I just finished a course at Quilt University titled Printing on Fabric. I've been very impressed by most of the Quilt U courses, but not this one, which seemed to be light on content. It did provide the impetus for me to experiment with this technique and use up the supplies that I bought when I took the OTHER Quilt U course on this topic, which also did not ring my chimes.
I'm going to sound like a cranky old lady here (oh wait! I AM a cranky old lady!) but most of the quilts I see with photos on them leave me cold. I'm sure they have meaning to the people who produce them, and that's really all that matters. But aesthetically most of them look pretty crappy to me. I'd rather have my photos in frames or scrapbooks, thank you very much.
So I decided to print topographic maps and aerial photos on to fabric. I'm searching for a less cheesy title for this project, but the working title is "places of the heart". I had a wonderful time selecting maps and images, and editing them down to the places I love: McGonigle and Reily and Oxford in Ohio especially, and several of the places I have lived. I mourn the loss of topozone.com which used to have free topos of good quality. Google is wonderful for the aerial images but somehow I can't seem to find decent topos anywhere online, at least not for free.
I have experimented with 2 different commercial fabric sheets (EQ Printables and Printed Treasures) and also made my own with Bubble Jet Set. I have two different printers, one with pigment inks and one with dye inks. I included information about the printers, inks, date of printing as text below each image and I'll leave this info visible in the quilt I create so that I can track the performance as the quilt gets washed. I plan to include a label on the back with a spot where I can write the date of each washing.
Even though I am not finished, I have come to one huge conclusion: Printing on fabric is a BAD IDEA.
- Printers were not meant to do this. They don't like it. Fabric leaves lint down in their little bellies. LOTS of lint, at least compared to paper. I have run the head cleaning cycle on both printers DOZENS of times during this project, and one of them has still not recovered.
- Fabric is not the ideal medium for photos or other images, at least not where printers are concerned. They are NEVER going to look decent no matter what you do.
You COULD ride your riding lawnmower to work, but just because you could does not mean that it would be a good idea. You can print photos on fabric, too. But I wouldn't if I were you. And when this project is finished you can bet that I will never do it again. I'm just hoping that I haven't permanently ruined the heads on my continuous ink systems.