* [100% cotton is best]
  • freezer paper - whatever brand you can lay hands on, but it has to be freezer paper.
  • an iron and ironing board
  • a large-ish plastic bin, preferably with a flat bottom
  • plastic/rubber gloves [whatever you aren't allergic to - I used the yellow dishwashing uppity storebrand ones from the bullseye store]
  • a drying rack or a flat area that can be covered with a plastic sheet 
  • Bubble Jet Set and Bubble Jet Rinse. Why Bubble Jet Set? I don't know the chemistry behind it, but it helps set the ink from an ink jet printer [this is different from a laser jet printer]. When ordering it, order the rinse that goes with it, because you have to wash the images after they've been printed to set the color. [You can find Bubble Jet Set + the Rinse through on-line retailers]
  • Your favorite fabric scissors or a rotary cutter plus mat and acrylic ruler
  • a small funnel is handy, but not necessary. I strongly recommend the funnel though. You'll see why.

*Some notes:
I simply wrote fabric - remember, we're going for quantity here, not three sheets to a package. When I brought my yardage, I purchased a yard and a half of bleached muslin [this is 100% cotton] at the store - which works out to being . found it helpful to cut my fabric to the same width as my freezer paper, which happened to be 18". The length is inconsequential, since that can be dealt with later - remember, you could set your printer to print a banner if you really felt like it, and it would feed a long sheet of paper through happily without a hitch. I cut my fabric 18" wide - the width of the freezer paper - on bleached muslin yardage, and I cut it from selvage to selvage [this is the finished edge], so that I had strips that were 45" long, the width that fabric fabric is woven at.

I can hear a question now - how many sheets did I get out of my yard and a half? The following are the pictures of the second half of the yardage. So I don't know until we're done with the tutorial. The first batch made 10 sheets with some waste.

Also, set your iron and freezer paper aside - you won't need them for a good while. But you will need them.


 Step one:

Assemble EVERYTHING in the same place you intend to prep your fabric in. Doing this in a place with a linoleum floor should go without saying, not because the Bubble Jet will stain the floor, but because linoleum wipes up easily.

My bin isn't quite the right size for my fabric - I measured for my freezer paper, not my bin. But this won't be a problem. The goal is to get the fabric to take the Bubble Jet, and keep everything contained.

 Step two:

put on those plastic gloves and put one end of the fabric strip in the bin. The rest of the strip can be trailing on the floor or work surface - the liquid won't be drawn up the strip and out of the container. Pour some of the Jet Set in the bin on the fabric and start rubbing it into the fabric - you can see the dark spot where it's taking. You will need to rub it in, it won't just soak immediately like water. Once the end has been saturated, take the strip and fold it over the bin so that a new dry section is laying over the end, and the tail is hanging out the opposite side of the bin.

Step three through... whatever:

kinda like these pictures - flip from one side to the other. Don't pour any Jet Set yet, just start rubbing the dry fabric into the wet beneath it to soak up any excess liquid. [This way there is less waste!] If you discover that it's too dry, pour a little Jet Set in and keep rubbing until the new layer is damp. Fold the fabric strip over so that a dry layer is laying over the wet one and repeat the process until you're at the end of the strip. This isn't a "use more, better outcome" kind of thing though. It really is about getting the fabric damp, because it's just going to drip off. 

TA DA! End of the strip! By the time you get to the end, you shouldn't need to pour any Jet Set into the bin - the layers below should be wet enough that rubbing and pressing the dry layer into them should be enough to get it damp. You can wring this mass of fabric out a little bit into the bin if you suspect you might have poured on a bit more than you needed.

Last step:

I have a drying rack, so I hung mine out, and yes, I had a lot of dripping going on this go round. Rather than have a mess on my floor, I propped my bin up over the bottom brace of the rack with soup cans to catch the drips. This is where having a funnel is handy - once the fabric is dry enough that it isn't dripping any more, take the bin away and pour the excess back into the bottle to use for the next project. This dried really fast; it dries faster than clothes from a load of laundry set out to dry [or maybe it's because this sits right in front of the furnace...?]. Hypothetically, if you did this first thing in the morning, it would be ready to iron onto freezer paper by lunch. Or right after lunch. If you were in a crazy hurry, you could do this in a day if you timed it right.

Once it's dry and you aren't busy, this is the part where you want the iron and freezer paper and scissors - know where those are? Oh, well, I'm in that boat, too - go find them. I'll be back later with image transfer - a tutorial, part 2.

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