DIY | Vintage Photo Pillows

I've been trying to figure out what to make some of our family members for Christmas. Last week I saw this pic in my December Country Living Magazine (my FAVOURITE magazine) and thought they looked pretty cute. I think photos on fabric can very easily look tacky or cheesy but being that these were old photos, black and white... I thought they were kind of classy.



It inspired me to make this.

It's a photo I took of my two kids this summer while at Grandma and Grandpa's. They are standing on the corral fence trying to entice the horses and "Mee-Moo" the cow to come over. In the editing program I used the Timeless preset from One Willow Presets for the effect. Then I "washed out" the edges of the picture with a highlight priority.



Did you know that you don't need special fabric for the printer? Nope... you just need... Freezer Paper!



Can you find Freezer Paper in Canada? Not sure... I haven't. But I haven't looked all over Canada :) I grabbed mine at Walmart in Minot, ND.

Cut a piece of freezer paper the size of a 8.5 x 11 piece of computer paper. Then, just iron it on to the back of the fabric that you'd like to print the photo on. Cut the fabric to the size of the freezer paper after it's been ironed on.

UPDATE: I had a reader who commented and then found a solution that you can prepare your fabric with that will "set" the ink so that it's permanent and can be washed in the future. It's called Bubble Jet Set and you can read about how to use it here.
Thanks "Swankygirl109"!


I took my picture and put it on a word document so that I could size it to fill up the most of a regular sheet of paper. Put your freezer papered fabric into the printer so that it will print on just the fabric side (NOT the freezer paper).

Press print and viola!


I wanted to add a little depth to my pillow so I threw on an embroidery hoop and free-handed a little vine and leaf pattern on opposite corners in a dark gray that matched the ink.


Once I finished the embroidery I gently ironed out the kinks made by the hoop.


Pick out a fabric for the backing and then pin the two fabrics right sides facing. Sew all the way around but leave an opening for turning and stuffing. When you've got it turned right side out and have it stuffed to perfection you can use a hidden stitch to close the opening.



And here you'll have a charming, personalized gift.


Another Update:

These pillows were so easy to make and so personal that I ended up making probably 8 for people for Christmas. Foolishly I didn't take pictures of them all but did snag this one of the one I made my dad after he opened it on Christmas morning. My dad is an all around outdoorsman and it was important to him to pass on these things to his grandchildren. He bought my son his first fishing rod and gave it to him this summer. He put a lead weight on the line and taught Kai to cast on the grass and then took us out on the boat and was the one to help him cast in the water - with a real hook.  This picture was from Kai's second fishing outing and where he caught his first fish so it was quite the event.

If you don't want to be restricted to an 8.5 x 11 pillow you can make "photo patches". Check out the "Love Notes" pillow I made for Valentine's Day!






109 comments:

  1. For real: my jaw was hanging open. I am awestruck!
    The picture is a treasure but this trick you've shared is amazingly cool! Wow. Seriously. Thank you so much!

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  2. So cute!!! I have found freezer paper in Canada- our Sobey's Cash and Carry has it, but only the brown stuff and I had to buy a HUGE roll. It should still work though. I might have to make this for the grandmas for Christmas.

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  3. I had the same thought when I saw them in Country Living "wow those are actually really cool instead of what you normally find with pics on fabric." My mom actually has some really neat black and white pics from when she was younger that would be fun. But I thought it would be expensive to execute...thank you so much for the how to. Your pillow turned out awesome!

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  4. Thanks ladies! They're so simple I think they could get addicting to make! And Jen... good to know freezer paper does exist in Canada!

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  5. Wow! That is so cool! Thanks for sharing.

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  6. What a GREAT idea! I've never seen this done before! Super cool and a perfect gift for mother in laws and mothers indeed! :D
    Hey so I guess you know someone that I know. Aimee Sartison suggest I check out your blog as she said I'd enjoy it and she was right! :)
    I'll be following your regularly.
    www.lifelikehoney.com

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  7. Very cool pillows. If you're printing directly onto the fabric, what is the purpose of the freezer paper? Just to keep the fabric stiff in the printer?

