One of the best purchases i ever made was a desktop laser made by Full Spectrum. I’ve used a variety of laser cutters, big and small, but my favorite feature of the FS lasers are their driver…. The lasercutter looks like a printer to the OS. If i click “print” in Microsoft Word, it gets sent to the FS driver. Magic.
I bought the laser for rapid prototyping purposes. I’ve made enclosures of all shapes and sizes. I’ve also used it for my graffiti street art project, cutting wood, acrylic, and whatever I could fit into the build envelope. It is through this “materials experimentation” phase that I started to do applique on some of my clothing.
The process contained a bit of adventure, sometimes melting materials, and sometimes causing a little fireball to burst. I found some practices that helped me with different materials. The top tip from me would be the use of painters tape (aka paper tape). I got cleanly cut edges from many textiles I could not hit with the laser directly. By applying one layer of painters tape to the material, and cutting through both, I avoided a singed edge on light materials and the melting of synthetic materials.
I found a great transfer material that worked very well for me while trooping around the area below Canal Street that used to play host to many textile shops (a few still exist there). Here’s the process. 1- with the paper backing still attached to one side of the thermal paper, I used an iron at its hottest setting (no steam) to adhere the sheet to the backside of my material. 2- I then applied painters tape (when required by an uncooperative material) to the front side of my material, creating a kind of sandwich with my applique material in the middle. 3- At this point, I’m ready to laser cut the sandwich. I do so with the painters tape facing up. 4- After cutting, I remove the painters tape from the front side, and remove the thermal backing sheet from the backside, exposing my design cut from the final applique material with a shiny layer of thermal glue adhered to the backside. 5- with the iron, I proceed to adhere the cutting to a finished garmet, pictured are a couple of shirts and a sweatshirt. I used a thin towel (an old tshirt would also work here) in between the iron and my applique to prevent cooking the garment or the applique to a shine. This also prevents and glue from reaching my iron’s hot surface.
Voilà, the latest in maker fashion :)