I have now published a video tutorial for how to print on fabric and you can find it here. Enjoy!

In a previous post I talked about how I had explored printing straight onto fabric using my inkjet printer. Through my previous experiments I did find a way to get the fabric through the printer without jamming it. Yay! The one thing that I didn’t consider at the time was how to make the printing colourfast and washable. It would only take a bit of contact with water or a baby dribbling on the printing to start making the colours bleed and wash out.

If you’re wondering, I’m using a Brother DCP-J725DW ink jet printer for these tests.

The Homemade Recipes for ‘Faux Bubble Jet Set 2000’

This week I decided to tackle that challenge. I’m sure it couldn’t be that hard. I also came across this product called Bubble Jet Set 2000 preprinting treatment,  which is supposed to make your fabric washable when printing on it with an inkjet printer. There is also a Jet Set Rinse available as well. It would cost double the amount to buy these products from Australia. Not a worthwhile investment at this point in time for me.

I found a couple of home made recipes online that would enable the printed fabric to become washable. Cool. This will work….I thought. You can find the recipes that I tried here and here.  The basic ingredients for these recipes were Alum powder, washing soda, fabric softener and hot water. I included both tutorials because one involve doing a post rinse after the ink had been printed and dried and the other one didn’t.

My Disappointing Results

My printing looked awesome after it had been printed onto the fabric. When I rinsed with water? well, that was a different story. You can see from the photos below what just a rinse with water did to my beautiful printing. I did wash the fabric after I rinsed it, but the rinsing washed most of the ink out anyway.

comparison of homemade solution700

The black definitely didn’t hold and the rainbow is not very bright and happy looking anymore. To me this was an epic failure and I couldn’t work out why it worked for some people and their printers and not others. I tried a few other tests, but really, the results turned out very similar and weren’t worth writing about.

A New Recipe to Try

I have since come across this recipe from The Quilt Rat. This recipe still has the Alum powder, but the washing soda is replaced with soda ash. With a bit more reading I soon found that soda ash is the active ingredient in washing soda. It’s just more concentrated by itself. There is no fabric softener in this recipe and I couldn’t really find a good reason to include it so I’m definitely going to try without it.

These instructions suggest using Retayne in the after treatment to help the dye fix to the fabric just that little bit more. I’ve ordered some of this online and am waiting for it to arrive. I’ll need to retest the printing when i get this magic liquid in the mail.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Why I ‘Need’ to Get a New Printer

No, I didn’t break my printer. During my obsessive/dedicated research after the epic failure, I stumbled across the fact that inkjet printers can come with two different types of ink. There’s dye-based ink, which is the kind that runs as soon as water touches it or comes off on your highlighter when you’re trying to highlight something. You know the one. Then there’s pigment-based ink. Now this ink is colourfast so that means it can be washed. Hmmmm. I found this great resource that lists a whole heap of printers and whether the printer comes with pigment based ink or not.

From this list I worked out that Brother printers use all dye based inks and no pigment based inks at all. Boo for me! Canon use pigment based inks for most of their black cartridges, but not for their colours. So this might explain why some people  had success when printing with black on their fabric and and not with the colours. HP seems to do the same thing, but some of their printers use pigment based ink for the coloured cartridges.

Epson, Kodak and Primera (I’ve never heard of this brand before) seem to use pigment based inks for all of their printers. I did some extra reading about the Epson ink and they’ve designed a specific pigment based ink called DURABrite Ultra, which sounds like the best kind of ink to go with for washability and durability factor that I’m looking for.

This blogger shows the difference of using pigment based inks compared to dye based inks over time. She recommends using an Epson printer with the DURABrite ink as well.

So, if all else fails, I’ll be trying to convince my husband that I ‘need’ to buy a new printer or plot a way to kill my existing printer. Printing with pigment based ink definitely sounds a lot easier with no pretreating and post treating of fabric to be done. I’ve even got my eye on the printer I want!

Have you had a great success or failure with printing on fabric? If so, share your thoughts in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, happy sewing 🙂