In the first part of this series the digital print capabilities Iowa State University (ISU) utilizes for its Apparel, Merchandising, and Design (AMD) major as part of its Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) department were discussed.
Within the program, students gain skills and knowledge to help them succeed after graduation. In addition to course work, students are encouraged to take on projects that help prepare them for the real world.
For example, for the Spring 2012 semester, six students worked together for an independent study, in which they created a Nostalgia of Iowa State quilt with the help of digital textile printing technology. For the project, students completed all the work, from designing the fabric, finding images, marketing and promoting the raffle of the quilt, cutting fabric sewing, and finally raffling the quilt. “The goal was to find a way to raise funds for the Digital Apparel Textile Studio (DATS) Lab and purchase inks and fabrics for students to keep costs low and encourage printing,” Christina Denekas, lecturer/DATS Lab coordinator, AMD, ISU.
Students applied to participate in the independent study and were selected based off of prior course work and area of interest. The product was broken out into three groups—design, public relations, and the marketing and raffle team. Two students were assigned to each team.
The design team was tasked with narrowing down images, pictures, sold fabrics, and layout. The public relations team designed the raffle posters and planned the printing and placement of them. The marketing/raffle team worked closely with the department to acquire all the forms needed to hold a raffle, determine the price of the tickets, decide on location of sales, and sign people up to work the booth. Each student helped sell tickets on their own and stepped in to help other groups when necessary.
One of the other challenges for the students was working collaboratively. Even for a small group, making decisions proved difficult. “Because of this—and with the students’ blessings—we divided them up into the teams, which worked wonderfully and they enjoyed having ownership over their area of interest,” recalls Denekas.
Creating a Quilt
Natural inks were used with cotton percale to print the images using the college’s Mimaki USA, Inc. TX2-1600 digital wide format printer. “Students sketched quilt block ideas and were tasked to sew each so that they could see if it was something that could actually be sewn and not just a pretty image on paper,” explains Denekas.
Students voted on blocks and those were laid out on the computer to create a repeating pattern. Once the design was selected, students input colors and decided on photo layouts. Fabric solids were chosen and then the fabric was printed.
After blocks are printed, the fabric goes through a post-processing stage, which includes steaming—a step that helps bind the ink to the fabric; and washing—to remove excess ink from the surface. Students held cutting parties in the lab to cut all the fabric to the required size. Samples of the two-block designs were made to show students the final look, each block was packed into bags and divided so each student could produce three to four blocks. Once the blocks were completed, they were reviewed before being sewn together. A border was sewn on and a long arm quilter completed the project.
“We quickly learned this was a delicate process as digitally printed fabric has a slightly different weight because of the inks on the substrate. With this, combined with human error in sewing, there were a few times that the long arm quilter would get stuck and not run smoothly. Thankfully, we had a skilled quilter to help overcome these obstacles,” admits Denekas.
Overall, the project was a huge success, with the raffle raising nearly $1,000 to support the DATS Lab.
Tried and New
It is important that education facilities, such as ISU, remain up to date on the latest trends and technologies. Real-world innovative projects, such as the quilt, enable students to harbor the experience necessary to be competitive after graduation.
In the future, Denekas hopes to see more updates in the lab. “It would be nice to have the ability to incorporate all of our technologies—including printing equipment and an industrial body scanner—so that students can produce garments with patterns tailored to the wearer’s exact body shape and size, and then take this to the printer to produce fabric for the intended wearer,” she says.
The possibilities are endless. “Students need to continue hands on work with fabric and patterns on forms—old school methods—as it’s a valuable skill to have in the industry; but it needs to be balanced with the digital technology, which the industry is demanding more of,” concludes Denekas.
Click here to read part one of this exclusive online series, Inspiring Youth.