Simple Image Transfer; Aloe Vera and Canvas Gel

Although I do love to add design to my T-shirts, I’m not really interested in coping completed images from one source to another. I mean those great prepared T-shirt transfers aren’t really for me.  My issue with the prepared designs is that they are usually not “my” style or they are the same style of 20,000 others.  There’s more to it than just “can’t find one I like”.  I have a underlying desire to create and explore art.  Especially art materials.  But I’m not a particularly good artist.  I can draw — if I work hard at it and take a long long time.  I’ve found many many wonderful artistic scrolls, dings, and designs which I’d love to play with and are copyright free in Dover books.  I could draw these designs to my fabric but hate to invest the time.  It would take me forever plus I have a problem resizing.  What I’d like to do is some simple resizing  and change to outline format at my computer; send it to my printer and then iron the outline onto my fabric.  Once the basic structure is there, I enjoy and can easily flush out the design with paint.  The transfer sheets work but are a bit expensive.  Especially when I have to use the entire page to make a small design.  Transfer sheets also add a layer of  product which stiffens the fabric. Yes paints do too, but a paint designed for use with fabric does not impart the stiffness associated with the transfer sheets.

I’ve spent some time looking on the Internet (love those You-Tubes). Some of the ideas are great but so expensive I can’t contemplate using them. Others require equipment I don’t have (laser printers or thermal fax anyone?)   Doubtless someone will suggest  transfer pens and pencils.  I seem to be inept when it comes to those.  I either can’t transfer enough to see the details of my design or I transfer blobs that can’t be covered up. So I’ve been keeping an eye out for something simple. Something I can do easily, quickly and cheaply. I think I found it.

The first You-Tube which started-my-wheels-turning demonstrated using the wax sheet which supports mailing labels.  You buy a package of Ink Jet laser labels and remove all the labels from one of the sheets. Just get rid of them–you want the supporting sheet.  Then you print your design to the wax sheet. I happened to have a few almost empty sheets of labels.  My first wax sheet crumpled in the printer so it was necessary to clear off a second.   The design printed but rather lightly, so I ran the paper through the ink jet printer a second time.  I cut a rectangle of cotton fabric and spritzed it with water– enough to dampen all over but not sopping wet.  I pressed the fabric to remove all wrinkles and then laid the printed wax sheet face-down onto the right side of the fabric.  I burnished the back side of the wax sheet with a popsicle stick.  A spoon is recommended but I didn’t have a spoon handy when I got to this step.  I think the popsicle stick worked fine.  Because I ran the wax paper sheet through the printer twice the print was a bit blurry.  I still have a clear enough image to paint.
I did have concern about placement of the design. I’m pretty specific about how I want an embellishment to appear.  Probably too many years using machine embroidery in which I can control to-the-thread where a design is located.  I was really encouraged by the simple process above which did not require heat.  I added heat only to ensure the fabric was wrinkle free before making the transfer.

For my second attempt, I pulled out an over-head transparency.  These things must be nearly indestructible. At one time businesses stocked them by the case.  Everyone who talked to a group wanted a printed transparency to help illustrate their points.  For gosh sakes,  artists were employed to create some of these.  The plotter was a god-send as transparencies could now be beautifully completed by machine in mere hours rather than weeks. Then they fell by the wayside, disused and unwanted. Trash because projectors could be connected to computers displaying the work file.  Out-of-date transparencies were a thing of the past.  Eventually, businesses discarded their stock of  transparency media which is how I wound up with a couple of boxes.  I wanted them because they helped with placement of machine embroidery designs.  I used the transparencies sparingly for many years. Sparingly because they are expensive to replace and often a close-enough embroidery placement is good-enough.  Only those designs which I split and needed precise recombining warranted a transparency.  I switched from transparency to Vellum.  Vellum was transparent enough to see though to align my embroidery designs and lots cheaper. 10 sheets cost $7 ($3.50 with a 50% off coupon) and the ink doesn’t smear.  I had to let transparencies dry before bringing them anywhere near my fabric.  Otherwise I’d have ink smudges in the worst possible places of course.  The remberance of which suddenly prompted me to try the image transfer process with a transparency.

Using the same design, I printed to a transparency sheet.  Once again I ironed my fabric rectangle and sprayed with water until evenly moist but not wet. I placed the transparency ink-side down onto my fabric and burnished but this time with hard-rubber brayer.  I think I like the popsicle stick better.  With the brayer I seemed to wiggle the transparency. Fortunately not enough to ruin the transfer.
I started painting this test mostly because I wanted to see the effect of mixing Aloe Vera with fabric paints.  I wanted to know if Aloe Vera changed the color or would just thin the paint.  The consistency of paint + Aloe Vera is good, almost the same as paint straight from the container. But it does seem to change colors almost as if adding white.  I combined Aleo Vera and Canvas Gel (liquid) with different colors.  Both products have interesting transparent results. Aloe Vera seems to have an effect upon hue whereas the Canvas Gel does not.

Either the label sheet or transparency can be reused.  I wiped both with a damp rag.  There is still some residue of ink on the label sheet. The transparency is completely free of any ink.