Digital Fabric Printing

2015 may be the year digital fabric printing becomes huge in the quilting community. I’m basing this prediction on the increased availability of commercial and DIY digitally printed fabric.

I realize that quilters have been printing photos on fabric for a while, though I’ve seen the method used mostly for family photos. I confess that the results haven’t really wowed me, so I never attempted it. Besides, my home printer is temperamental, and I didn’t want to ruin the expensive specially treated sheets of fabric with malfunctioning color ink nozzles.

Of course the art quilt community took to digital printing on fabric a few years ago, to judge from entries at Quilt National.

A year or so ago I learned about Spoonflower, an online service that allows you to design and print your own yardage. You can also purchase yardage designed by others. This is a step up from 8.5 by 11 inch pieces of fabric.

Then, I found that fabric manufacturers are offering digitally printed yardage. Here’s a selection offered at eQuilter. Some of the fabrics could make me give up dyeing/painting my own.

For now, I have one digitally printed bit of fabric to play with. A photo taken by my brother was Photoshop enhanced by a fellow quilt guild member and printed on a June Tailor inkjet fabric sheet as part of a program on digital fabric printing. Here it’s resting on top of some hand dyed damask I thought of using with it.

photo on fabric

I’m getting glimmerings of possibilities here. A favorite piece of dyed or painted fabric could be replicated. That 1/4 yard of no longer available fabric needed to complete a quilt could be scanned and printed digitally. Piecing could be eliminated totally by creating a unique “cheater” panel. I may never have to piece again.




Filed under Commentary, Techniques

14 responses to “Digital Fabric Printing

  1. Have you seen some of Kirby Smith’s work?

  2. Rebecca

    I have been in the “not impressed” category also. The photos seem to be dull and vague set in the crisp colored fabrics. It looks like it’s getting better, with a lot to explore. That sample of your brother’s picture is a good example, with the hand-dye highlighting the flower’s color. Also, having somebody else do it is a soothing thought!

    • You’ve described exactly what I found the matter with those digitally printed photos I’ve seen used in quilts. The contrast isn’t so bad if soft, antique-y looking fabric is used. The photo I showed is definitely bright and crisp.

  3. sandy

    I’m entering the art quilt world with my latest project. I’m using photos with the GIMP program and then printing them out poster size using the poster program. Printing my own fabric sure would solve some problems when searching for fabric to match up with the colors in the photo. Hmmmmmm

  4. you can treat your own fabric using Bubble Jet Set I’ve been doing that for years – it doesn’t take much effort at all and is a lot cheaper than the expensive sheets you buy in the store.

  5. Long ago I did make a small piece of printed fabric using our inkjet printer, and I used it to make up for a slight shortage in yardage. But I’ve had mixed experience at best with the print-on sheets, using them mostly for labels and sometimes watching the ink fade in front of my eyes.

    I, too, have noticed more talk of Spoonflower. What I’ve seen has mostly been from bloggers who use it to create “vanity” (poor word choice, probably) labels for their projects. It’s worth paying more attention as price per yard comes down somewhat, making it a more attractive alternative.

    • The woman who did a talk at my guild said she had good results with the June Tailor fabric sheets. I too worry about how well the ink color will hold up over the course of years. The fashion school at a local university will do digital printing of fabric for you for a fee, of course. The fabrics they produce are crisply printed with intense color.

  6. These options have developed dramatically in recent years–it does get the imagination soaring, doesn’t it?!

  7. I attended a fabric printing workshop at the Brisbane Craft and Quilt Show last year, and immediately thought of the possibility of using some of the kaleidoscopic designs I have created on the computer from flower photos I’ve taken, using the Kaleidoscope Kreator programme. To date I haven’t actually done any fabric printing, mainly because I need a new printer and it wasn’t high on my priority list, but one of these days I will 🙂 I’ve seen one or two blog postings lately about quilts made this way, and it would certainly seem to cut out a lot of the work involved in piecing! They had a few quilts in the workshop at Brisbane last year using family photos printed on fabric, which were really cool. Your photo and fabric look good together, hope we get to see this project develop 🙂

    • I don’t know if any businesses in your area offer it, but there are some places in Ohio that will print your photos on fabric for you. My photo project is on a to-do list, but I have to figure out my approach. I’d like to make something of it my brother would like, as he took the picture.

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