A Mother’s Day Gift – Part 1

17 Apr

Guest Post by Kerry Ayers Cain – design team member


A Mother’s Day Gift – Part 1

I have spent the last week thinking about what to give my mother for Mother’s Day.  As she and I get older, I really like to give a personal gift when possible.   As I was saving pictures on my computer from a recent trip out-of-state, I remembered a picture of my mother I had always liked and decided to print it to fabric and make her a small wall-hanging collage for her.   Since many people still do not realize how easy it is to print on fabric with your inkjet printer, I decided to share some ways of doing that in part one of this tutorial and then to briefly discuss the process I went through in making the collage in part two.

Printing on Fabric

In making a collage that includes a photograph, the first thing I do is to print it out on paper in the size I think I am going to want to use.  I used to print it immediately on fabric, but discovered I often change my mind about size and then have to reprint it.  Since more time and cost is involved in printing on fabric, I have learned to print first on paper.

Knowing the collage design, I can now print my picture on fabric, so it is ready for the actual collage.  I have two favorite ways to do this.  One is by printing directly on the fabric with my inkjet printer; the other is by printing on a TAP sheet with my printer and then ironing that image onto fabric.  If you aren’t familiar with it, TAP is transfer artist paper and was developed by Lesley Riley.  I think it is a vast improvement on earlier iron-on transfer systems you may be familiar with since it doesn’t change the hand of the fabric (did you ever have a t-shirt where the transferred image felt very much like vinyl?)   Also, TAP can be used to transfer images to wood, canvas, glass, metal and more, as well as fabric.  A TAP image is permanent, washable and can be ironed.  It is reversed, so you need to mirror the image to print if orientation is important, as with text.  TAP is available from Blue Twig Studio and a package contains complete, easy to follow directions for using it.

If you choose to print directly on fabric, as I did for this collage, you need to decide if you want a photograph quality image or something more muted.   Printing on fabric without any pretreatment will give a more muted picture.  As I wanted photograph quality, I pretreated my fabric with Golden’s Digital Ground White-Matte (Note from Deb – I only have a Digital Ground sampler pack at this time).  To pretreat, you brush two thin coats in opposite directions on your fabric, allowing your fabric to dry between coats.  I have used digital ground on a variety of fabrics including muslin, silk, and canvas.  This time I used white cotton muslin.  I usually treat a number of pieces of fabric at one time as the difficult part of pretreating is waiting for the digital ground to dry; that way too, I usually have a piece of fabric ready when I need it.

Picture of treated fabric

Picture of treated fabric


When the fabric is dry, I am ready to print.  At this point, the fabric is usually wrinkled and curling at the edges as in the picture above.  I just turn it over and iron it on the wrong side.  If you are concerned about your iron’s surface, you can cover it first with a paper towel.

To actually print on fabric, you just run it through your printer as you would a piece of paper.  Again there are several ways to do this.  If you have pretreated your fabric with digital ground it usually has enough body to just send it through without anything further.  Make sure the digital ground side is the side that is printed on.  

If you have not pretreated the fabric, or if you are not sure the digital ground has given it enough body to run through the printer, you need to back the fabric with paper.  One way to do this is by ironing a piece of freezer paper, the same size as your fabric, to the back of your fabric and then send it through your printer.

However, I have found that freezer paper method works about 90 percent of the time, but have had problems with it jamming the other 10 percent.  So I prefer to use card stock and tape my fabric to it with painters tape.  You place the tape along the top and the two sides as shown in the picture.   I never have problems with jamming with this method.

taped fabric with photo printed on it

taped fabric with photo printed on it

The other advantage to this method is that you can print on a piece of fabric smaller than 8 ½ by 11, so that you don’t have to waste fabric if you are doing a smaller picture or have to figure out how to combine enough small pictures to use the full page.  It is particularly useful if you want to print a label for your quilt.  The one thing you need to double check before printing is that your picture or text is centered on the page in such a way that it will match the placement of the fabric on the cardstock.  In other words, if the fabric is placed an inch down on the cardstock, your text or picture should begin at least an inch down on the page.  Most printers allow you a preview of the page so you can check and adjust this if necessary.

printed label

printed label

A picture printed on digital ground will not run if it comes in contact with water, although I have never tried washing it as I use this method for wall hangings.  I use TAP for any item I plan to wash.  If you don’t pretreat the fabric, whether the picture or text will be affected by water spilled on it depends on your printer ink.  In my experience HP ink (I have Vivera) spots and smears when wet.  In contrast, the ink in my Epson printer  (DURAbright) does not seem to be affected by accidental water spills (which I do blot up), although I have not tested it by leaving water on it or by rubbing the water in.  You can print with the HP ink, you just need to be careful not to get it wet, which can include steam from your iron.  Again, if this is a concern, consider using TAP.

(Note from Deb – another option for printing on fabric is to use ready-to-go inkjet fabric sheets that are already primed and cut to fit your printer.)

Tomorrow we will discuss how I made the actual collage. 🙂


Thanks Kerry. I look forward to reading about the rest of your process. ~Deb

Let Your Inner Artist Out To Play

Blue Twig Studio – 5965 Whiskey River Dr – Colorado Springs, CO 80923 – USA

One Response to “A Mother’s Day Gift – Part 1”


  1. A Mother’s Day Gift – Part 2 | Blue Twig Studio - April 18, 2013

    […] A Mother’s Day Gift – Part 1 (bluetwigstudio.wordpress.com) […]


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