T-shirt printing

I’ve been experimenting today with block printing directly onto fabric, and it’s come out pretty well. I used my cartouche block, with the same printer’s ink (incidentally, using a 1lb tin and a spatula instead of a squeezy metal tube makes things quite a lot easier) and a metal spoon to make sure the ink penetrated right the way through the fabric.

This stuff has proved far too tenacious to wash out of paper once it’s dried in, so I’m hoping it’ll be the same in a normal wash – obviously, I’ll do a test wash first rather than putting it in with my good shirts!

The only problem with the setup I was using is the difficulty of keeping the fabric away from the block once I’ve done the transfer and started to peel it off. The way I set it up was to turn the T-shirt inside out, lay it on my worktable with the label facing down, lift up the top (front) side, and slip the pre-inked block in before letting the fabric down slowly and smoothing it out as I went. That part worked out pretty well, though next time I’ll probably use some artist’s tape to stiffen the fabric around the printing area first.

Another way to do it would be to lay the block down first as normal, then lower the fabric onto it with something inside the garment to stiffen it up and stop the ink from transferring right through. Rubbing it through both layers probably wouldn’t work well, but given that the ink glues the substrate down very effectively it would be extremely easy to turn the T-shirt inside out around the block.

A third way, of course, would be to lay the T-shirt down right-side-out and front-up, and then lower a vinyl block onto it. Whilst I haven’t tried printing this way yet, the vinyl is flexible enough that it should be entirely possible to rub from the back of the plate rather than the back of the substrate.

It did turn out that I could have done with a couple of extra hands when peeling the fabric off the block, but stiffening it up (ideally I’d use a tapestry frame, but finding one large enough to give enough clear space inside but small enough to fit inside a T-shirt and get a decent grip all around might be problematic) should deal with that one too.


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