Hope you’ve all enjoyed a relaxing and creative weekend. Because I’m so busy at the moment speaking to students and working on DMTV during the week, I’m finding that weekends are the best time to print. Today I’ve finished a couple of Bespoke orders that have to be delivered this week and also printed some Photo Textures for the Fingerprint online store. Last time I blogged I talked you through the first part of the digital print process. Once the fabric is printed there’s still lots to do. As we print with reactive dyes, we have to fix, rinse, wash and iron the fabrics before they’re ready to use.
The reactive dyes are fixed to the fabric by steaming. Here you can see the printed roll of fabric that’s been cut from the printer. I’m re-rolling it between layers of a plain cotton fabric. The purpose of this cloth is to prevent printed fabric from touching printed fabric during steaming and also to absorb any loose dye that may otherwise transfer to the print fabric.
Every so often we pin to ensure that the fabrics don’t slip from the roll during steaming.
The rolling continues until all of the printed fabric is sandwiched between plain cloth. With a few final pins to hold everything in place it ends up looking like this:
The rolled fabric sandwich is then steamed for the appropriate time for the dyes to fix permanently to the fabric. During this step, the colours become even more intense and saturated than they appeared before. As soon as the steaming is done, we can unroll the cloth to reveal the prints. You’ll see that when we’re printing, we fill the width with different images. If you’re considering a Be Bespoke order, then this is a great option as you can fill your fabric with images for a whole range of different projects and simply slice them apart when they arrive with you. It’s also a great option if you’re getting together with a friend to order fabric as we can print both of your images in a single job so you can share the savings.
Up until this stage we’ve had to handle the printed fabric with extreme care so as not to smudge the dyes, but now they’re fixed, the fabric can be popped into the washing machine for it’s first rinse. This is just to remove any loose dye that wasn’t fixed during steaming. When I talk to people about digital fabric printing, they sometimes think it’s a big leap from hand dyeing, but really there are a lot of parallels in the process and the way that the dyes work on the fabrics. Just as with hand dyeing the results can be unpredictable and it takes times to learn to control all of the many variables that affect the results. Just like when you hand dye with Procion MX at home, the type of fabric, the temperature and how long you leave the dyes to react all change how the fabric turns out. It’s been fun experimenting with all of this!
The machine rinse will deal with the loose dye in the fabric, but once that’s done, we also machine wash with detergent and fabric softener just to make sure. We wash the cotton fabrics at 40 degrees and the silks at 30 degrees. You’ll find that just like commercially printed fabrics you can wash Fingerprint fabrics in the machine, but obviously with lots and lots of washes and wear, just like any fabric, the colours may start to fade slightly. Once washed the fabrics are pressed. Ironing isn’t my favourite part of the process, but it’s a good opportunity to do a little quality control and make sure that every fabric is perfect before it goes into the store.
The final step is to trim away the selvedges and fold the fabrics ready to go!