Tag Archives: photo transfer

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.

Young grasshopper

IMG_7266Given how enthusiastically I embrace TV nowadays, it sometimes amazes me to look back and recall how little I watched growing up, or in college. But one show I enjoyed was “Kung Fu”. When I added the silk image of a young person doing T’ai Chi to this cloth, the piece’s title suddenly and irrevocably became: Young Grasshopper.
IMG_7265The scan of the boy came from a collage, which eventually became a SoulCollage card. I just checked my Flickr set and it isn’t there — another reminder of the stack of cards waiting to be photographed.

I am on the verge of deciding to make my own Tarot deck — I have wanted to for years, and so what stops? I think it helped to read about Mo‘s philosophy — that is, of enjoying (instead of avoiding!) the idea of shouldering a task which may extend beyond her born days. Definitely not an attitude I would normally cotton to.

IMG_7267More snow. And pounding rain last night. Some of the heaviest slush I have ever lifted (heating pad, here we come!) Because it was slush below and frozen on top, I had to chop it first with the half-moon edge-trimming tool. The good news? No water coming into the house ANYWHERE.
IMG_7228

One poppy to remember, another poppy to forget

Just added another poppy to the Cement Sack quilt.  This one is ON TOP of the tulle.

Transferred two black and white xeroxes onto coffee-stained muslin.  The trombone did not come out so well, but a trident on the same page did.  Both are in the upper left.

Here is that figure that has shown up in the Witness quilt and the wet-paper-basement-calamity collage.  She is the one who dreams, who has seen, and who seeks to go beyond all that lodges in the past.  She is part of all of us.  This recent posture is one of burdened grief, but she has other moods as well.

Perhaps “moods” is the wrong word — “patterns of consciousness” more like.

And speaking of drugs (the opiate reference in the title), here is the holder of my current drug of choice — a coffee mug!  Suitably chipped, stained, and very much in use.

A busy day of gardening and travel ahead.  A good thing.  A change of perspective and some fresh air will definitely do me good.

Blankets in the sun

Jack did NOT know I was pointing a camera at him. This is from two days ago, when we had some warm temperatures and I put blankets out to air.

This is the commission that I just finished. I would not use variegated thread again in a project like this — I didn’t like it changing up on me when I didn’t expect it to.  Also, even though this is a blanket, meant to be sat under on a couch, I would NOT have rinsed the photos once they were transferred to fabric — the red shirts bled!  So, unlike most of the blankets I make, this one will have to be dry cleaned.  Lastly, I should have added another band of color on the right side.

For the inkjet phototransfers, I used pre-treated and pre-backed sheets of cotton available commercially — I like ‘Printed Treasures’.  They are pricey, but because it is so labor intensive to produce one’s own sheets, I consider them worth the cost.

I have gone the Bubble Jet Set route (which makes fabric more receptive to color), but by the time you’ve washed, dried and pressed the fabric, measured and cut it to just under 8.5 x 11″, then backed it with freezer paper, you’ve invested a LOT of time in something that has a very good chance of jamming in the printer.  Once I learned that you could skip the chemical bath and simply back the fabric with freezer paper and print on it, I tried that, too.  But again, the washing/pressing/cutting/backing and jamming are big headaches in my book.

So, while I wish the pretreated sheets were cheaper, I consider them worth it.

Self Portrait

self-portrait-march-21-09

This quilt is not quite done.

I like it because it created itself while I was cleaning out fabrics I don’t want —

(WHAT?!! you ask?!! Fabrics you don’t want?!!).

There was some serendipity involved.  Some sense of ‘clearing out’.

self-portrait-march-21-clos

I turned myself green with Photoshop Elements 3.0.  Then, used an iron-on transfer (this was before I started splurging on pre-treated fabrics for my inkjet).  I burned away some of the image with my iron — intentionally or not, I no longer remember.  It lay around the basement for years.

self-portrait-3-21-dad

The photo of my dad is a scanned sepia-toned photo that was printed on organza.  It is probably dated around 1949?  Not sure, he is quite a young man in it.  I found it on the floor near the paper cutter while cleaning up.

The whole thing doesn’t QUITE look the way I want and maybe jars of Matt Liquid Gel Medium are lining up and calling my name, but it is getting there.

Why do I like it when a thing comes together quickly?

I also like the transparency of some of the layers…