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Testing fabrication methods for custom print garments

with Amber Guo and Phoebe Cai

We tested many methods for fabricating personalized data garments for Dressed in Data: Green Housing Study. Here are some notes on the processes we tried and their successes and failures.

Inkodye

Inkodye

Special supplies: inkodye; inkodye wash; bucket; gloves; straight pins or tape; cotton fabric; cardboard; optional: print objects, photo paper, spray bottle

Process:

  1. Prepare the space.
  2. Coat fabric in dye--stay away from windows to avoid exposing the dye.
  3. Place fabric on cardboard or other flat, portable surface.
  4. Fold, place objects, or attach photo paper to the fabric and cardboard to create your print. Uncovered portions will change color in the sunlight.
  5. Sit outside with your masterpiece-to-be and watch it change color! Time of day matters; direct sunlight makes a big big difference. About half an hour is enough, even for New Englanders.
  6. Bring everything inside and away from the sunlight.
  7. Wash with Inkodye detergent to remove remaining dye and fix the design.

Notes: Dye works best on cottons or other natural fibers; synthetics do not take the dye well. Colors are often pastel shades and may not appear on darker fabrics.

Verdict: Work in progress. Best for pastel or muted colors. Not an ideal choice for fabrication during a New England winter (N.B. this can be done inside with a UV lamp).

Darkjet

Darkjet

Special supplies: Photo printer, Teflon Sheet, Iron (350 degrees and above), Vinyl cutter (or X-ACTO knife)

Process:

  1. Scale image to size and preview on document.
  2. Load Darkjet paper into the print. If printing a stack, fan each paper so that they do not statically adhere to each other. It may be necessary to load paper one at a time.
  3. Print the image. Be careful of high heat settings or laser printers, as such printing conditions dissolve the adhesive and disable the transfer mechanism.
  4. With a vinyl cutter or X-ACTO knife, trim off the whitespace around the image.
  5. Position the printed image on the fabric and cover with a Teflon sheet.
  6. Press with iron at 350 degrees for 20 seconds.
  7. Allow to cool and remove backing.

Notes: Does not work with laser/high-heat printers.

Verdict: Work in progress. Best when used with the vinyl cutter.

Thermochromatic Pigment

Thermochromatic Pigment

Special supplies: thermochromatic pigment, screen printing ink

Process:

  1. Mix thermochromatic powder with screen printing ink. Ensure that paint does not become gloppy from excess powder; dilute carefully if necessary.
  2. Paint on garment and allow to dry.
  3. Paint will change color when exposed to heat (powder goes from colored to white).

Notes: Body heat is sufficient for color changing. Test with white ink first to see full range of color change. Pigment can be used in different amounts to create a gradient of color intensities.

Verdict: Work in progress. Interesting approach that requires further testing (e.g. with screen printing) and an exploration of appropriate applications.

Stencil Sticker Painting

Stencil sticker painting: screen printing without a screen

Special supplies: laser cutter/vinyl cutter/scissors, paintbrushes, fabric paint, vinyl sticker paper

Process:

  1. Laser cut (or vinyl cut, or cut by hand) a negative stencil of the image from vinyl sticker paper.
  2. Apply transfer tape to the stencil and carefully use the transfer tape to stick the stencil onto the garment.
  3. Use fabric paint and a paintbrush to apply paint to the shirt in the spaces that the stencil leaves. When the paint dries, carefully remove the stencil sticker.

Notes: This is similar to screen printing in that it uses a negative stencil, but unlike screen printing, it does not use a screen to apply the ink. Because of this the ink may be uneven or gloppy. Additionally, it may be difficult to keep the ink within the stencil; laser cutting tends to burn the stencil edges which then do not adhere well to transfer tape and to the shirt. A vinyl cut stencil may be more effective.

Verdict: Less than ideal. Can be used for testing initial prototypes before making a full investment in silk screening. Vinyl cut stickers can be great for personalizing phone cases, computers, or many other things!

Spray paint stencil spray

Spray paint stencil spray

Special supplies: stencil, simply spray stencil spray paint

Process:

  1. Lie shirt flat and fix in place
  2. Place stencil on shirt, covering any exposed areas
  3. Spray simply spray stencil spray paint

Notes: the spray came out as an inconsistent drip and ran out quickly. The spray drenched the paper stencil as well as the fabric underneath, without effectively filling in the design.

Verdict: Difficult to manage and ineffective. Do not use this!