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  8. Erica - yes, the freezer paper is just to keep it stiff so it will go through the printer properly. Works great. I just finished 5 more pillows tonight :)

    Teaka - thanks for coming by! Aimee is such a dear friend and I miss her like crazy! She's a good person to have in common :)

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    1. it never says to remove freezer paper - does it stay attached when pillow is finished?

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    2. No, thanks for clarifying. You peel it off as soon as it's come out of the printer.

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  9. Do you have to do anything special to set the ink? I'm just afraid if it accidentally gets wet it would ruin the pillow. Very very cute idea! I may try this for my Grandma. :)Also, this may seem silly but is wax paper the same thing as freezer paper?

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  10. Hi.. I didn't do anything to set the ink. I wouldn't wash them as I'm sure they'd be ruined. As for accidentally getting wet... one of my pillows was sitting on a pack of open wipes before I stuffed it and I thought all the ink would run as there was a large wet spot but it didn't (thankfully). I think the difference between wax paper and freezer paper is that wax is "waxed" on both sides and freezer paper only on one. If you tried to iron wax paper onto fabric you'd have a very sticky waxy iron so you do actually need to track down freezer paper. I've heard from others that you can also usually get it from a local butcher or meat shop as they commonly use it. Hope that helps!

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  11. I searched around the internet and found that this site had a way to set the ink (with bubble jet set and bubble jet rinse) so the fabric could be washed. I thought it might be helpful because I love the pillow idea but don't want to worry about my gift fading or washing away! :) Thanks for your tutorial and help!
    http://quiltbug.com/Articles/bubble-jet-set.htm

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  12. Very cool thank you! It would definitely be a must if making a quilt. I had no idea such a thing existed! I'll add the link you posted in an update to this post so others can see how to set their own pics. Thanks!

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  13. Adorable!! What a treasure for those lucky Grandmas!

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  14. This is perfect for Grandma gifts...I will definitely be trying it!

    I'm a flooded out Minot resident and just stumbled upon your blog via Pinterest--small world! Our Walmart here is ca-razy these days, isn't it?!

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  15. Love it. a friend is getting married and want pictures on fabric to make a quilt later. thank you so much. off to the store for freezer paper. :)

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  16. So, does it have to be an inkjet printer or will a laser printer work too?

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  17. I've never used a home laser printer but I just "googled" it and some mentioned that because it uses heat in the process the fabric may be stiffer. Maybe you could try a small test picture? If you do, please let us know if it works!

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  18. I read a blog where you can use vinegar to set the ink after you print it. Just soak the fabric in a vinegar bath for 5-10 min (I believe) and then wash. MUCH cheaper than Bubble Jet Set!

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  19. LOVE it!!! Does it matter what type of fabric you use? Also, do you iron the "waxy" side of the wax paper to the fabric?? THANK YOU FOR THE WONDERFUL IDEA!!

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    1. Hi! I don't think the type of fabric matters at all as long as you can see what you're print on it. Wax paper won't work as both sides are waxy so you definitely need to use freezer paper where only one side is waxy. Iron the waxy side to the fabric (otherwise it won't stick and you'll have wax all over your iron :) Then when you print make sure you're printing directly onto the fabric and NOT the freezer paper.

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    2. wonder if you could lay a piece of regular paper on top of the waxed paper before you iron - then wax wouldn't get on your iron?

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    3. Definitely worth a try! It's really just to keep the fabric stiff while you run it through the printer so it could totally work.

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  20. Hi, just reading the questions about wax paper vs. freezer paper. Freezer paper is actually plasticky on one side, not wax. Wax paper is going to prevent the ink from sticking to the fabric- that's what you use when doing batik to block out where the fabric will hold dye. Hope this bit of info helps.

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  21. What a great tutorial! Thank you! I just wanted to let you know that I live in Winnipeg and found a big roll of frezzer paper at Safeway!

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    1. Sweet! I've heard many people finding it in bigger cities, not sure why I couldn't find it in all of Estevan but to be honest it happens all the time!

