Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Playing with Shrink Plastic

Ever since I saw Hideko's picture with the small charm in it, I've been curious about making my own "charms" out of shrink plastic. I ordered the kind of shrink plastic you put through your inkjet printer. I copied some motifs from some asian fabrics, and had mixed results. You can see the round motif didn't really come out round when shrunk. I kind of expected that to be the case - it seems the shrink plastic doesn't shrink uniformly in all directions. A few other motifs didn't come out because the color became so dark you can't even tell it's a chinese lion, for example.

The "cherry blossoms" came out pretty well - I printed some of the red brocade fabric onto the shrink plastic and then cut various sizes - you can see the original size in the white paper and the shrunken size on top of each paper blossom. I wanted a small charm, so I kept cutting them smaller and smaller.

You do have to adjust the color saturation before printing them, so they will print lightly and then not darken too much when shrunk. I just imported the scanned fabric into an image editor and adjusted the color there. You need to set your printer to print on transparencies and be sure to print on the correct side of the plastic (the dull side). When going through my printer, at first the plastic wouldn't advance, so I had to give it a little push at the start. After printing on the plastic, cutting out the shape, and punching holes, I dusted each one with some baking soda (I think anything powdery will work) so it wouldn't stick to itself during the shrinking process. I used my embossing tool to shrink the plastic; I don't have the patience to wait for the oven. When almost done shrinking, I would turn the piece over so I could see the white back. This way I could tell if it was starting to scorch, since it would turn a little brown. You want to avoid scorching, since the brown can show through to the front. While still hot, I placed a heavy book on the item to flatten it out. When cool, I coated the cherry blossoms with a little water-soluble varnish. I would have liked the varnish to make them a little more shiny.

I think the charms Hideko used are prettier, but that involves encasing real fabric in resin, and I don't want to mess with the dangers and fumes of that. (Not that shrinking plastic doesn't have fumes, too) I think that if there's a great motif on fabric that you'd like as a charm, you could copy the fabric into an image editor, enlarge it, lighten it and try printing that out. I may try that in the future.


Susan said...

Oh no, are you making me buy more stuff? =) I love the round Chinese coin, and it looks like it's round enough to me. Thanks for writing about this experiment! Question. Do you poke holes in for sewing before or after you shrink?

Lin Moon said...

I punch a hole in the shrink plastic using an eighth inch punch before I shrink it. I forgot to mention that you can use one of those 18K gold pens to give the edges of your charm some sparkle.

Brenda L. Minor said...

Hi Lin Moon. I experimented with shrink art back in the nineties. There are lots of things that can be done to that stuff. I found out that you can paint it with acrylic paints and the paint will shtink with the plastic.... You get a very interesting texture though. You should experiment with some and see what it does. I use to sand mine really good, transfer my designs by hand, and sometimes I'd sand the back and paint it a different color...for a different affect. Also, I made some great earrings and I intentionally put the design on the backside and it would show through to the front. My favorites were the Betty Boop earrings and the 3-D Reindeers. Do you watch your stuff as it's shrinking? You mentioned using the gold pens.... You can also use glitters.... If you have a good glue for plastics, you can always add additional things to an item....like rhinestones,etc.... For some reason, I have not been able to part with all of the supplies, patterns, etc... from way back. Maybe there's a deep down desire to get back to doing it again. I know it's loads of fun and I'm thrilled to see someone using it in CQing! Have fun and good luck.