Sunday, 28 February 2010

Good things

Forgive me if this seems like one of those posts that might have been written by an over-excitable puppy, but the sparkly lemonadey feeling of learning something new (as with the dressmaking) can bring that out in one. It all started when an A4 package arrived on my doorstep on Saturday morning. Photo Papers Direct had written to me the week before last asking if I'd like to try some of their t-shirt transfer paper, an offer which would have had me biting off their hand had they not been at a safe distance behind a computer, as I do love the idea of mixing some fancy-pants wizardry into the stitching arena. Anyway, the papers arrived on Saturday and due to them being 'printer-related' they seemed to break down a crafting gender divide and Mr Teacakes was just as enthusiastic about the potential uses as I was (Mr Teacakes is currently in the process of drawing an enormous picture of another world for the children's walls and so the idea of transferring a small section of this on to a t-shirt was one that really appealed).

Anyway, for the last five years I have been rather desperate to learn to use a computer graphics programmes that would allow me to draw, but more importantly mix drawing with samples of fabric. But somehow I've never got around to mastering how to do this. However, on Saturday every time I thought about the t-shirt transfers that I'd like to create they all involved this mixture of computer-generated drawing and fabric samples and so on Saturday night I sketched a tortoise by hand and then loaded it on to the computer and asked Mr Teacakes to teach me how to draw around it. The first couple of hours were a little frustrating as every curve and line is manipulated by handles that spring off each 'point' and it's not as intuitive as I'd expected it to be...however, by midnight this tortoise had been born, I was happily clicking my way around, revelling in how perfectly curvaceous the computer can make things look, and had even learnt to order my work properly by using 'layers'. There's so much happiness to be had from being geeky. I think the ideal package for this type of thing would be Illustrator, but as I only have Fireworks on my computer that's what I used and it seemed to be capable of doing everything I wanted it to do. I then used Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane fabric line to fill in the tortoise's shell because it's a fabric line that I can't stop thinking about (Fabric Rehab started stocking this last week and seem to be the UK's first and only suppliers - hurrah for them - and as if this wasn't enough fabric excitement for one week, Seamstar has just taken delivery of Anna Maria Horner's Folksy Flannels).

So all this may make it seem like there must be a lot of prep-work involved in using t-shirt transfers...but no, all that is just self-created hustle and bustle around the project. If you didn't fancy gathering enormous eye-bags with yet another late night crafting session you could take a simple picture, photo or even a word (although you'd need to flip it first as a mirror-image is what's transferred onto the t-shirt). Once my tortoise was finished it was actually just a case of printing it onto the transfer paper and ironing it on...a five minute job. My first attempt was unsuccessful in a number of ways...I chose a pink t-shirt, which wasn't the best choice for retaining the vibrant colours, but that was irrelevant anyway, as I managed to singe the t-shirt and actually turn it a rather ugly brown. The instructions said that the transfer would be complete once a symbol on the paper had changed colour...but I wanted to be definitely sure that the transfer really had worked and so chose to leave the hot iron scorching away for another minute once I'd seen the symbol change colour...I'm a wise one. However, once I'd defumigated the house I decided to try again with a white t-shirt and to follow the instructions properly.

This time I was really pleased with the results - the image doesn't have that horrible shiny look that some t-shirt transfers can have - you can see this better here:

I love the way the fabric on the shell looks too. I'd worried about leaving the background of the shell white in case the transfer made this look odd...but you really can't see that it's a transfer, it's as if the prints are actually a part of the original fabric of the t-shirt:

Can you tell quite how much I love this whole process? And the Zebra - well, she loved it - she stood by declaring each stage a success (even the burnt t-shirt) and wiggled her way into the t-shirt the minute it had cooled down. I'd love to also use the transfers on some plain cotton to make pencil cases for her and dinosaur-boy...they seem to love things with their names on and their own pictures could be scanned in and transferred on.

I feel like the fun has just begun - I have so many ideas for how I'd like to use these papers and next on my list is mixing in some stitching with the final transfer to create something more textural and multi-media even more fiercely fine in the fun-to-make stakes (why does writing the word 'multi-media' make me feel completely pretentious? Does anyone share my cringe factor with that word?).

So anyway, should you wish to venture down the transfer route (I've done the t-shirt burning bit for you really can follow the instructions safe in the knowledge that you don't need to double the suggested ironing time for no reason at all.) then my papers were sent from the lovelies at Photo Paper Direct - they sent me two packs, one for using on light coloured fabrics and one for dark coloured fabrics. I'm yet to try out the dark version - I think the technique for transferring differs somewhat, but it looks just as simple. I will report back when Mr Teacakes has had a turn as he is planning to use them for something relating to Dinosaur-boy's birthday in a few months time.

