Fashion designers are using the same inkjet printing technology you use at home to create new woollen fabric designs.
All with the support of Australian woolgrowers through Australian Wool Innovation.
Digital fabric printing applies colour dyes to a specially prepared fabric surface much quicker and cheaper than traditional print methods.
Designers are increasingly taking up the technology.
For instance, the winner of the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation at last year's 2020 International Woolmark Prize, BODE from the USA, used digital printing in her winning designs.
BODE utilised the support of pioneering digital printing company Think Positive which is a trade partner of the International Woolmark Prize.
Think Positive is an internationally renowned innovator in digital direct-to-fabric printing, with amazing expertise for printing on wool as a leading luxury fibre.
The company was set up in Sydney 37 years ago and now also has a studio in London and print facilities in a refurbished mill in the historic textile town of Macclesfield in Cheshire.
"Digital printing onto textiles is the biggest breakthrough in fabric decoration technology in the past 8000 years," Think Positive's director of business development Emilie Cacace said.
"Our fabric printers are like sophisticated larger versions of desk top ink-jet printers, but instead of printing onto paper, they can 'print' directly onto rolls of specially prepared fabrics.
"We can print on a large range of wool fabrics: woven and knits in varying weights, wool blends like wool denim, and even wool velvet and wool fur thanks to AWI helping us experiment and work with new and innovative qualities. The results are really exciting."
Think Positive has digitally printed on wool for world famous brands, such as Vivienne Westwood, and continues to receive enquiries and regular interest regarding printing on wool. The company has had its fabrics included in AWI's sourcing guide The Wool Lab.
"Think Positive is an example of how important it is for AWI to collaborate with industry," AWI general manager for processing innovation and education extension, Julie Davies, said.
"Digital printing offers within the industry so much flexibility with multiple benefits such as fabric sampling options, lower minimums, shorter lead times, endless design and colour options, and most importantly amazing technical capabilities for heightened print quality resulting in dynamic products."
Here are the steps used for digital printing:
Fabric preparation - The ink used is a water soluble, modern textile dye. To stop the dyes from running and causing a blurring smudge, the fabric is first coated with a mixture of seaweed thickener, urea, salt and citric acid (lemon juice).
Printing - Tiny little drops of dye, thinner than a hair, are sprinkled over the fabric from eight different colour heads as the carriage passes across the fabric. Eight base colours that mix together can produce more than a billion colour combinations.
Heat setting - At first, the dye sits on the top of the fabric, which is then passed over a heat plate so that it is touch dry.
Steaming - Steaming the fabric opens up the fibres and creates a waterway into and around the fibres so the dyes can travel from the surface of the fabric into the fibres, forming bonds and giving the fabric permanent colour, image and design.
Rinse coating - The coating solution is washed out and removed.
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