Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fabric Printing Tips Part 1: Mechanics of Printing.

Several folks wrote me to ask about some tips on printing on fabric, so here goes!

Edited 4/17/11: Though Bubble Jet Set 2000 is still available and a viable option, I no longer use it. I prefer using commercially available, prepared for printing, paper backed fabric. For smaller projects I love EQ5 printables. For larger projects I'm experimenting with Jacquard FabriSign II sateen and silks. I no longer rinse my prints, simply letting them "cure" by leaving them alone for at least a week after printing. I'm still using Epson printers.

There are many sources of information on this topic. Two recognized experts are Caryl Bryer Fallert and Gloria Hansen. Caryl has written a book about printing on fabric and offers detailed information on her website. Gloria has written several articles for The Professional Quilter, as well as offering countless online tips on her website, and on the Quiltart list. I’m sure there are other books that are also relevant.
That said here’s the quick and dirty version of how I print on fabric.
I soak Southern Belle Broadcloth in Bubble Jet 2000, let it dry, iron it, and then iron it to freezer paper (the shiny side will stick to the fabric). I trim the freezer paper backed fabric to fit the width of my printer, trim the two corners that will be fed in, and use a sticky lint roller to remove lint. I feed the fabric through the printer just as I would a normal sheet of paper. I set my printer to the matte paper setting – you will need to experiment with your printer to see which setting yields the best prints for you.
Let the prints set for 24 hours, iron it, rinse in cool water, dry flat, iron, and you’re ready to go!
I have two Epson printers, an Epson CX4600 and a 2200. The CX4600 uses Durabrite inks, the 2200 uses pigment inks. Both of these inks will print fine on untreated fabric. I like the look better when I use BJS2000. BJS was created to allow the use of dye based inks (such as most inkjet printers have) on fabric and make them wash fast. Regular inkjet inks are more liquid, and do not sit on top of the fabric as much as the pigment based inks. However, the pigment inks are more lightfast and more water resistant. They also can crock if treated too roughly, so you want to wash them by hand.
Many people skip the BJS soaking and use pretreated fabric sheets, such as Printed Treasures and EQ5. Some folks also print on silk. There are those who find that using full page labels to back the fabric as it goes through the printerworks best for them. If you plan to fuse your design you can back it with Wonder Under and keep the release sheet on as you run it through the printer. The options are endless. Use these tips as a jumping off point and see what works best for your situation.
If you go through the Artful Quilters web ring you'll find plenty of good examples of printing on fabric. Yesterday I chanced upon BJ Paraday's blog, and she had some lovely examples.
Most of all, have fun!

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