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  22. Just getting to making these pillows. I have a lexmark interpret S405, nothing fancy. I've tried this 4 or 5 times and it always jams. I only get half of a picture. The freezer paper isn't really sticking that well. Anybody have any suggestions? What type of fabric are you using?

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    1. I was using a very light cotton muslin. What fabric are you using? I'd also make sure you really iron it well to make sure the freezer paper sticks, emphasizing the edges. The printer I used wasn't super fancy either. Do you have a setting for cardstock? That might help your printer deal with the added thickness.

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    2. Definitely use the cardstock setting if you have it!

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  23. WJ, it helps if you starch the fabric before ironing it onto the freezer paper. I just made a printed quilt label using this method and it worked fine. Also ironing the print after removing the freezer paper also helps set the ink.

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  24. I did it!! It took 2 times, but its beautiful. I did use the cardstock option on my printer (under preferences). The second time I made sure to really iron the freezer paper on the edges and then I took out the other paper and helped guide it in, I sort of pushed it just a tiny bit, because the first time it only printed 1/2 the pic.
    I used a muslin, and I put the iron on really hot, then cut then ironed again.

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    1. Awesome! So glad it worked for you. Feel free to leave a link to any pics we'd love to see your creation!

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  25. I've read this step over and over but not sure I understand.. :/

    "I took my picture and put it on a word document so that I could size it to fill up the most of a regular sheet of paper. [This part I understand. :)] Put your freezer papered fabric into the printer so that it will print on just the fabric side (NOT the freezer paper).

    Press print and viola!"

    You put fabric through the printer? I have visions of it getting caught up inside and hearing the rollers scream for release. (or is that just my fatalistic daydreaming?) Please help!

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    1. Ha ha! Yes you put your fabric through the printer. The freezer paper is just used to stiffen the fabric and help it "act" like paper in the printer. I've seen lots of people pin this project with a caption that they use freezer paper to transfer the print but that's not it at all - the fabric must go through the printer. I made 8 pillows and didn't have one glitch.

      One reader had the fabric get jammed but I think once she set her printer to cardstock that helped. Other readers have suggested starching your fabric as well and I've pointed out that it really helps to make sure you iron the edges really well.

      Good luck and if you try it out let us know. Feel free to ask any more questions if you've got any :)

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  26. I am having trouble printing the photo on the fabric-it continues to wrinkle. does anyone have any suggestions?

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    1. How thick is your fabric? And have you been able to set your printer settings to a heavier paper like cardstock? Or maybe your fabric might be too thin making it wrinkle. What would happen if you did 2 layers of freezer paper? Just some thoughts! Anyone else have ideas?

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  27. very interesting. in France, I have not found this paper. , I proceed as follows:
    I take a sheet of plain paper
    I put on the glue NO-PERMANENT spray
    I put my tissue above
    I cut the excess fabric
    I print large paper option
    I took off my tissue paper
    I pass
    I do not wash!

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  28. http://rebecca-gatheryeroses.blogspot.fr/2010/01/how-to-make-your-own-faux-bubble.html

    i don't try .....

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  29. here , you can wash!
    it's the différence !
    and isn't expensive !!!

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  30. I found on another site how to set your ink: when it feels dry , just place a piece of parchment paper over it and iron with a hot iron setting and this will set the colors. (I tried it and it seems to work. I could tell the difference.)

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  31. This might be a stupid question, but how did you sew the fabric together? Did you use a sewing machine? I'm not very crafty, but I just love this pillow idea!

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    1. Hi! Yes I sewed it together on a sewing machine. Place the "right" sides (sides you want showing) together and sew all the way around except for a 3 inch spot in the middle of the bottom. Then flip inside out so that your seams are hidden and you can see your picture. Stuff and then hand sew it together. You could hand sew the whole pillow though, they're not very large. Have fun!

