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Fabric Printer Brings Designs to life

Nov. 4, 2009

In the fashion world, creating a truly unique, 100% original design is difficult to produce without the help of an extended budget and flexible time limit. While sometimes the initial concept takes a little time to grasp, sketching and choosing color pallets usually come quickly and at no cost to the designer. And, as the TV show Project Runway has shown wide-eyed and in-awe viewers, actually sewing and completing a professional-looking garment can be done in a matter of days, or even hours.

What slows down the process of originality and ups the cost of production is creating a unique pattern and in turn, an original fabric design. Usually a designer must sketch out a pattern, send it off to a mill, and have his/her pattern recreated onto the desired fabric. However, for Baylor fashion design students, this process is a thing of the past.

Thanks to donors Phil and Susan Parker of Odessa, Baylor was able to purchase a new digital fabric printer that allows students to create every aspect of their designs, start to finish.

Senior Fashion Design major LeErin Player has been using the printer since its installation last January and has been able to see some of her designs come to life.

"We designed fabrics before we had the printer, but they were just designs that couldn't be real," she said. "Now that we have the printer I can design fabrics that go with my collections and know that I can actually make a garment from them."

Another aspect that any student can appreciate is the fact that producing high-quality and original fabrics on the printer is cheaper than buying pre-designed fabrics.

"Fabric, no matter where you buy it, is not cheap," LeErin said. "But it is cheaper to just buy plain fabric and then print your design on it. Then no one else will have your fabric or a version of it. Printing makes your designs more exclusive, and all around cheaper."

While there is a bit of a learning curve that goes along with designing fabric on the computer program that the printer uses, the printer itself works much like any other printer, except on a much larger scale with clearer pictures and eco-friendly inks.

"We make our designs on the computer with a pattern program; then once we have finished and gotten it approved by our professor, the professor uploads it into the computer that is attached to the printer," LeErin said. "We put the fabric into the printer and then it prints on the design like a regular printer would to paper, but our paper is fabric. It is really sweet!"

LeErin is one of the few students in the world of academia who has designed garments that are truly unique and once she graduates this experience will continue to make a difference. "I do feel like I have an advantage because students at other schools do not have the opportunity to work with the technology that I have" LeErin said. "Everyone is taught how to design patterns that are sixteen colors and how that works but designers and businesses are printing with printers like ours and designing in a way that works with the new technology."

With the help of the new fabric printer, soon LeErin will be sending out applications and her portfolio to prospective employers and she will actually be able to show them her experience instead of just telling them about it.