Printing on Fabric With a Laser Printer

Lynn Schoeffler 2005

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We do quite a bit of printing for our home business, so I am fortunate to have access to a laser printer; I use an OKI C5150 or a Hewlett/Packard color laser. I learned about it surfing on the net somewhere.

Basically, you scan your photo into a desk-top publisher like Microsoft, or a graphics program like Print Shop. There you can manipulate the size, color, etc.My son the computer wizard is slowly teaching me this stuff;  thank heavens he works for cookies because I'm a slow learner.

Print a paper copy to see if it's right. Some things to watch for: Don't put your image right at the top of the page; you won't have enough fabric to sew it. Likewise, leave enough space between multiple images. Test your printer with a paper copy to see how it pulls the paper from the tray: Put an X on the top of a sheet of paper. Load it in the printer, then print your image. If the image is on the same side of the paper, and in the same place as the X, that is how you load your fabric.

Then just iron your fabric to a piece of 8 l/2 x 11" freezer paper. I use pre-cut paper especially designed for this from . I have used regular freezer paper, cut it exactly to size with a rotary cutter. Cut your fabric exactly to size the same way. I find the best fabric is China silk or Silk Charmeuse (it's very smooth) and I usually just cut up silk shirts from the Goodwill. Very fine cotton works well too, but I don't feel the detail on the photos is as good. I printed the words from my Dad's journal on silk organza. Use  only natural fibers - NO poly or nylon. Because the laser heat sets the image, you could create a melted mess in the printer!

Iron the silk onto the freezer paper (low heat so it doesn't bubble); insert into the printer and go. I admit I made sure my husband was away before I tried this in the laser printer. However, I've printed a lot of pictures and never had one even stall in the printer. The trick is to make sure your fabric and freezer paper have a completely straight edge (no raveling either) on the edge that goes into the printer first. I've been experimenting by using a half sheet of fabric and paper so that I don't waste so much. Many times the printer will leave roller marks on a whole sheet. I tried one quarter of a sheet, and it came out beautifully. However, the printer yelled and made me reset everything.

The primary advantage of the laser printer is not having to use the ink jet solution or to buy the pre-treated fabric in cotton which I don't like as well as silk. According to my reading, the laser heat sets the image so that it can be washed without fading. I don't usually wash my crazy quilt pieces so test it to be sure. I did color one with water colors, and it turned out well.

When I first started using a laser printer, we had only a black ink printer. To vary the color of my images, I used different colored silk. I even hand-dyed a bit of the fabric which gave the photos a lovely vintage look. One last caveat: the print cartridges for a color laser printer are horrendously expensive. Therefore use of this technique for a king-sized bed quilt probably isn't a good idea.

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