How to Print on Fabric Best Tips

We have some great tips for printing on fabric. If you use them, you will save time, save fabric, and avoid jams!

This is NOT my recommended method for preparing fabric sheets:

  1. Wash and dry the fabric.
  2. Iron the fabric.
  3. Cut the freezer paper to size.
  4. Cut the fabric the same size or slightly smaller.
  5. Heat the iron to Cotton, no steam.
  6. Lay the freezer paper down on a bread board, plastic side up.
  7. Center the fabric on the freezer paper, inset from the edges on four sides.
  8. Press.
  9. Flip it over.
  10. Press again.
  11. Flip and press a few more times.
  12. Trim loose threads.

That method will work, but it is not the fastest, easiest way. It is not the method I recommend in the free first chapter of The Inklingo Handbook. (Download it free from a link at the bottom of that page. It is also included in the free shape collection.)

The method I use saves time and effort. It allows me to prepare many, many sheets at a time, and print stacks of fabric without jams. Interested?

This is my recommended method of preparing fabric sheets:

  1. Wash and dry the fabric and fold it neatly. Skip the ironing!
  2. Cut the FP to size and label it.
  3. Heat the iron to Cotton or Linen, no steam.
  4. Smooth the fabric out on your ironing board, right side up.
  5. Place the FP on the fabric, plastic side down, label up, and press.
  6. Trim the fabric along the edges of the FP.
  7. Press on both sides again.

I find this method much faster and easier than cutting the fabric and the FP separately and trying to line them up. It also avoids loose threads and makes it easier to re-use sheets of FP.

1. Wash and dry the fabric and fold it neatly. Skip the ironing!

In addition to all the other benefits, washing the fabric avoids jams in the printer.

If you wash the fabric first to remove the sizing, excess dye, and other chemicals, the freezer paper (FP) will stick better. Almost all printer jams are caused by the FP separating from the fabric in the printer. (The other jams are caused by feeding the sheets crooked. Both problems are preventable. Jams should be rare.)

There are many reasons for washing quilt fabric. Even before Inklingo, all my new fabric went into the next regular load of laundry before it went in my stash. (The only exception is the occasional whole bolt, which I keep separate, and just wash a yard or two at a time, as I need it.)

I met someone who worked in a fabric factory, and she told me that if I had ever seen how fabric is made and stored, I wouldn’t even think about it. I would wash everything immediately, if not sooner!

The quilts made in the olden days from old clothing were made with fabric which had been washed many times before it was used in a quilt. I don’t think they liked the puckered look of uneven shrinkage or bleeding any more than I do.

I just throw new fabric in with my regular wash, similar colors. I don’t do anything special, but you can find tips online about cutting the corners, serging the edges, pinking the edges, etc. If a fabric frays excessively, I want to know about it! I sometimes trim wads of thread before I toss it in the dryer. I remove it from the dryer warm and fold it immediately.

I don’t put charms and jelly rolls in the washing machine. I swish them around in water, blot on a towel, and lay flat to dry. Even 5 x 5 inch charms shrink more in one direction than the other, and it is significant.

There are several good online articles which describe the importance of washing fabric. Google “wash quilt fabric” without the quotation marks. I hope we can convince you. Jams are a nuisance, and you can easily avoid them.

2. Cut the FP to size and label it.

Use your rotary cutter and rulers (or a paper cutter), whatever method ensures that the angles are square, so it will feed straight.

Labeling the FP will save you time and confusion when you are ironing it to the fabric and when you are entering custom sizes in the Print Dialog box.

  

Be especially careful to note whether you should print Portrait or Landscape to make the best use of the fabric. I just write P or L.

The freezer paper can be used many, many times. You will be glad you labeled it. Labeling also saves the occasional error of setting the iron down on the plastic coated side of the FP.

3. Heat the iron to Cotton or Linen, no steam.

It takes a hot, dry iron to get a good bond between the FP and the fabric.

As they age, most irons do not get as hot as they do when they are new. On an old iron, you might need to crank it up to the max (Linen setting) to get it as hot as it used to get on the Cotton setting.

Quilters sometimes iron on a hard surface like a wooden bread board, instead of a soft ironing board, if the iron does not get hot enough even on the top setting. A hard surface helps make a good bond. 

TIP  Irons are cheap. If you can, get a new, inexpensive one, so it can be as hot as it should be. Bottom-of-the-line is fine, but there is one nice feature I like, and you might like it too. I look for an iron that can press without steam even when there is still water in the tank. I do all of my quilt pressing without steam, but I don’t want to bother going to the sink to empty the tank if I have been using steam on clothing.

With the right amount of heat, the fabric will not jam in the printer, and the freezer paper will peel off neatly to be used over and over and over again.

4. Smooth the fabric out on the ironing board, right side up.

If the fabric was folded neatly, it should not be very wrinkled, but you can run the iron over some of it now, if necessary.

It is ideal to have a straight, cut edge toward you, with excess fabric draped over the far side, out of your way.

5. Place the freezer paper on the fabric, plastic side down, label up, and press.

The FP should be lined up with the straight grain of the fabric, so the threads in the fabric are parallel to the edge of the FP.

Trim (step 6) before placing the next sheet of FP.

6. Trim the fabric along the edges of the FP.

Use big scissors (shears) and gently pull the fabric with your non-scissors hand. Since I am right-handed, I find it easy to get a smooth cut when I cut along the left edge of the FP, gently pulling the fabric away from the FP with my left hand. I can cut on the right side of the FP when necessary, but it is not as fast as it is when I can control the fabric.

For the first sheet of FP, I usually have to trim all four sides.

After a few sheets, there are straight cut edges on two sides of the fabric. I can place the FP so I only have to trim the other two sides. The fabric is slightly inset from the edge of the FP (above).

(The Suggested Custom Page Sizes in the Inklingo Catalogue of Shapes allow margins of 0.25 inch on the top and sides, and 0.5 inch on the bottom. That is what is required by most Inkjet printers, so you get all of each shape even if the fabric is slightly smaller than the FP.)

7. Press on both sides again.

Press on the paper side and the fabric side again, until you are sure you have a good bond with no bubbles or loose spots. With the right amount of heat, the FP will stick well enough to go through the printer but peel off easily to be used again many times.

Repeat steps 4 to 7 as many times as necessary.

There are more illustrations in The Inklingo Handbook, and some great tips, like these:

Print the custom size once before cutting piles of FP to size.

Consider moving the ironing board so it is near the computer. If it is, you can set up a routine so you are ironing the next sheets while other sheets are printing. Print, peel off the FP, press, trim, press both sides, print, peel. . . and so on. With this method I can print many, many sheets during a one hour TV show.

You can put your first sheet of fabric through the printer right now because there is a test page PDF in an earlier blog message.

I hope these tips will save you time and help you avoid jams. 

Have I forgotten anything? Please leave a comment with your best tips too!

Thank you for visiting.

Linda & Monkey

PS  Do you receive an email every time there is a new message here? You do if you subscribe (right sidebar).

“Printing with Inklingo” (the first chapter of the handbook) is so important that it is included in the free shape collection for Diamonds, Triangles, and Squares, and several other places on the web site. Print the 48 pages yourself, or order the handbook and have all 128 pages professionally printed on beautiful glossy paper (bound or loose-leaf).

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