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The Process - Printing Purses

Ruby Young

One of the great things about living and running my business out of Tokyo is that I have access to a wonderful share space studio that houses all types of state-of-the-art machinery.  I've learned how to use a few of these machines and that has allowed me to create fun new products.

With this series of blogs, I thought I'd show you all of the steps that go in to making the pieces for Rkt.

Welcome to The Process 
Episode 1 - Inkjet Printed Purses and Bags

So in this blog I'll show you all the steps that goes in to printing and preparing the fabric I used to make some of our purses and bags.

◊ I didn't take a picture of this, but the first step is to load up the material on to the machine.  The bolts of fabric have to be treated with starch before they can be printed on.  The studio I work out of offers 2 types of fabric, as the process for treating the fabric is quite pricy.  I always use the oxford cloth - it's durable, high quality, and I'm fond of the texture.  I'm always somewhat terrified I've loaded the fabric incorrectly or have forgotten to push one of the specific buttons or switches that need to be turned on.

◊ Once I'm sure I haven't screwed that up, I load my images in to a specific software in a laptop connected to the printer.  The machine is really great in that it measures the fabric width and sends that information to the software, so you're aware of how much room you have to work with.

 

◊ Hit Print!  Luckily there's a cancel button for when I haven't had my coffee yet and get the alignment wrong.

 

◊ Hang it up to dry.  Totally forgot to photograph this.  The fabric ink needs to completely dry before you can move on to the next step.  Since the fabric is rather thick and it's now the rainy season here (so humid!) it can take quite a while.  Lots of blowdryers help speed things up.

◊ Steam!  In order to lock in the colors, everything needs to be steamed.  You wrap it in parchment paper and then cloth and stick it in the giant steamer for 30-50 minutes.  This is the perfect coffee break time.

 

◊ Washing time!  This is definitely the most tedious of the steps for me.  The fabric still has a lot of extra dye in it and is also completely permeated with starch.  That all has to go.  Lots of rinsing and scrubbing in a special solution to make sure the colors won't bleed and to keep the whites extra white.  It's really fun seeing the final colors emerge during this process.


◊ Next I let the fabric soak for 30 minutes in another solution to UV lock the colors.  This step prevents the fabric from fading over time.

I really love seeing the jellyfish fabric in water.  Natural environment!

◊ Hang everything up to dry again.  Bust out the blowdryer!

◊ By this point I'm usually getting a little impatient, so I cheat the last little bit of moisture out of the fabric by ironing it.

 

◊ And finally - cut and sew everything.  Below are the pieces for a new clutch design that I'm working on currently.

 

And that's it!  A new purse is born.  It's a very long process from start to finish, but I absolutely love that I can print anything I want and make beautiful fabric.

Thanks so much for checking out the first installment of The Process and the very first blog post for Rkt!

-Ruby