While I enjoy many benefits from printing my digital designs myself on my own choice of fabric with my dedicated studio printers, I often face real challenges that are less enjoyable.
I had used an Epson 2200 for 10 years with only a few problems. In general it was, still is, a workhorse that prints nicely on my fabrics. A couple of years ago I decided it would be nice to have a wider print so I bought an Epson 3880 which prints up to 17″ wide. What a cantankerous machine! It is so automated for the Epson papers that it is difficult to find the settings which will work with my paper backed fabrics. It wants to crumple and smudge ridges along the print. I use a wide platen setting and a 2 or 3 mm paper thickness setting, which works a lot of the time, but is not foolproof. I can be printing along in an afternoon doing just fine, when suddenly on the 5th print it decides to smudge!
As you can see this can be a problem. Many of my designs are collages or involve cutting across the print, so I can usually cut around the smudge. Often this presents a design challenge. Sometimes I just stitch over the lighter smudges and incorporate them into the finished look. Or I fuse another fabric piece over the smudge. In at least one quilt I used the smudges as a ‘pattern’ to embroider over, a result which added an interesting feature to the composition.
But sometimes there is just wasted ink and silk.
Another technical challenge I recently faced had to do with the paper adhered to the silk. I had changed my procedure to printing on the paper backed fused fabric instead of adhering it to freezer paper. This eliminated a step since I was going to apply fusing anyway, and the commercial fusing was applied to a similar thickness of paper which went through the printer quite well. Then I bought a new bolt of WonderUnder fusing to discover they have changed the paper to which the fusing is applied. It is softer and limper and I am getting more smudges again. So far I am able to work around them, but the strips I am working with curl and are hard to work with, so I may have to go back to printing on silk adhered to freezer paper again.
These are the days I want to go back to handwork on simple commercially dyed fabric or better yet –acrylic paint on paper or fabric–to heck with these machines!
–or maybe my work will become more layered with acrylic images painted on top of printer ink smudges. Challenges often result in a change in technique and a change in artistic outcome.