Monday, September 2, 2013

Dolly Versace

September marks the end of summer and the beginning of what the French call, "La Rentree." Simply put, this means, back to school; back to work; and back in action! This is also the time of the year that throws us into transition fashion. It's still too warm to wear wool and yet with the cooler days and evenings just ahead, it's time to think about covering up....a bit.

To help my dolls transition into Fall, I decided to add a bit of silk to their summer wardrobes. I also wanted to play with a technique I have read about for some time now. That is, printing on fabric using a personal computer and printer. My target: the iconic Versace shirt. This is also known as a "scarf print" and can also be used for that ubiquitous Hermes, Dolce & Gabana, and any other upscale, in-your-face, designer shirt.

For those of you who do not have a fabric store nearby, textile printing and surface treatments provides the perfect (and the most economical) way to realize your designs. I will immediately refer you to two online companies who sell internationally, with whom (via schools) I have dealt with in the past: Dharma Trading sells white and black silks and cottons by the yard or by the bolt at very reasonable prices. In addition, they have an arsenal of products: from dyes and chemicals to tools and supplies, to help you create a plethora of different textile effects. More focused on basic fabrics as it's name suggests, Silk Connection specializes in the sale of basic silks, cotton and linen.
The jacket is in silk; the dress in cotton. Both of the same print

The technique today is quite easy and simple. We will be creating our own designs on cotton or silk on the computer then printing it out with an ordinary printer. For this you will need a fine 100% silk or cotton. Nothing thick! You will also need Freezer paper which is usually sold at the supermarket. If you cannot find the freezer paper, you can also use Spray Adhesive, though it's trickier to work with and not so great for you nor the environment. You will need a hot, dry iron, computer and an inkjet printer. (Everything I've read have advised against laser printers.)

Design the Motif
On the right, part of an image I found on the web. On the left, I begin to tile my "motif."
I select the background layer and paste in a new motif so that I can slide it under the others to create my desired pattern.
For the Versace inspired print, I downloaded pictures from the internet. Find the largest resolution available. I also use "pieces" of prints from a picture of a jacket or from a scarf, which we will call our "motif." I open my image in an image editing program. My favorite is Photoshop Elements which does pretty much of what the full version Photoshop does, but costs a lot less. Open a blank document scaled at the largest size of paper your printer can handle. I then outline my motif, and "copy." It is "pasted into my blank document. Repeat. Arrange the motifs in a tiled effect. This can be side by side or crisscross. When everything is arranged the way you want. Flatten image.

I created this pattern by setting the motifs on a crisscross grid.
Left,:the base of my motif. Right. side by side tiles create this pattern.
Check the Scale of the Print
It is impossible to see what scale your print will be in relation to the doll without "trying it on" first. Print out a "slice" of your print, on paper first, to check the scale of the print. Make adjustments and print out another sample. This will save you time, money, effort and many tears later.
I print a "slice" of the print in two different scales to see what works best with the doll BEFORE I print my fabric.

Increase the Saturation for Bold Prints
Be aware the colors will be different than what appears on the screen. My first set of fabrics were pale and a bit grey. That's ok if you want subtle. But the nature of a Versace print lies its boldness. This was, perhaps in part, due to my printer which is more than 10 years old and does not use the more vibrant inks employed by newer models. I discovered by increasing the "Saturation" by 80% and increasing the contrast a bit, the gold of the image came alive. Also, resolution matters. If you want all those little details to show, you'll need to plan and print out at 300 dpi.

On the left, the image as I found it. On the right, I have increased saturation by 80% and the contrast. The colors appear richer.

Prep the Fabric
Make sure there is no stiffing or sizing in your fabric. (You may have to wash it first). Consult the instructions of your printer to see the maximum size of paper it accepts. At first I was printing out letter (A3 in Europe) before realizing I could print longer sheets of paper. Cut the freezer paper a bit bigger. Then cut your fabric as big as the freezer paper. Lay the fabric right side down against the ironing board. Place the shiny side of the freezer paper over the wrong side of the fabric. The matte side will be facing up. Now press, press, press. I iron from the center out. Make sure there are no bubbles and that the edges are flush against the paper. When this is done. Cut through the paper and fabric with sharp scissors so that the edges are perfectly clean and the edges are fairly straight. Clip away any stray fibers from the edges. You are ready to print.
Press your fabric well. Iron shiny side of the freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric. Cut the two so that the edges are clean.

When you're finished printing. Allow to dry, then peel away the paper.
If you are not using freezer paper, you will need to carefully and thoroughly coat a piece of printer paper with spray adhesive, making sure there are no missed spots. Place your fabric right side down. And carefully place the adhesive side of the paper to your fabric. Press until there are no gaps and paper and fabric have become united.

There is a third option just in case the first two do not work for you. Dharma Trading has pre-prepared "Print on Fabric" in silk and cotton.

Print the Fabric
Unless your printer has a special setting for "transfer paper," put the setting on "Matte, Heavyweight Paper." Make sure you are inserting the page into the printer. It should print on the fabric and not the paper! Print only one sheet at a time. Let it dry, then peal back away the paper backing.
Not enough fabric? No problem. Just print more!!!

Updated Disclaimer
As is, this technique is NOT colorfast for those of use using older printers. Given the all-over prints I created, I did experience residue from the ink rubbing off onto my fingers while handling my fabric. None of my dolls were harmed in the process, but  depending on the age and type of printer and the type of ink that it uses, will depend on whether or not you will have to take extra steps to colorfast your fabric.  If you are making clothes as gifts or to sell, you MUST be sure your fabric is colorfast. If this is your case, I would recommend treating the fabric with a special product found at the above mentioned, Dharma Trading or treating your printed fabric with a vinegar bath. For the latter, dip the fabric (prior to cutting out your pattern) in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water for 5 minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt. Rinse until the water runs clear. Then wash in soapy water to remove any remaining residue. Dry and iron. Expect to lose about 15% of the color using this method. But if you can live with more subtle colors, delight in knowing that your print job is now permanent and there are no fears of ink residue rubbing off on the doll! Personally, I find the washed out version of the vintage Versace print for the fashions I presented today looks newer and in keeping with contemporary fashion! However, for better results you will need a printer that uses dyes on the order of the Epson Piezo system or Durabrite Inks, which is what I intend to do. This project was a LOT of fun and I plan to do a LOT of printing in the future. In fact, I might even buy a bigger printer!

Keep It Simple
With a scarf print, you want to stick with simple garments void of too many seams, darts and pattern pieces. Consider shirts for him and her, basic shift dresses and T-shirts so that the beauty of the scarf print remains in focus.
Oh yes. There are designer T-shits and tote bags every fashionista dolly wants!

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Very Versace. Very stylish dollies!!!
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  1. Love it!!! Thank you so much for sharing this how to. Found your blog today and love it!

  2. Thank you and welcome to my blog, CBB. I'm glad you enjoy it. Come back any time. It's updated on a regular basis with the intent of helping you keep your dolls at the height of fashion!!!

  3. All outfits are looking different and awesome. thank you for sharing. I just loved it. Can any one use printing on cotton fabric for make outfits more adorable?

    1. Hi there--- thank you for your visit. Yes. You need an inkjet printer to do this. You can prep the cotton (or silk) fabric yourself or you can order fabric online from Dharma Trading! This is a great way to make doll designs more original!


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