Digital Printing and Quilts

By: Kathyanne White


Digital Printing and Quilts

Quilting has always had a special place in my heart. My creative abilities have been expressed in quilts—then art quilts—for 30 years or more. As my quilts evolved the materials expanded—starting with hand dyed pimatex cotton. (image 1) Next my pieces developed into textural hand dyed canvas and burlap pieces—with digital images mixed in. (image 2)image 1

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In the last 14 years my art has centered on mixed media fiber techniques while encompassing digital printed alternative surfaces. An essence of quilting and fiber techniques remain in my digital assemblages. For example wire crochet is often used in my work. The next picture of a metal collage piece consists of a digital print on a metal printing plate. The plate is cut and assembled with crochet and wire on a hardware cloth box. (image 3) (For details on how to create a hardware cloth box frame see my workshop on KathyAnne Art—via one of my blogs—Display Art with Hardware Cloth—

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In the beginning my digital software like Photoshop was intended only to create portfolios and submissions for my art quilts. At that time museums and galleries started to accept their submissions digitally. That inspiration led me to get into the digital groove to stay current. This in turn encouraged me to learn more about digital expression and it became exciting to learn new techniques.

After participating in a wide format printing class at a local community college, I purchased my first wide format printer. That opened artistic doors that I hadn’t imagined. After playing with digital media for ten years I applied for and received an Artist Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts for my project “Expanding the Digital Print to Uncommon Surfaces”.  In the year of my grant I worked with an amazing amount of surfaces to see how far the digital printed surface could be pushed. Over the years since—I have printed thousands of alternative surfaces. Although I started with fabric for quilts my array of surfaces stretched way beyond that. For example the following image is a quilt created from digital prints on beverage cans. (image 4)

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Of course my beverage can quilt is a bit beyond fabric. So instead let me show you what my start was in digital printing fabric. Printing large fabric images for my art quilts was the starting point for my foray into digital printing alternative surfaces.

There are choices for printing fabrics that come in a “prepared to print” form. The fabric—be it cotton or silk—will come on a roll or in sheets with a paper backing.

This allows you to print right onto the fabric no fuss no muss. Any regular inkjet printer should handle this type of fabric. If you just want to dabble this is a good place to begin.

Companies like Jacquard sell this ready to print fabric on their internet site. They have a nice habotai silk that washes well, but I am not sure of future fading. I have printed the prepared fabrics and silk, but they aren’t my favorite. For me there is not enough texture or interest. When preparing fabrics yourself—you are in control of the surface and it’s texture.

There is also a company called Spoonflower online that will print your images on yardage. Since I do my own I am not familiar with the site, but surely many of the quilters you know are. Ask your fellow quilters if they have any experience with this way of printing your fabrics.

My process is to precoat and print fabrics and other alternative surfaces. This allows most any surface to print beautifully from a direct pass through inkjet printer. You do NOT want to use a printer that has dye sublimation ink because that ink will fade over time. You want a printer that uses pigment ink. This type of ink will maintain it’s color over time. These are not washable fabrics once printed. Using Bubble Jet Set with a dye ink will give you a washable fabric, but the fabric still may not be archival in the long run.

The process I use is an art process and not a wash and dry process. It’s doubtful that anyone would wash an oil painting. My constructions are art whether fabric is used or not.

In the beginning my pieces were quilt like and had layers. Usually there were more then 3 layers and they were not sewn together. Just quilted in a funky way. (image 5)image 5

Most of the top layers were a recognizable photographic image layered with other squares to add dimension and texture. The back is aluminum window screen—the pieces sewn to the screen with large stitches of embroidery thread to “quilt” the piece to the screen. This was called my Sensual Surfaces series—the first of my digital quilt work. If you are interested in how I created the images and put them together, I wrote an ebook on Kindle and Nook called “Inside Sensual Surfaces.”

Inside Sensual Surfaces (This book is $4.99 available on Kindle and Nook — 64 pages depicting my process in Photoshop and assembling the pieces.)  Link for Kindle ebook

Here is another quilt from the series. (image 6) image 6

Believe it or not these pieces were both simple and difficult. The fabric was precoated with an inkAID coating to prepare the surface for printing and then printed. My printer only printed 17” wide by 80” long, so the larger work had to be printed in sections. Once the print was finished it was cut into pieces and kept in order on my tables. Then I dyed under fabrics, cheesecloth, burlap, canvas etc. These pieces were arranged randomly under the print on my design wall. Once finished they had to be sewn to their backing. For the smaller pieces it wasn’t so bad, but when I got to my largest piece of the series 71” x 95”, it was very challenging.  (image 4) Views of this piece— in the making— is in the “Inside Sensual Surface” ebook.

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The digital printing alternative surfaces process has many level. I have been creating online workshops about this process along with other mixed media work for years. My site was on line in 2007 and since then over 70 workshops and 600 images have been posted. (These workshops are free to members of the site). Currently all sorts of mixed media art —printing, journals, encaustic and more are available on KathyAnne Art. If you visit one of my blogs—Inside KathyAnne Art you can scroll through various workshop descriptions. —link

If you are interested in getting more information about the alternative surface process check out my book on Blurb—Digital Printing Alternative Surfaces the definitive source.

—link for my book

My book is a comprehensive look at the digital print process and takes you through step by step in words and pictures my most common alternative surfaces. Fabrics such as synthetics, silk and cotton are all included in the book. I welcome all email and questions so feel free to contact me anytime.

KathyAnne White