Anyway, I had meant to blog about my new quilt this evening, but really this was all far too exciting not to tell you about right this instant. So sorry for the over-enthusiasm...I think learning new things does this to me...time to lie down in a darkened room.

I hope you've had the most lovely of weekends,
Florence x 


  1. That tortoise looks adorable, and I agree that the shell looks great with the fabric peeking through! I've not had the best of luck with transferring but you've inspired me to try again now :D

  2. How gorgeous, I have some tranfer paper and a stained t-shirt waiting to be jazzed, I never thought about creating something to print like you have. How did you get the fabric images into the picture? Is it a case of grabbing the image from a website and dropping it in, if so are there any copyright issues about doing something like that?

  3. Do, Amy - it has been so much fun...I'm so pleased that I persevered after my first botched attempt.

    Louise - gosh, I don't know, I hadn't thought about that. I'm guessing that there's no copyright issue at all if you're not intending to sell whatever you make.

    Yes, you can simply take photos of your own fabric or find them on the internet and then paste them into the shape. Hope that helps. x

  4. Oh how fun! I have been wanting to turn my daughter's drawings into some sort of fussy cut center to a quilt block and many other ideas, but I was wary of dealing with the papers. Also I am not a very good artist and Photoshop, etc seem so frightening, lol. I love your tortoise and the enthusiasm with which you've explained it all to us. Thank you! :)

  5. Hello Florence:: The shirt looks quite lovely. The idea of fabric patterned shell is so wonderful!

  6. The tortoise looks great and the fabric shell is so pretty. I can't believe I haver never thought of doing this even though my parents have all the paper, heat press and tshirts as they do this for their own business! I will have to start thinking about pretty designs and have words with them! xx

  7. Great design, Florence. I have some transfer paper as I fancied to make a quilted picture but haven't got round to it - I burned a T shirt too trying it out! Hooray for the arrival of the flannels, thanks for the link.

  8. Oh wow! I love this! And yes, kids love stuff with their name on, don't they? I bought 2 white T-shirts in next at the weekend for £3, for my 4 year-old - just think, you could make a stash ready for birthday presents! Superb idea! (yours, not mine!).

  9. If I had done what you have just done a month ago I would still be climbing the walls with excitement! Wow!!!You have answered so many questions for me that I didn't even know how to ask regarding how images get on the computer etc. I know you wanted to use your transfer which you did beautifully but doesn't it also open up so many other possibilities? You can print your own original designs on paper etc too. I think you can also print on fabric using a normal printer but I am not sure. I know there are websites which will print off fabric using your own uploaded designs. I love your tortoise design and I loved how you filled in in with the fabric patterns - you could of course now make your own fabric designs if you wanted! Lucky Zebra Girl. This post was so exciting to read about, watching how the whole thing unfolded was so informative. As has been noted before Florence, your drawing skills play no small part in your creativity.

  10. That is so cool! This is my first time to visit your blog so my questions may be a bit elementary, but get the fabric onto the computer? Did you scan images of it and then bring it into your editing program to fill in the bits on the turtle? Then what editing program did you use?
    Thanks! Great post!

  11. Pink Lady - do get to work - lucky you having such supplies right there in front of you!

    Jane, I am SO pleased to find that I'm not the only one. x

    Sew Pretty Dresses - thank you! Mine was a mixture of my photographs of fabrics, and images from online (as unfortunately I don't yet have all those lovely fabrics!). The software I used was Macromedia Fireworks as I happened to have it already installed on my machine in case my husband uses my laptop for his web deisgn work - I don't think most computers come with it pre-installed. Hope that helps.

    Siohban, as always, you are such a lovely to encourage me to leap from designing one t-shirt transfer to designing my own fabric! (I hadn't thought of that...but I think there's a company called Spoonflower that prints very small amounts of fabric...perhaps you shouldn't have mentioned that!).

    Thank you so much for all your lovely commenty goodness.

    Florence x

  12. Wow, that is fab. Going to have to learn more about this. You are a creative genius!

    V xxx

  13. Absolutely fabulous. I like you, am not 100% comfortable with doing stuff on my computer. I wish I could as I have so much I would love to do. Maybe I need to go to school, to learn how to use it properly as I don't have a Mr Teacake!!! Anyway.....I love your stuff. Only just found you, but looking forward to following what you are up to in the future, and picking up tips along the way. I was given the Sunshine Award and would like to pass it on to you. If you would like to accept it, just have a look at to see what you need to do.


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Florence x

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