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Article posted: April 27, 2001

Transferring Old Photos To Cloth
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

We are always looking for new ways to use old photographs. Now that we know their value, we want to show them off.

Carol Stolte is an artist who works with fabrics. She has discovered that there are many things you can do with old photographs transferred to cloth. The process is simple and the photographs are not damaged.

The only supplies you need are some transfer paper and some silicon baking paper (available at the grocery store). Carol says transfer paper is available at most office supply stores, but it is better to use artists' transfer paper. On the other hand it is not necessary to use the highest quality of artists' transfer paper.

Choose a photograph with good contrast. Make a colour. Since the sheets are 11 x 17, you can fit more than one photograph on a page and then cut them apart.

The fabric you want to transfer them to should be natural, cotton, wool or linen. This is because they absorb better than synthetics.

You iron the transfer paper onto the fabric. Then you bathe the fabric in warm water until the paper floats free. To set the image, iron it through silicon baking paper until it has set into the cloth.

The transfer paper can probably be found at an artists' supply store near you. Carol gets hers from Lazertran, a specialist in art printing ( Their Canadian representative is Heinz Jordan & Company Ltd., 900 Magnetic Drive, Toronto M3J 2C4, telephone (416) 663-9702, e-mail The American address is Lazertran Ltd., 650 8th Avenue, New Hyde Park N.Y. 11040, free phone (800) 245 7547.

Jo Burkhardt, a graphic artist, says the most common use for this kind of photographic transfer is on to t-shirts and sweatshirts. However, I have seen it used effectively on heirloom quilts. It can also be made into totes or cloth boxes.

The interesting work is being done with silk. The colour transfers stand out well on silk, creating a rich effect. Scarves are good possibilities and Carol suggests that photographs on ties are her next project. Making fine silk into the tie shape is sometimes challenging.

Her most intriguing idea is to make large cloth blocks for small children to play with. Carol has a granddaughter in California whom she rarely sees. She wants the little girl to know her relatives back home, so she plans to make some cloth blocks. Each side will have the photograph of a family member. As the baby plays with the blocks, she will come to know the friendly faces of her family. Perhaps her parents will help her learn their names as time goes on. Later when they come to visit, they won't be strangers.

Jo says that the newest development in this kind of technology is cloth which can be put through the copier itself. That way the transfer goes directly from the photograph to the cloth. None of us are sure of the process exactly, because obviously you cannot stick a t-shirt in a photocopier. Jo thinks the cloth has special sizing in it and may have a paper backing.

If you like the idea of photographs on cloth but do not want to try it yourself, Jai Williams of Ardrossan Alberta (Canada) will be glad to do it for you. You supply a good colour photocopy and she will return an 8 x 10 picture on cloth.

For more information, write to Going Back, 109-52411 Range Road 214, Ardrossan AB T8E 2G8, telephone (780) 619-0148 or e-mail

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