Experiments in Fabric: Round 1

Clear stamp block, check. Good quality fabric ink, check. Cat wearing pajamas, check.

Clear stamp block, check. Good quality fabric ink, check. Cat wearing pajamas, check.

Backstory: Last November we did a craft show in which there were at least 5 other makers using laser technology. Only two were sorta in competition with each other – they both made lasered jewelry, but their aesthetics were very different. The whole lot of us were a great example of just how much you can do with a laser. It was incredibly eye-opening to Mike and I – sure, we knew that you could do a lot using a laser – but we didn't realize how many people had lasers at their disposal. Within this past year there's been an influx of makers using the technology – which means you're no longer unique simply because you have one.

When we were doing our 2017 Product Development planning Mike challenged us to step back from the 'doing cool stuff with lasers' scene. He posed the question, "what if we made products using our rubber stamps – stamp making is what we excel at after all". Of course we're still going to make stamps for people to use, Christmas ornaments, and leather coasters. Those are products that have all done very well for us and we love making them. The idea of stamping onto products opens new doors, exciting doors. Yes, we can stamp onto paper (and probably will), but this also meant we can stamp onto fabric. Which means we can better enter into the realm of goods for the home, which is a product category we've been brainstorming about for over a year.

The first thing that I had to do was come up with some designs. I decided to hand-draw all of them: a series of cats wearing pajamas, letter patterns and latte art for starters. On deck: dogs, cacti, lily pads, and apartment windows. After I digitized my designs, Mike burned the stamp rubber for me. Instead of mounting the stamps onto wooden blocks, we ordered some clear blocks and static cling (for mounting), so I can line things up better and see the pattern emerging while I am stamping. The photo at the top of this post shows this type of stamp mount. We were skeptical about the static cling, but it totally stays in place while stamping! This means we can re-use the clear mounts over and over again!

I jumped the gun on the next step – I really really wanted to test the stamp to see if the cling would hold and how the stamp would look on the various fabric swatches that we'd ordered – but we didn't have any fabric ink pads in our studio. Wouldn't you guess, none of the area craft stores stock VersaCraft (the fabric-friendly ink pad that I wanted to use), so I had to place an order with our ink pad supplier, which meant I'd have to wait a couple weeks. Unless...I tried Hobby Lobby's store-brand fabric ink pad (cats on the right in the photo above and that was BEFORE washing!) Lesson learned.

When the correct ink pads finally arrived, I was able to start my fabric tests. After stamping all of my swatches, I narrowed a few out right away (one looked like a fabric band aid, yuck). Next, I cut each swatch in half and numbered both pieces with a permanent marker – the piece without the tag got heat set and then put through the washer. I wanted to 1) see how the ink fared in the wash and 2) make sure the various fabrics could be washed using warm water (since not everyone follows washing instructions). A few more got narrowed out. Then the remaining swatches got ironed again.

The next round of elimination came when I invited my mom over to look at everything, talk about what uses each type of fabric could have, and select a few favorites. Now we have a couple swatches in each of three categories of fabric left: heavy use home decor, light home decor, and wearable.

Next steps: Order yardage of each of the finalists. Do some serious stamping. Start prototyping. Stay tuned!