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Here at Five Star Embroidery & Design we love printing on fabrics, modern print is more often than not digital but of course that isn’t where it began. Here’s some history and interesting facts about textile and fabric printing.
Where it began
Textile printing means to apply colours to fabric in a specific pattern or design, the fabric is then bonded to help protect against wear and washing. Printing began with woodblock printing a technique originating in China, where patterns, text and images were printed onto textiles and then later onto paper as early as 220 BC. In Europe, textile printing was introduced via the Islamic world from the 12th century, this was mainly dyes which restricted the patterns available, this was mainly wall covering and hangings that did not require washing where the dyes would run. During the 17th century French Seaman brought samples of fabric from India with washable prints and designs which was the first time it was seen in Europe. The East India Company brought printed and plain cotton into England in the 1630’s, this was followed by the introduction of British printers and dyers making their own printed cotton, where they printed single colours onto plain fabrics in the 1660s. The main geographic areas where was this seen in the beginning were Lancashire & London.
The printing process
There are several stages to the process to ensure a quality and permanent finish on the fabric these include:
The cloth is typically washed and bleached then dyed to the required base colour. The fabric should be brushed so as to provide a clean smooth surface for the print. Some fabrics will stretch more easily than others so these must be handled carefully to avoid distorting the design or pattern.
The colours must be mixed and balanced to create the shade, quality and fastness required for the design. Some colours may require after treatment to secure to the fabric to avoid the colour running or spreading outside of the pattern design.
Methods of printing
Hand block printing
This is the earliest known process and also the simplest and slowest. The design is drawn onto wooden blocks, the blocks carved to leave the design raised. Each block would represent a different colour and part of the design. Colour is applied to each block and it is pressed firmly onto the cloth, the same colour is then applied for the whole fabric, dried before starting on the next colour.
Roller or machine printing
This machine was patented by Bell in 1785, where he invented a machine which could print 6 colours at once using rollers. This was extremely productive allowing volume fabrics to be printed using a single machine. The machine was also more precise which meant that identical elaborately designed fabrics could be produced.
This technique began in Japan, where a pattern is cut from a sheet of paper or metal the uncut portions create the design as will be left uncoloured. The sheet is then placed onto the fabric and the coloured dye brushed through the stencil sheet. There are limitations to the design of a stencil, for example, a circle cannot be cut out without being held in place at some point.
This is the most common technique for fabric and textile printing adopted today, there are two main methods, which are rotary screen printing and flat bed screen printing. The method involves a blade squeezing the printing paste through the screen onto the fabric.
Digital textile printing
Otherwise known as direct-to-garment printing, this method uses a specialised inkjet printer. The fabric is printed with a removable piece of paper on the back to stop the design bleeding or blending. This method is adopted by industry especially for bulk production.
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog to discuss your print requirements please contact Five Star Embroidery and we will provide a no obligation quotation and sample fabric for your review.