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  33. Hi,I just love the idea,I am getting started on making some for my mom and other family members. And since I want my pillows to be bigger so that they can be used as normal sleeping pillows,I figured I will print a A 4 page and then sow my printed fabric on a larger piece if fabric with a border around.something soft, so it's still comfy to sleep on. Thought I'd share fir others that had the same thought of making a bigger pillow

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    1. It totally works! I used several pictures and quotes to make my "Love Note Pillows". I like the patchwork look to it :)

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  34. So.. I tried this and failed :( I did everything correct BUT my printer kept getting jammed (I'm guessing because of the thickness), so I tried to just bring on the wax and iron that on the fabric hoping that it would transfer.. That was a fail too :(
    Any suggestions on what I can do to make this work? I had these all planned out as my Christmas gifts and really need them to work haha. Thanks in advance!

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    1. Bummer :( Can you tell me what type of fabric you were using? I've always used a really thin muslin and have never had any issues with jamming. Others on the comment feed have suggested taping the edge feeding into the printer with masking tape, you could try that. And does your printer have a cardstock option or perhaps a photo paper option? Either might make it slow down a bit. Hope it works for you soon! I guess you could always buy actual iron on photo transfer paper but that kind of takes the fun out of it ;(

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  35. Also, I do not have a cardstock option :/

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    1. Just saw this... what about a photo paper option?

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  36. This is so cool! I never would have thought to try that. Love it!! I had to tweet it too :) @txblond

    http://www.noordinaryhomestead.com

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  37. Ok I NEED to try this I have a laser printer... Anyone tried it? Thanks

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    1. People have used it on laser printers with success. Give it a go!

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  38. ok I did it on my laser printer!!! its beautiful!!
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151107899442035&set=a.10150096274452035.276368.731817034&type=1&theater

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  39. To get the printer to accept the paper/fabric, tape the edge that you feed into the printer, with masking tape. 1/8th inch or less being on the fabric side, and the remaining to the paper side.

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  40. I did it! It didn't jam, I used the card stock setting. Then I sprayed it with scotch guard, and when we washed it later the ink stayed on perfectly! Thank you so much.
    -totally addicted.

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    1. I LOVE the scotch guard idea. I'm definitely going to have to try that and update my post! Great work! Feel free to leave a link and show off your work!

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  42. Hola, gracias por compartir esta idea es muy buena. Pueden imprimir muchas fotos en blanco y negro. Luego recortas en tela estampada o unicolor y vas alternando los cuadros, así podrás confeccionar una colcha única con tus recuerdos familiares.

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  43. You can set your color with a vinegar wash too!

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  44. I like the Epsons which use Claria best for my glossy/semi-gloss photos, but I have had more permanent results on fabric(even washable) with the Epson printers which use their DuraBrite inks. Many of these are very inexpensive, come with full cartridges, and are very easy to use - and photos come out awesome.

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  45. I have tried this 3 different ways and there are always lines down my fabric where the printer is printing each section. Does anyone have a way to resolve this? We tried cleaning the cartridges and the printing spools. Is it a fabric issue?

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    1. Hmm, I wonder if it might be the fabric. Have you tried it again with another fabric?

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    1. I found mine in Walmart in the states but I've had readers comment that they found it in Sobey's in Canada.

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  47. this is so cool, and a brilliant use for the MASSIVE roll of freezer paper that has been sat in my stash since I bought it (I used a teeny amount for a quilted badge). My cousin is leaving home to go to university soon and this would be a lovely going away present with the rest of the family on a cushion or pillow he'll have a reminder of home that is comfortable too!!!

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    1. Great idea! They are fabulous keepsakes!

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  49. Do you remove the paper once you print? I assume you are ironing the waxy side the fabric. It looks like you used a linen fabric. Is there one type of fabric over another that you found prints best?

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    1. Yes, I remove the paper once it's printed. I haven't tried too many fabrics but definitely think that a thinner fabric has the best chance of going through the printer without jamming.

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  50. Yes, these are out on our covered back porch. I just taped mine as shown in the tutorial and haven't had any issues with moisture and they've been up now for six or seven months.

    large photo prints

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  51. This is such a great idea! I get my photo printing done in Calgary and absolutely love the different services they offer!!

