Printing on fabric has always been an interest of mine, as you can create amazing surface patterns using various techniques. However, I’d always assumed you needed specialist equipment and a special area to create all these amazing prints but was told that some techniques can be easily replicated at home. One of the techniques I had always wanted to try was foil transfer printing. This opportunity arose when I made a sweater and shorts combo with a material called ‘Scuba Jersey’, but found the black a bit too plain. I initially wanted to embroider a heart shape on the sweater but was hesitant due to the time it may have taken.
I had seen a lot of the print students in college working on this technique and wanted to know how it was done. I asked a colleague of mine about it and he introduced me to the print technician at the college, Rita, who explained what I had to do. Once the information was disseminated to me, I was so eager to try it out, I rushed to the college shop to buy the foil and the adhesive used for the transfer.
With the materials ready, I tried producing some samples with the instructions I learnt, but somehow the results seemed very crude. I finally managed to get everything right but had to adapt the instructions to fit with the equipment I had at home. Essentially the steps for foil transfer are as follows (please be aware that results may vary depending on the type of materials and iron you have):
STEP 1: Choose your fabric wisely, as the adhesive may not bond to certain types of fabric. Synthetic fabric may also melt or distort during the heating process.
STEP 2: Apply the adhesive to the design you have prepared on the fabric and let it dry completely. A little adhesive goes a long way, so do not slap on loads of the stuff. I had been warned that more does not mean better! I applied about 3 thin coats.
STEP 3: Place the foil on top of the dry adhesive with the right side (red side) facing up. The back of the foil (silver side) should be touching the dried adhesive.
STEP 4: Ensure that the setting on your iron is on cotton. Once heated up, test on a piece of foil and ensure the foil does not shrivel up. If this happens, your iron is too hot. Place a piece of paper on top of the foil and fabric to protect your work from burning. Heat it up by slowly moving your iron over the top to initially bond the adhesive and foil. Once this is done, keep the iron static on top of your work and apply some pressure for approximately 30 seconds. You can roughly see the outline of your design on the foil.
STEP 5: While the work is still hot, remove the paper and gently rub the foil onto the fabric. If you cannot handle the heat, use a scrap piece of fabric.
STEP 6: Let the foil cool completely. Don’t be tempted to pull the foil off early, as the cooling process bonds it to the adhesive.
STEP 7: Slowly peel a tiny bit of the foil back. If the foil did not stick to the adhesive, it means that the heat was not adequate for the bonding process. Continue from step 4 again. If it was successful, the foil will fully bond onto the fabric.
The whole process is actually quite straight forward but it was Rita’s tips which made all the difference. And the best (and most stressful) moment is when you peel the foil off to see your design!
I really enjoyed this printing technique and want to create more, but until then, I have this amazing sweater and shorts combo with a print that I made myself. For the shorts, I decided to be a bit cheeky and put a heart on my bottom.
I do have to say, I really ‘heart’ this!