The making of a photo quilt! Attempt number 1

Hi there

Welcome to my first ever blog! Before I start here’s a little bit about me, my name is Nichola and I am an (almost 30 year old) mummy to 3 wonderful children. I first got into sewing whilst on maternity leave with my 3rd child and once I started I got hooked! I have made many different things in the past 3 years, mainly as presents for family and friends.

Along with sewing I have a passion for hand embroidery and just recently papercutting. So now my fabric stash has grown into a huge craft stash with colourful paper, card and countless scalpel blades too.

Now back to why I am here writing for you…….. about a year ago I decided I wanted to make a patchwork cushion but instead of using colourful fabrics I wanted to have photo’s on it. So I googled (which I must add is my best friend) methods for printing onto fabric and found that ironing freezer paper onto the back of fabric will make it strong enough to go through the printer. Unfortunately I did not factor in that when washed the ink will run. So after that disastrous attempt I gave up on the idea.

But lucky for you I am back with a new plan and you can follow me on this journey whether it works or not.

Earlier this year I decided to revisit the photo printing onto fabric idea and took to my best friend (google) to search for new methods. One i came across was a homemade fixative that once applied to the fabric will then stop the ink from running when you need to wash it.

I decided (very ambitiously) that for my mums birthday I would make her a double size patchwork quilt that will have various family photos on in sepia colour. The first step was to source the ingredients, not as easy as I thought. I did manage to find them on ebay and after a few days wait they finally arrived. So back to google I went to find the amounts of each I needed, here are the ingredients and quantities:

400ml hot water

4 tbsp Alum powder (also know as Fatakdi)

2 tbsp washing soda

and 1/4 tbsp fabric conditioner


When mixed together in a bowl it will start to fizz, once the fizzing has stopped the fabric can be added to soak.


I just grabbed some calico fabric as I had that spare (because this was a test run) but if it works I will be buying some white or cream 100% cotton for the quilt. Next I soaked the fabric for 10 minutes (turning it over halfway through to ensure all of it has been soaked in the mixture) After soaking for 3 minutes I realised I had forgotten to add the fabric conditioner so I quickly added a dash to it. Image

After 10 minutes I removed the fabric and wrung it out by hand (do not rinse) then the fabric needs to be hung up to dry. It was very tempting to pop it in the tumble dryer for 10 mins but the fixative method said to air dry so I had to reign in my impatience and wait it out.

A little tip: instead of throwing the fixative mixture away pop it in a jam jar and save for another time. An extra tip: label it so that hubby doesn’t throw it away thinking you were just soaking the jar to clean it before recycling it!

Once dry I moved onto the next step……..making the fabric stiff enough to go through the printer. For this I hunted out the freezer paper I bought a long time ago for my first attempt and never used again. I ironed it onto the fabric and waited a few minutes for it to cool. Image

I then cut it to A4 size as that is the biggest my printer will accept, making sure there are no loose threads that may get trapped in the printer. Then I fired up my pc and printer and found a colour photo (I decided to use a colour photo instead of the sepia ones I will use on the quilt so that I can see clearly if any colours run and then let all you lovely people know)

When printing check that the fabric is going in the right side up for your printer so that the photo will be printed onto the fabric not the freezer paper. Once it’s printed leave it to dry, if using genuine ink cartridges for your printer then 20 minutes should be enough time, if using generic ink cartridges then leave overnight.


Now for the moment of truth, this bit is where the ink ran on my very first attempt a year ago……….. so my fingers AND toes were crossed for this bit……….rinsing the fabric.

To rinse off I just filled a bowl with cold water and added some fabric conditioner. I first peeled the freezer paper off the back of the fabric then I added the fabric to the water and left it to soak for 10 minutes.

Another tip here: do not rub the fabric with your finger whilst is it soaking, you will rub the colour off at this stage as i found out the hard way.


Because I had rubbed the fabric whilst it was soaking and rubbed some of the colour off I started again and did another one. After soaking the second one for 10 minutes (and not rubbing it) I rushed it outside whilst dripping water everywhere on the way and hung it up to dry. Because I didn’t even wring this one out (afraid of rubbing it again) it did take a long time to dry.

At this stage it looked fantastic, it was as sharp, clear and colourful as printing it onto photo paper.

Next was the washing stage. Because it will be on a quilt that will at some point need to be washed (especially being a white quilt!) I popped it into my washing machine and washed it on a 40c wash with only fabric conditioner.

After waiting what seemed to be an age the cycle finished and I frantically fished around my machine trying to find the tiny piece of now screwed up material, which was eventually retrieved from the trouser leg of a pair of jeans!!

The moment of truth………………………………. As I started opening it out I got very excited!!………………………

Only, I’m afraid, to be disappointed. The colours hadn’t run (luckily for the rest of my washing) but unfortunately where it had been spinning around in my machine and rubbing against things the colour had rubbed off and I now faced a very faded and in certain places white photo. And when I rubbed my finger against the fabric, even when dry, I came away with the same green tinge on my finger and a white patch on the photo.

Image Image

My conclusion to this method is if you plan on putting a photo onto something that will never be washed, maybe in a picture frame, as part of a wall hanging or lining of a box, then this method is absolutely fine and before washing the results were remarkable (sorry but I don’t seem to have a photo of before I washed it). But if you plan to use the fabric on something that needs to be washed I would attempt to find a more permanent method.

Am I disappointed: yes

Am I going to give up on this idea: certainly not!

I am already thinking of the next way to achieve the results I need and I will be back to share it all with you!

Enjoy your day everyone!

Cavern of Craftiness is not connected with any brand.

Here is part 2!


Hi, I am a mother of 3 who loves sewing and more recently papercutting! I mainly make papercut cards but also do some gorgeous cuts that can be framed. My favourite quote at the moment has to be: Don't be creative!!

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Posted in Nichola's Tutorials, Sewing
One comment on “The making of a photo quilt! Attempt number 1
  1. What a great tutorial and great review of the results. Can’t wait to read about your next test run 😀

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