Sometimes, finding the right fabric is the hardest part of finishing a miniature doll.  Most printed fabrics are made in scale for humans, and are WAY to large for miniature dolls.  And when you need a particular design, such as when you want to replicate a well know garment, then you may just have to make it yourself. 

With today's printers, computer software, and some awesome products for printing on fabric, designing your own fabric can be loads of fun, and result in a product that is yours alone. 

The instructions given here are to print fabric using a design that I created to simulate the green on white fabric used in Scarlett's famous barbeque dress in the movie "Gone with the Wind".  The artwork for this fabric can be downloaded  here. You will need WinZip to unzip this file. Left click on link below to begin download. 

About the designs...  The fabric design for Scarlett's fabric was created in Jasc Paint Shop Pro version 7.  This is the program that I generally use when creating a fabric design.  (It is also the program used for backgrounds, headings, and other design elements on this site!)  While this tutorial will not cover in great depth the steps to create the fabric designs (I would make a horrible software instructor....) here are two methods, and an overview of these techniques to create mini fabric patterns.

1)  Find a  fabric in a print that you like and print a reduction. Scan it in at 200 dpi resolution. Open the scan in Paint Shop or other similar graphics program.  Crop the scan in a way that retains all of the design elements that you want to use. Bear in mind that you will need to be able to paste many of these sections together, so crop carefully, to make the pasting easier.  Think wallpaper patterns!  Reduce the scan until you feel that a printed sample of the reduction is in the proper scale for your doll.  Now open a new document, 8 1/2" x 11", at 200 dpi.  Copy your reduced scan, and paste it into your new document.  It is now, of course much smaller than the original.  You will need to repeat the pasting several times to fill the 8 1/2" x 11" area.  Be sure to match the patterns carefully, much like hanging wallpaper!!!  When your 8 1/2" x 11" document is full filled with the design you are ready to save and print.

 

2) Create your own design.  This requires more time and patience and experience in using your graphics programs, but will allow you to make totally original fabric designs.  For one of my original dolls, I wanted an antique teddy bear and flowers print.  I found a graphic of a teddy that I liked, and also a pansy blossom.  The colors in the two elements went well together.  I made sure that each of the designs was saved  at 200 dpi.  Using Paint Shop Pro,  I reduced both elements until they were the sizes that I wanted to use for my fabric.  I then decided on the color that I wanted the fabric background to be.  I opened a new document in Paint Shop Pro at 200 dpi with my background color as a fill.  I used a grid, and copied and pasted the bears and pansies in the pattern that I wanted, using the grid squares as a guide to align the elements properly.  When the page was finished, I saved and printed my fabric.  Here is how it turned out.  The doll is 4 " in height, and the bears on the fabric are only 3/8" in height, yet they printed out highly detailed and clear.

For now, I will assume that you have downloaded the Scarlett fabric according to the instructions on the page, and have saved it in your graphics program as instructed.  Lets begin.

Supplies:

 

Fabric   Please note that this fabric printing method works only on 100% cotton and 100% silk fabrics, and light weight, lightly colored fabrics work the best. While you may be able to print on other fabrics, you will probably find that they are not color fast, as they will be following these instructions with cotton or silk.

Freezer Paper

Bubble Jet Set, Bubble Jet Set Rinse, both available from Nancy's Notions

Ink Jet printer and computer and design artwork from download above

Iron

Rotary Cutter and Mat - Optional, but handy for cutting fabric and freezer paper.

Cut two pieces of 100% cotton batiste each measuring a generous 8 1/2" x 11".  Also cut two pieces of freezer paper 8 1/2" x 11".  Freezer paper is heavy paper,  wax coated on one side.

 

 

 

Lay one cut fabric piece in a glass pan.  Fabric can be folded if necessary to fit into pan. 

Pour the Bubble Jet Set liquid over the first piece of fabric. Use enough liquid to cover the fabric well.  I like to work the liquid into the fabric surface with my finger tips.

Now lay the second piece directly on top of the first, and add additional liquid to cover the second piece of fabric, and again work in with fingers.

 Allow the fabric to sit in the liquid for 20 minutes.  Pour the excess liquid back into the bottle, for use next time.

Remove the fabric from the pan and lay out flat on clean white towels and allow to air dry.

Helpful Hint........

Although these products seem a bit pricey, they go a LONG ways, and are MUCH more economical than the prepared fabric sheets available at many sources.   You will feel more comfortable experimenting and sampling your designs if you use this more economical method of preparing your own fabric, and also have control over the exact type and quality of the fabric you are using.

 

 

 

 

Gently press the dry fabric.  Place fabric on shiny waxed side of freezer paper.  If you cut your fabric slightly oversized, allow the excess to extend beyond the edges of the paper.

Gently press the fabric onto the fabric paper.  You will need to set your iron to at least medium heat, possibly high, depending on your iron. You want to make sure that the fabric is securely bonded to the freezer paper by the heat. Especially important - make sure that the edges are well stuck to the paper.

If necessary, trim any excess fabric or strings hanging from the edges of the piece.

Print your fabric!!

Insert your fabric into your printer as you would a regular piece of paper.  Do make sure that you will be printing on the fabric side, not the paper.

Open the downloaded, unzipped scarlettfabric artwork in your graphics program.  (Paintshop Pro, Photoshop or other graphics application) Make sure that you are viewing a graphic that is 8 1/2" x 11". 

Use your best printer settings.  If you have choices of paper, choose ink jet paper, high quality.  If you have additional settings that let you allow for ink drying time, use that too.  And if your printer software allows you to control how heavy the ink is applied, I have found that the medium setting is adequate.

 

 

Be Patient.........

 

Allow your fabric to air dry for at least 30 minutes.  If it sits longer, no harm is done.  But do NOT rush this step.  You need to allow fabric to sit, or you will loose too much of your ink in the next step.

 

 

 FINISHING STEPS:

Gently pull off the freezer paper from the back side of the fabric. 

Fill your sink with cool clear water, and a teaspoon of Bubble Jet Set Rinse.

Immerse the fabric into the cool water, and pull directly up out of the water.  Don't swish, twist  or wring.  This step just removes the excess ink from the surface of the fabric.  If you see a large amount of ink floating in the water, skim that off or replace rinse water before rinsing your second piece of fabric, or all that ink will end up just where you DON"T want it!

Dry your fabric in the dryer, or air dry.  Ink is now set, and will withstand machine washing, but more importantly, will not run when glued, or draped with hairspray.

 

That's all there is to it.  The steps are simple, and the possibilities are endless.  Have lots of fun, and be creative!!!  And because I know you will ask, the printer I use is a Hewlett Packard Deskjet 6122.  I have also used an Epson printer, with little problem, but find that the HP feeds the fabric paper better than the Epson did, and allows me more control over features such as ink quantity and extra dry time. If you have any other questions, please drop me an email!

 

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