Fabric Selection for photo quilts and purses could be one of my favorite
topics. I LOVE fabrics!
White Fabric Photo Transfer - Heat Sublimation
You may find this hard to believe, but photo patches in quilts start as
white fabric. The heat sublimation process imbeds the ink/dye down
into the fiber of the fabric.
TCPI = Thread Count Per Inch. You may have noticed the term THREAD
COUNT on bed sheeting and other linens. The higher the thread count,
the better (and more expensive) the product. A 200 tcpi sheet
feels a whole lot different than a 1200 tcpi sheet.
The same applies for photo transfer. I think I must have figured
this out all by myself because I surely have seen NO publications on this
What I have learned is that a higher tcpi fabric has more fiber for the
ink/dye to get into. Makes perfect sense doesn't it?
When you select your fabric for photo transfer you will find that most
fabric bolts don't actually list the TCPI. Here is a trick I
learned: Hold the fabric up to the light. If you can see your
hand through the fabric, it has a low thread count.
Fabric for photo quilts:
Our studio likes 100% cotton. Many heat transfer sublimation
products claim they work just as well on polyester and cotton/polyester
blends. Remember, polyester is synthetic. Synthetic melts.
Also, polyester stretches. When you peel the photo transfer paper from
the fabric, polyester tends to stretch which can distort your image.
If you use polyester blends, be careful about scorching and have a helper
hold the fabric down when you remove the transfer paper. This will
help secure the fabric so that it doesn't stretch and distort your image.
A high quality bleached muslin is a good option. I'm not talking
about the 98 cent/yard stuff. I'm talking about the $5/yard higher
quality. Muslin has a tendency to have flaws within the weave.
When the fabric store opens the fabric, inspect it carefully for pits, snags
and marks. You can ask the fabric cutter to cut beyond the flaws to
get a good piece.
You can also use 100% cotton sheeting (not percale). A 400
tcpi or higher white cotton sheeting works great too.
Artistic expression can lead you to many fabrics for photo transfer.
We've used sheer fabrics, silks and even pastel and tea dyed fabrics.
Remember, if there are any 'natural flaws' in the fabrics, your photo
transfer will show these flaws within your picture. For example, raw
muslin is great for landscapes or other brown toned transfers.
However, you might find a fabric flaw in the middle of a face if you aren't
Whiter white is the key for white fabric photo transfer. Always
wash your fabrics to remove any chemical sizing applied during manufacturing
Fabric for photo purses:
Hands down we like white cotton trigger cloth. It is a sturdier heavier
weight fabric that stands up to the demands of a purse. Avoid canvas
for photo transfer. It has flaws and a wider woven texture.
If you want to be very extravagant, you can buy a roll of special treated
artist canvas. It is very finely textured and very pure and white.
Dark Fabric Photo Transfer
This product is excellent for many imaginative projects. If you use
sufficient heat and pressure, your photo image will be permanently
fused to any solid dark or light fabric surface.
As an obvious purpose, this product works great on dark t-shirts.
It is also excellent for other garments including denim and other garments.
We've even used it to transfer photos to pre-made quilts. The only
hitch with this is that printed fabrics can show through.
Let your imagination fly with this process! For an interesting
effect try heavier textured or open woven fabrics (best for buildings,
landscapes, seascapes etc.).