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  52. Do you think it would help to use iron-on interfacing (the type dressmakers use to stiffen collars etc.) instead of freezer paper?........just a thought....might be worth trying.

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    1. I haven't worked too much with interfacing - are there some that you can peel off after? I'm sure that even if you couldn't you could use a thin enough one that the fabric would still have some flex - maybe like embroiderers use?

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  53. This is the coolest, hope I can get the Freezer paper here. If you go to my blog you can see how I do add my paintings to a candel. Thanks for the turtoral :-)

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  54. Great idea, I've seen some cat pictured pillows on Etsy, but this is a way better idea (with some work).

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  55. It is advisable that you use between 20-25 stitches per inch when sewing paper foundation piecing blocks, as this makes it easier to remove the paper later.

    http://www.home-soul.co.uk/Vintage-Kantha-Throw.aspx

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  56. Do you have to use an ink-jet printer?

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  57. I bought my freezer paper at Metro grocery store in Ontario. I'm looking forward to trying this method! Thank you :)

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  59. FYI: waxed paper is used to clean fusible off irons. It does not make the iron sticky at all. I have used Bubble Jet Set and after rinsing, the pictures looked washed out. I prefer to use Printed Treasures ink jet pretreated sheets. Look a little washed out but not as much.

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  60. I do not rinse after printing, using Bubble Jet Set. When the print has dried a bit, I iron to set. I've seen no color loss. It also helps to adjust your print to "vivid" or a setting (on ink jet only) which will add more ink than usual. I've just done 6 photos of old signs onto white muslin for the center of crazy quilting blocks.

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  61. This is so wonderful, thank you for sharing. I cannot wait to try making a photo pillow.

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  62. I would love to make these for my sisters-in-law for Christmas. I am not a photographer though and I am wondering if I need the photography software you mentioned or can I simply scan the photo into my computer and go from there? Did you use the one willow just for blurring the edges, etc. or is it necessary?

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  63. Some friends of mine and I are having a Craft Night in a couple of weeks. do you think this would be a good beginners project?

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  64. Could I just use the copy option instead of print to get the photo onto the fabric?

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  66. What fabric did u use here???
    And which fabrics work best?? Thank u:)

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  67. I see some very old comments. Are people still using this method with success? or there is another method out there?

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  68. Yes I have used Bubble jet set it works fine , wash size out of new fabrics first , cut into A4size sheets of fabric of A3 if your printer can Print that size , iron fabric onto Freezer paper , make sure leading edge and sides are not overhanging edges and trim any threads sticking out , set printer to best photo quality and print setting for high quality , I tweaked the ink up a bit so plenty of color. Print your picture onto fabric side of sheet. Iron it to set ink then wash , to rinse out excess ink ( that's why I use a bit more ink in printing as some washes out , one thing I found , DO Not Use Fabric Softener I found it made ink run and spoilt one of my squares if got splashed consentrated on fabric. I made two quilts using this method one for my Grand Daughter with photos of horses and her riding on it the second was a memory quilt of my mother from a little girl of 6 her siblings and her marriage and me ,my sister and Brother as children and our marriages , down to her Great Grand children , all colored black and white old photos repaired with Photoshop before printing on fabric .

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  69. There's also fabric you can buy already prepared for the printer, although this way may be cheaper, or not. :)

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  70. I love this!!! Thanks for all the comments...you all answered the questions I had! Think I'll go try to make a pillow right now!

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  72. Very interesting article !! thanks for posting.. For Valentine Gifts please visit http://www.giftcart.com/buy-online-gifts-for-valentine-day.html

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  73. So after printing the picture, do you take the freezer paper off?

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  74. Love this idea!very interesting method of transferring. Ive seen tutorials about this, and they seemed more complicated than this. I think I have found my next project!

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  75. You have provided an nice article, Thank you very much for this one. And i hope this will be useful for many people.. and i am waiting for your next post keep on updating these kinds of knowledgeable things...
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