A quick, easy (and cheap!) way to create an iron-on transfer is to use an image printed on a toner printer or copier. Learn how I did it with no special supplies.
Back in May, my quilt guild challenged its members to sew name tags to wear to meetings. I was all on board since I appreciate the members who wear name tags because we only meet once a month and I’ve only been attending for about a year and a half now. (I still feel like I don’t know everyone!)
I didn’t know exactly how to put my name to fabric. My handwriting isn’t fancy and embroidery would require extra needlework I didn’t have time for. Alas, buried in the depths of my memory was a 5th grade project my mom helped me with, where we ironed a photocopied image onto a piece of fabric. While I can’t remember the specific requirements of the project, we had to create something about a book we just read (and, no, I can’t remember what book it was). I decided to embroider the image used at the beginning of each chapter onto fabric and then (with a lot of my mom’s help) make it into a pillow. I don’t even know why, but the technique for creating an iron transfer has stuck with me.
Here’s what we did: we simply photocopied the image from the book. We enlarged it and darkened it, too. The more toner the better. Then, my mom ironed the image onto fabric. Voilà! I then had an outline to follow as I embroidered. I’m pretty sure this pillow no longer exists, so while my classmates and teacher seemed impressed, I question my 5th grade handiwork.
It was with that knowledge, that I started on my name tag. I first pulled up Microsoft PowerPoint, because it seems like the most “designy” program in the Microsoft Office suite. I wrote out my name (and my nickname—I wasn’t sure what I’d want fellow quilters to call me). Then, I searched the “Help” section for mirroring text. Instructions for that quickly popped up and I followed them. It’s here I’ll note that you have to mirror the image if it matters, as it does with text. Because you ultimately flip the printout over and iron it to the fabric. I made a couple of sizes to see which I liked best and then printed the sheet using the darkest setting I could. Remember, more toner creates a darker transfer.
I cut out several pieces of the text and practiced ironing it to 100% cotton muslin. I put my iron on high heat and I pressed really hard. I suggest practicing. And, depending on what you plan on doing with your transfer, you may not need it to be perfect. My plan was to leave the transfer as-is, so I wanted it relatively dark. If I was embroidering it, I wouldn’t have needed it as dark, just dark enough to see where to put my needle and thread.
After transferring my name, I stitched it into a name tag, and put a pin back on it.
Here’s the kicker. I don’t love it! The thing I like most about this name tag is the lettering. I’m not crazy about the other fabrics or the size of the whole thing. In fact, I don’t like it so much that I’ve never worn it to a quilt guild meeting! But you know what? That’s how making goes. You’ve gotta make a whole lot of “meh” to get to some good stuff. And, that’s alright with me, because I always enjoy the process.
In a nutshell: How to Make an Iron-On Transfer with an Image Printed with a Toner Printer or Copier
1. Make sure the printer or copier you’re using uses toner. I’ve never tried this with an inkjet printer and I don’t know what a space-age copier uses these days. As far as paper goes, I just used what is in my printer, that is, nothing fancy. Ditto with the copier we used in the 5th grade. Whatever was loaded in there, we used.
2. Select your image and mirror it. If you’re printing from a computer, see if the program you created the image in allows for this. (Search the “Help” menu or Google it.) If you’re using a copier, see if there’s a setting that allows you to mirror.
3. Print the image, cut it out, and select your fabric (I’m thinking 100% cotton probably works best). Turn your iron to a high heat (another reason 100% cotton works—synthetics may melt!).
4. Press really hard and iron the entire image. Play around with what gives you the best results for your purpose. Embroidery outlines may not need to be very dark, but if you’re not doing anything else to the image, you may want it darker.
Now, don’t ask me how this transfer holds up to washing, because I’ve never washed one! But, if you know, by all means, drop a comment below and let us know.