Heat Transfer – Stitch

I have been experimenting with the heat transfer process.  In its most traditional form this is a process where disperse dyes are used to create an image (either through digital print or painting with disperse paints) and then transferring the image from the paper onto the fabric using the heat press.  Personally, I prefer to use heat transfer paper (paper that has a coating of disperse dye on it).

The process only works with disperse dyes, and produces the best results on synthetic fabrics (polyester in particular).

There are two heat press machines available here; the smaller table-top press in the screen-printing room (that also helps develop upper body strength), and the hydraulic press in the ceramics studio.  The hydraulic press is called Pandora, and is fast becoming my new best friend.

While I was investigating different ways of getting my silhouette image onto the 1790 purse for the Holburne Project, I discovered that threads that had been dyed using disperse dyes could be used to create patterns and shapes in the heat press.  So, I started dyeing my own threads…

Disperse dyed threads drying

And then I began stitching my designs onto heat transfer paper using the dyed threads.  The images below show the prints made from machine and hand stitched samples.  Even though these images look three-dimensional and entice people to touch them, they are actually flat.

Machine stitched print (disperse dyed threads on heat transfer paper)

Hand stitched print (disperse dyed threads on heat transfer paper)

This produced a variety of results although my overall response is that it has been successful and is something I will develop further.

My thoughts so far are:

  • For large-scale projects I will need to use the digital embroidery machine (ZSK), therefore I’ll need to find a supplier of disperse dyed threads suitable for use in the machine.
  • To stitch onto heat transfer paper I’ll need to find a way of fusing the paper to make it stronger, otherwise it’ll rip during the stitching process.
  • It would be possible to stitch onto fabric and only print the stitched image, rather than the image and the background colour if I can’t stitch onto heat transfer paper.
  • Alternatively I could produce a large image in regular thread and use the heat transfer paper to imprint colour onto it.  The peaks and troughs created by the stitching will determine the areas that take up the most colour.
  • The hand-stitched images can be progressed with the current method, although I need to experiment further with the weights of thread used.  The thicker lines created in the images above have used multiple strands of thread, rather than a different weight of thread.

The possibilities are endless!

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