Photo transfer four ways

This yellow-ish quilt prompted questions about photo transfer, so I thought I’d share four methods: two involving ink jet printing; an oil-rub technique; and iron on transfers. I’ll save web-based fabric printing for another post.

1) INK JET PRINTING, store bought sheets

Many photo-transfer cloth sheets designed for ink jet printers are available at craft stores and online. They’re a little pricey but super convenient.

Different weights of cotton are available, as well as silk and organza. For patchwork, regular cotton is best. To print something for framing, canvas offers stability and a nice finish, while for collages, the sheer organza allows for interesting layering possibilities.

Here are two shots that give you a sense of the pliability of the thinner cotton product and how it takes a hand-stitch. The drape isn’t wonderful, but if making decorative wall-quilts, it probably doesn’t matter. More photos of the project at post’s end.


(The top of the building above was printed onto the cloth by the company spoonflower using a jpeg that I supplied. The lower part of the edifice was ink jet printed here at home).

2) INK JET PRINTING, homemade sheets

If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you can prepare your own cloth for an inkjet printer using freezer paper.

  1. Rough cut rectangles of freezer paper and flatten before  precision cutting.
  2. Make your final rectangle-cuts slightly shy of 8 1/2 x 11. This will help prevent printer jams. The last thing you want after this amount of effort is a printer jam!
  3. Cut your fabric to size and iron freezer paper on to the wrong side. Don’t be fooled by my process shot, below — I am purposely using the wrong side of the fabric for printing because I want the lighter color.

One reason you might want to make your own sheets is to feel better shelling out the money for the manufactured sheets!

For this print, I simply laid the collage down on the printer glass. The delicate pink vintage cotton is nearly sheer and will be fun to use down the road. If I had wanted to fiddle with the size, color saturation, or other features of the original, I could have photographed it and made adjustments on the computer prior to printing.


General ink jet printing tips:

  • Don’t use “best” print setting because that lays down too much toner
  • Sometimes reducing the size of an image creates a sharper final print
  • Whether scanning originals from a printer glass or printing from a computer photo program, decide whether it’s more important to maximize the designs printed on each sheet or to leave seam allowances
  • Remove backing sheet right away even if cloth is not for immediate use because otherwise the backing can stick.
  • If backing does stick, simply apply more heat to remove.
  • If color fastness matters, you might want to pre-treat fabric with a product called “Bubble Jet Set” and also rinse with synthrapol. Dharma Trading Co. sells these products. For wall quilts, I don’t bother. However, I do pre-wash.

3. OIL RUB transfers

Oil rubbing is simple and fun. The only trick is finding a xerox copier that lays down the right kind of toner. Luckily for me, the machines at my local library do.

Essential oils: eucalyptus and citrus.

Rubbing implements: bone folder is best but almost anything will work (plastic clay tools, wooden knitting needle, the wrong end of a pen).

Dover makes lovely paperback collections of copyright-free black and white images that are perfect for these transfers. You can also copy and use your own photos.

The surface below your work area needs to have a little give but also be even. A cloth place mat topped by a plasticized study aid fits the bill.

Using a Qtip, distribute oil over entire backside of image. Tape down and rub. It’s that easy.



Direction of rubbing isn’t critical, but you must be thorough. I pull up the xerox and check a couple of times to see how it’s going. Some people won’t risk mis-aligning the image to do this and will, in fact, tape the bottom down, too. You’ll figure it out.

The poor quality of this attempt might be due to the fact that the original image was dark. Too much toner is not a good thing, just as the “best” print setting may not be ideal when printing on an inkjet.

4. IRON ON TRANSFERS

Iron-on transfers leave a plastic surface that’s hard, shines, and won’t take a needle. They degrade in the wash, too, which is why they’re not even ideal for t-shirts. I’ve used them now and again though. When the kids were young, for instance, I helped every single first grader make their own Earth Day t-shirt.

Iron-ons of original art work (onto linen, say) make fine gifts when framed under glass. I’ve also used them for holiday sachets. These only come out a few weeks a year, so the durability issue isn’t key. You can make the sheen a feature by highlighting it with your other fabrics. Below, I used a metallic drapery print and two kinds of shiny, satin edgings.

Tips for iron-on:

  • If orientation matters (for instance, when there is type), you must REVERSE your image before printing. Look for the ‘flip horizontally’ button.
  • Avoid getting the sticky stuff on your iron by using a thin presser cloth.
  • Something just shy of the iron’s linen/cotton setting works best.  Too hot and you risk scorching. Too cool and the backing sticks on.

TA-DA! Now you now everything that I know about these four methods of photo transfer!

P.S. I have a large collection of black and white xeroxes from my teaching days — vegetables, sea images, religious iconography, dogs. If you’re desperate to try this method before finding the right kind of copier, let me know and I’ll pop a few in the mail to you. You can find essential oils in Whole Foods or other health food outlets (is Whole Foods even a health food outlet anymore?).

The dapper-guy-cloth I ordered through Spoonflower. I’ll save that for another time.

A balmy wind and gratitude

A balmy wind blew here today, making the black walnuts rain down like artillery. You won’t hear any nuts landing in this clip, but the wind shows up.

