Karen Banfield explains how you can design your own fabric

Julie Bonnar chats to Karen Banfield from THREADS Inkjet Printables about its revolutionary new way to print on fabrics

What made you decide to start working with printable fabrics?
I’ve worked in both the science and arts fields. My brother Logan Meuth, Marketing Director for Texlon Corporation, told me about this new product that they’d developed, and I was excited by the idea of a product that used science in the form of a secret coating on fabrics that could essentially be a new canvas for fashion designers, artists and crafters.

How is the fabric is made?
THREADS products start with natural fabrics, either cotton or silk. We coat the fabric rolls with the secret formula in our factory in Southern California. The coating allows the fabric to take high-resolution prints without bleeding, enables washing, and yet the fabric retains all its original drape and feel.
After applying the coating, we add a paper-backing that enables the fabric to easily glide through a printer, which can then be peeled off without any residue. Lastly, we cut the fabric into specific size to the roll or sheets.

Taken on the catwalk at CHSI Stitches trade show

Taken on the catwalk at CHSI Stitches trade show

What sort of things can be printed onto the fabrics?
There’s really no limit to what you can print on the fabrics. Anything you can print on paper, you can print on this fabric!
The coating on THREADS inkjet printable fabrics binds with water-based printer inks, both dye and pigment inks. You can also use water-based pens, stamps, or paints directly on the fabrics without using a printer.
Any water-based product will bind with the coating and that’s why we say the magic is in the THREADS!

What sorts of items can be made with the fabric sheets?
The great thing about this product is that it's literally a blank canvas. Sewers are always coming up with new and creative ways to use it. Many people print photos of family or events, and include them in craft projects. People also use THREADS to personalise their designs. You can use any software to add people’s names, dates or greetings to make truly personal and one-of-a-kind items.

How does the fabric come, and what sheet sizes are available?
We currently have 7 fabrics available – cotton lawn, cotton poplin, cotton twill, silk chiffon, silk charmeuse and two weights of silk crepe de chine. 
THREADS come in common International and US paper sizes, and A4 and A3 sheets are available in the UK, and also come on rolls 2.7 m and 9.1 m long, with widths of 22cm and 33cm. Wide-format rolls are available in sizes all the way up to 142 cm by 9.1 m for interior design projects and clothing.

Do sewers need a special printer and how easy is the product to use?
No special printer is needed to use this fabric. Any home inkjet (not laser) printer will work. Wide-format printers have many types of ink sets so make sure that yours is water-based. The fabric sheets are extremely easy-to-use, just print, peel and sew!

Indonesian underwater reef print on skirt made with silk crepe de chine worn at Ocean Gala in 2016

Indonesian underwater reef print on skirt made with silk crepe de chine worn at
Ocean Gala in 2016

How are the printable fabrics different from what's already on the market?
It holds high-resolution prints without bleeding, it's washable and retains the natural feel of the original fabric without requiring additional processing such as applying spray protector or ironing to set the ink.
While there have been seemingly similar products available on the market before, none have achieved the same mix of performance across these three factors. This has been underscored by the tremendously positive feedback we’ve received, from well-known UK crafters who love these soft, vivid THREADS and have been disappointed by those previous stiff, faded inkjet fabrics in the past. The proof is in the using, and the students at Inkberrow Design Centre made us some fabulous garments for the catwalk for the trade show CHSI Stitches. 

What has been the best seller so far?
Because we initially focused on the craft sector, we’ve sold a lot more of the cottons than the silks. Cotton poplin has been especially popular among quilters, and we moved more into clothing and home décor, we expect that the silks will be used more often.

Where and how can sewers in the UK buy the printable fabrics?
You can find some of the range on Amazon and also we regularly appear on the craft shopping channels such as Create and Craft TV. We'd encourage anyone interested in the product to contact us. 

Find out more by clicking on THREADS Inkjet Printable Fabrics