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Transfer images to fabric: 

Three techniques to create your own fabric designs with vintage images or photos


You can create your own printed fabric on your home ink jet printer, using vintage images or your own photos!  Here are three ways to transfer images - from purchased kits or do-it-yourself:

Purchase iron-on transfer paper.  This paper is sold in craft and fabric stores as 8.5" X 11" sheets, one side treated with a heat-sensitive silicone film. Your final result should be a clear image with a somewhat stiff, glossy look on fabric.  You can also transfer images to flat surfaces like wood, metal and glass.  Of course, you should follow the instructions on the package - but here is the basic process:   
  1. Set your printer to photo-quality on coated or photo paper. Print your image in reverse (reverse or mirror image setting on your printer) on the sheet. Trim off the excess paper around your image. 
  2. Preheat your dry iron (no water or steam) to HIGH for five minutes. Place the transfer image face down on your fabric on an ironing board.
  3. Begin ironing at one corner of the image, pressing firmly using the iron's center for five seconds, then continue moving the iron and pressing until you have covered the entire image.  The total ironing time for a full sheet might be one or two minutes.
  4. Let the transfer cool for three minutes.
  5. Gently stretch the fabric along the edges of the transfer until the paper starts to detach.  When it does, peel it back slowly from the fabric.
  6. Place a piece of clean white paper over the image and iron it again briefly to fuse the image to the fabric.
  7. If you plan to wear this fabric, turn the garment inside out wash it in warm water first, separate from other garments.  Tumble dry on medium heat.  This will fix the image and prevent color bleeding.  if the image appears dull, iron it again and the color should return.
Purchase fabric printing sheets.  These have become very popular among the quilting set, and you can buy them at craft, fabric or quilting stores. The result is very different from iron-on transfers; the fabric is printed directly, so there is no stiffness from transfer film.  However, it is not colorfast.  If you plan to wash this fabric, you need to treat it with a fixative, such as Bubble Jet Rinse from C Jenkins Company.  Or, you can load your printer with water-proof ink cartridges.  Again, follow the manufacturer's instructions, which will be something like this: 
  1. Set your printer to photo-quality on coated or photo paper.  Print your image as usual (not reversed), on the fabric side.  
  2. Let the ink dry for 30 minutes before handling the sheet.
  3. Peel away the paper backing.
  4. Rinse the fabric for 30 seconds under running water, until the water runs clear.  Don't even think about wringing it out.
  5. Lay the fabric flat on a towel to dry.
  6. Iron with a warm iron.
Make your own fabric printing sheets.  C Jenkins Company covers this too, and will sell you the supplies; Fabric treatment solution, fabric, freezer paper sheets, and fixative solution.  But, what kind of crafters are we if we can't make our own?  The following instructions come from master-quilter, Pat Marabella:
  1. Purchase freezer paper and smooth white or pastel fabric.  Freezer paper is waxy on one side only, unlike wax paper, and can be bought in sheets instead of a roll.  Look for it in craft, fabric or quilting stores.  We recommend that you buy 8.5" X 11" sheets.
  2. Cut your fabric a little larger than the freezer paper.
  3. Heat your iron to HIGH.  Iron the fabric to the shiny side of the freezer paper.
  4. Trim the fabric to the 8.5" X 11" paper size.  A rotary fabric cutter and a good metal ruler is recommended.
  5. One sheet at a time, print your images on the fabric side.  You may have to coax it a little. (Tip: if it is too flimsy, iron a second piece of freezer paper to the back of the first piece)
  6. Let the ink dry for 30 minutes before handling.  
  7. Peel away the freezer paper backing.
  8. If this fabric is for a craft and will never be washed, you can stop here.  Otherwise, rinse the fabric for 30 seconds under running water, until the water runs clear.  
  9. Lay the fabric flat on a towel to dry.
  10. Iron with a warm iron.

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