After four days of enduring an under-the-lid stie, I am beyond grateful — and not just to be better. I am grateful for how K put up with my whiny helplessness. Grateful for good medical care even if the doctor seemed to minimize things a bit. (“I see a little stie,” he said. Since it felt like a toothpick was lodged under my eyelid, I responded, “don’t you mean a giant stie?”) I’m grateful my brother could come through with a script for antibiotics even when the “little stie” local doctor wouldn’t.

But mostly, I am grateful for my vision.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen this dead snake out and about with Finn this afternoon, would I? Or the morning sun shining through the bromeliad.

Or been able to stitch and type and make soup.

Today — TA DA — I finished font conversions and created a single document holding the entire novel. Word count: 315,000 plus a little. That’s about 650 pages. Not ideal, but I’m starting on my query letter.

I can’t tell you the relief at moving on!

The maple is gone

Was it an act of masochism to have our 80 year old maple taken down the very same week I’m finishing “The Overstory” — a novel about many things but primarily about the complexity and value of trees?

Maybe.

Damage by carpenter ants vindicated the decision. But still…

The lopper, aka “Spider-Man,” dispatched his duties with grace and precision, chain saw hooked to his belt. It was hard to be both so impressed and distraught at the same time.

More to say on this, but it’s the time in the day when I like to unwind. Afternoon PT was chatty, fun even. And my first writing class convened this morning and went really, really well! I wrote about — guess what? — the 80 year old maple that is now gone.

Walking Finn. One fun fact

A one hour walk with Finn — good for my spirit, good for my back. After three visits to a chiropractor, a first visit to a PT (second on Friday), after marrying my heating pad and throwing generous amounts of Epsom salts into my baths, I am feeling better. Maybe even turned a corner.

Here’s the fun fact, heard on Pod Save America this morning: one in four teenagers have taken part in a climate change action. (Tommy Vietor).

There! Figured something uplifting was in order after last couple of posts.

Also this. Close your eyes. Picture a stalwart, energetic candidate affirming: “I am not afraid.”

That, too, gives me hope.

Offspring: a poem, a lament

Speaking of offspring, here’s a lament written during the summer writing retreat.* I can’t remember what the prompt was — maybe something about emptying your mind?


Golden rod tug slightly in a breeze. Higher up, the rustle of maples. And everywhere: insects. Bees and flies and stinging pests. How sweet it’d be to merely lament the season coming to a close and not the earth herself melting, collapsing, churning, with the Ring of Fire activating quakes up and down the coasts on either side of the Pacific. Which one will open up under Brentwood, Pasadena, Korea Town, and Studio City and gobble up great edifices of society not to mention, people: Brother, Son? I could never have been the mother who said, ‘No. Do not go.’ And even if I had been, he’d not have listened which is how it should be, but still — a bigger worry added to the usual worries.

And then there’s the plains of Nebraska, the river banks along the Mississippi, the lower reaches of Missouri — should so much land be under water?

And how can the potential destruction of, say, one American Western city compare to all of Greenland’s ice melting, Paris and London frying under a merciless sun? Or colony collapse, the bees giving up the ghost, along with whole caveloads of bats, unable to fight the poisonous fight any longer, tongues and nails, slab and tourniquet. What place, then after?

When we look at the data, we also look away, preferring to note how a grasshopper landing not five feet away says something about summer ending and the memory of other summers ending — times when bikes, hoses, pools, bare feet were the signifiers. Our poor brood when little watched nature show after nature show offering up news of habitat decline and species extinction and people wonder why millennials are anxious?

We wonder why the young refuse heirlooms of any kind, but especially have no interest in the Rosenthal china, the Royal Doulton, the Strawberry Wedgewood. ‘Will we have a home or air?’ they wonder — the inability to afford the former a trifling but inescapable concern compared to the latter.

‘We have ten years,’ they keep saying, trying and failing to sound the alarm. ‘Ten years’ means something different to the young than it does to my aging ears. Gone are the days when insects present as cute and annoying pests. Not when closer scrutiny might reveal how numbered their days are. How connected they are to everything else.

Even if we all rowed in the same direction, what a monumental challenge! But with lies the prevalent currency and corporations granted all ascendancy, we first have to clean house and by then — I’m sorry, the thought is there — mightn’t it be too late?

How many monarchs migrated to the milkweeds, those perennials standing proud and erect, proper in their heliotropic course, casting lozenge-shaped shadows, offering praise to sun and nourishment to caterpillars? How many? Less than last year? A tenth of the year before?

It’s easy to shrug at the extinction of some two-toed sloth or a miniature lizard with nocturnal habits literally never seeing the light of day, but what about ALL of the passerines? Polar bears and reindeer? What about us? If we’d cared more about the two-toed sloth all those years ago, would we be better situated today — able to enter the “Wild Kingdom” programming, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha and hosted by some hokey and corny know-nothing, instead of learning about floating islands of plastic the size of Delaware and about Colorado burning for half a season?

 

* It turns out that the response to the prompt mentioned yesterday became a chapter in the book (working title: •Blood and Indigo•). That means I’m precluded from ‘publishing’ here (seriously, with 100 hits a day?) What would happen if I ‘published’ it, left it up for ten days, and then tagged it private? SShhh

Sharon Olds poem, published in Atlantic Magazine.