By Lisa Otto
While sewing in itself is fun, so is finding new and exciting ways of embellishing and manipulating fabrics to create something new. Printing on fabric with your home inkjet printer is one of those exciting techniques that allow you to add extra flair to a sewn outfit or creation.
Printing photos and images onto apparel and home décor items has definitely become easier over the past few years with the launch of more effective and long lasting inks and fabric photo papers. So, not only can you capture a beautiful image and apply it to a garment or décor item, but it will last after washings, wear and use.
How do you get started?
Surprisingly, it’s easier than you might think. First, decide what you want to decorate with a printed image. Maybe you’ve sewn your daughter a new summer dress and want to add pictures to the skirt or bodice. Perhaps you’ve created pillows and want to embellish them with printed images. The sky really is the limit when it comes to embellishing sewn projects. Be sure to use a inkjet printer for the methods listed below, and not a laser printer which becomes too hot during the printing process.
Next, you’ll need to decide how you want to transfer your printed images to your project: either by iron- on transfer or sew-on. There are several great options in fabric photo papers (often called T-Shirt transfer paper) on the market. Simply, choose the image you want to print and the size of the finished image, and print it onto fabric photo paper which you feed through your printer. Once the image comes out of the printer and has dried, you iron it onto your project. The ironing process heats the ink and helps to make it permanent. This method works great on fabrics which have a high cotton or natural fiber content and may not work as well on synthetic fabrics, so be sure to read the paper manufacturer’s directions and fabric recommendations.
The sew-on method (as I call it), actually allows you to place fabric in your printer! You’ll need 100% cotton fabric and freezer paper. Then, cut both your fabric swatch and freezer paper to no larger than 8 ½” x 11” or the size of a standard piece of printer paper. Then, place your fabric to the shiny side of the wax paper and iron for a few moments, or until the fabric is slightly stuck to the freezer paper. The fabric/paper combo has a tendency to curl at the edges, so be sure to keep a pencil handy for keeping the curled edges down during printing.
Then, place your fabric/paper into the printer and print your images or text right onto the fabric. Be sure there are no stray threads on any of the edges which may get caught on the way through the printer. And, use the pencil to gently feed any curled areas of the fabric through the printer as it processes. Once dry, remove the paper from the back of the fabric. Then, place the fabric ink-side-down onto an ironing surface, and iron on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. This will help set the ink for washing. Once completed, you’ll have a printed fabric swatch to sew onto or within any project that you like!
Now, the question is: What will you decorate first?