If you enjoy sewing, you probably never thought of using Microsoft Word to help you with a project. But Word is usually the first program I think of when I'm considering a craft project, particularly if it requires photos. In the past I've explained how I use photos in Word to create flash cards, photo albums, and photo calendars, but this article gets even more crafty. This time, I show you how to take advantage of Word to put your photos on cloth, so you can create some fun sewing projects!
It's easy to use Microsoft Word to manipulate photos, which you can then print on fabric for your quilting projects. For example, I created this simple placemat for my mom using a photo we took at Thanksgiving.
Then for mother's day this year, I made mom a Legacy quilt that has fabric photos of all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!
Know Thy Printer
You need to follow different instructions, depending on the type of printer you have. If you have an ink jet printer, you can purchase fabric that is already fused to paper, so you just need to run it through your printer. However, if you are using a laser jet printer, you need to follow the instructions in this article.
The different instructions are because of the different way the types of printers work. Ink jet printers have ink cartridges that go back and forth and apply ink to the page as needed. These printers don't use heat. Think of it as if you were running magic markers back and forth across a page. A lot of people have these types of color printers, so craft stores have a lot of different printable fabrics. Check the quilting aisle and you'll probably find package of fabric paper that you can feed directly into your ink jet printer.
Unlike ink jets, laser jet printers use heat to fuse the colors onto the page, much like a photocopier does. In most cases, if you try to run specialty papers designed for ink jet printers through your laser, the pages may melt. Obviously, the resulting melted mess can completely ruin your expensive laser printer! So it's important to pay attention to the type of printer photo paper or fabric paper you select. Because I wasn't able to find fabric paper that is designed to be used with laser printers, I searched the Internet for solutions. One idea worked great for my projects.
Head to the Grocery Store
To print photos onto fabric with a laser jet, the first thing you need to do is go to the grocery store and buy a roll of freezer paper. (It is often found in the aluminum foil aisle.) Of course, you also need some plain fabric. I strongly suggest that you use white fabric so your photo shows up well. Try to find a very smooth cotton or linen fabric. I experimented with a few different quality cottons and discovered a white quilting muslin fabric that worked quite well. The smoother the fabric, the more it resembles paper and the more evenly it absorbs the image. Fuzzier fabrics, like cheap pillowcases (which I tried first) didn't result in a very clear printout.
Now it's time to break out your rotary cutting board, cutter, and ruler, so you can cut out a piece of freezer paper to work with your printer. I stayed with the standard 8.5" x 11" paper size. Place the shiny side of the freezer paper against your white fabric. Next use an iron with no steam to iron the paper to the fabric. The paper will fuse to the fabric so the fabric becomes stiff enough to feed through your printer.
Cut the fabric around the freezer paper, making sure you snip off any loose threads so you don't get anything tangled up in your printer. You now have a piece of paper that has fabric on one side, which you can manually feed through your laser printer. Note that this process can also be used with an ink jet printer if you don't want to spend a small fortune on premade ink jet fabric paper. Before you start printing, be sure to set your printer properties to its high quality photo printing setting, if that selection is available.
Use Word to Customize Your Photos
Now that you have your fabric set up, it's time to open up Microsoft Word. Of course, if you have a good photo-editing program that prints pictures well, feel free to use that program to send your photo to the printer. In my case, I wanted to add a little design and shading to the photos for my mom's legacy quilt. I used AutoShapes to customize the design.
From the Drawing toolbar within Word, I drew out diamond AutoShapes and sized them in Word using Word's vertical and horizontal rulers. (Turn on the horizontal ruler under View|Ruler. The vertical ruler is an option under Tools|Options|View.)
Now you can right click the shape and by choose Format AutoShape, which gives you options to add a picture to a shape. (This article has more details on the technique: Designing Your Own Holiday Stationery). In this case, I wanted to put a square picture into a diamond shape with shading and still make the most use of the space. Rather than inserting the picture into the shape, I drew out the shape on a blank Word page, and then inserted the photo onto the page. Selecting the photo causes the Picture Toolbar to appear, which provides the Wrapping options. I set the photo to wrap in Front of Text, so I could select the picture and move it on top of the diamond shape without either of them moving around!
For these larger photos, I centered one photo per page. For the smaller photos, I was able to assemble a few photos per page, which saved fabric and ironing time. I also right clicked the diamond shapes, selected Format AutoShape and set a Fill Color to light gray, and made the border of the shape a bit wider than normal to frame the diamond better.
Sew the Photo
After you print onto the fabric and it has cooled for a few seconds (or the ink has dried if you use an ink jet printer) give a corner a little bend and gently pull the freezer paper from the fabric. Cut the image out of the fabric. You're now ready to sew the fabric into your project.
Here's one more quick tip: assuming you only want to sew around the edge of the photo, I strongly suggest you use a light fusible web to first iron the photo fabric to your project, then sew around it to permanently secure it.
In my case, I sewed the photos to the quilt top using a thin zigzag stitch along the black border. When it was time to machine quilt the project, I sewed a thin straight stitch just inside the frame and then another stitch about 1/4" around the diamond shape. This technique gave the pictures a cute pillow effect.
This process also can work well for adding a photo to a shirt. For example, maybe you have a favorite shirt and you'd like to add a photo of your pet or child to it. Yes you could print a photo onto iron-on paper and then hope the iron-on works well and doesn't trash the shirt. But I've gone that route and I know it doesn't always work well. (Kiss that shirt goodbye!) With this method, you can make the mistakes on the fabric. Once you have a good quality photo, you can neatly sew it in place. You can even add wording to your image and then fuse and sew the entire piece of fabric, with photo and lettering, right onto your project, whether it's a pillow, shirt, quilt, placemat, blanket, or whatever!