Ink Jet Printing on Fabric

I’m working on a project right now that requires some fabric printing, so I got out the bottles of Bubble Jet Set 2000 and Bubble Jet Rinse this morning. I’ve had fairly good luck with this type of thing in the past, but I always dread going down this road because it’s kind of a PITA to mess with it all, so it’s been sitting here waiting for me to get motivated for a few days. I got to thinking today about why it feels like such a pain, and I guess the biggest thing is the soaking fabric/liquid mess to deal with.

Ink jet fabric printing supplies

First it’s drag all the bottles and fabric to the kitchen, and dig up a pan that’s big enough. The fabric is supposed to be soaked flat in the pan, so a fairly large pan is necessary since it’s likely that you’ll end up printing on a regular 8½ x 11″ sheet that fits in the printer. I don’t really have a pan that’s that big with tall enough sides that I’m not going to slop the liquid all over when it’s time to pour it back into the bottle, so I end up using something smaller and folding the fabric in half for soaking.

After soaking, then I have to find somewhere and somehow to drain the fabric off a bit until it’s not too drippy, and I usually just stand there and hold it above the pan with tongs until I feel like I can spread it out on a couple of paper towels to dry without making a total mess all over. The leftover solution can be reused, so then it’s time to get a funnel out and try pouring it back in the bottle without dribbling it everywhere off the side of the pan, which is usually only moderately successful. The pan and tongs and funnel then need to be run through the dishwasher so that they’ll be safe for food use once again.

Even after all that, there’s still the rest of the process to tackle: once the fabric is dry, it has to be ironed to freezer paper and trimmed to pinter size. When I run it through my HP photosmart 1215 printer, I set it for thick paper, brochure or cardstock, set the print quality to “Best” and crank the ink volume up to maximum to get a really good print. I do find that ironing from the freezer paper side one last time on high heat after trimming is a good last step; the paper/fabric page curls a bit toward the freezer paper side, which works nicely with my printer to prevent page jams and smudged printing. If I’ve ironed carefully and well enough, the fabric/freezer paper page doesn’t get stuck in the printer with ink smeared all over, and I don’t have to start fresh from the beginning! The actual printing process is pretty easy though, after I get through the soaking mess to get started.

I do know about the pretreated fabric you can buy to print on, but friends of mine have had bad luck with scorching and disintegration of the fabric when using it, and if you want to use a certain fabric that’s in your project, or something other than white or cream, you’re out of luck. I’ve never needed to do this fabric printing thing on just any old white or cream fabric, so I’ve always used the Bubble Jet Set method.

So here’s what I really want: I want a flat pan that’s at least 10″ x 12″, with 2″ sides, a dripless pouring spout in one corner, some type of stand thing or tray thing that lifts up out of the solution but is self-supporting for draining/drying the fabric, with a set of tongs to match. Oh, and it needs a lid too, so that it can all be kept together and neat when not in use. Yes, I know, it’s a tall order, but anybody got a line on something like that? Failing that, any suggestions for making this process easier?